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One Health Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University

Dr. Meghan Davis Receives Canine Health Foundation Grant to Study the Health of Dogs

Study will evaluate dermatologic and respiratory disease among Baltimore inner-city dogs living in the homes of children with asthma.

dog health

Children who live in inner-city households of low economic means suffer disproportionately from skin and lung diseases, including asthma. Dr. Meghan Davis, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was awarded a grant to evaluate these often deleterious effects on both people and their pets. 

The City Dog Study: Dermatologic and Respiratory Disease among Inner-City Dogs Living in the Homes of Children with Asthma will evaluate the burden of skin and respiratory disease among the dogs who live with them. These dogs often can be hard to study because their owners may not have the means or access to take them to the veterinarian. As an adjunct to a funded public health research effort targeting 200 children with asthma, Dr. Davis and her team will enroll 100 dogs and follow their health at three home visits over six months, and perform two additional evaluations.

The first step will be to study the microbial (bacterial) communities on the dogs to determine how these change over time, and if the changes are associated with skin or respiratory diseases in the dogs. The investigators will then look at how the children and the dogs share bacteria (i.e. microbiome).

Since, early life exposures to dogs may protect children against the development of asthma, the next step will investigate if dogs also have a beneficial impact when the children are older and have existing disease.

This study will provide knowledge needed to help understand disease in under-served dogs in urban neighborhoods, providing data to support keeping dogs and keeping them healthy to benefit both dogs and their owners.

"Work in my Environmental Microbiology Laboratory focuses on the health of people and animals. In particular, we evaluate kids and dogs since they are especially vulnerable to development of skin disease related to bacterial exposures. In this work, we explore how their shared environments contribute to disease and investigate ways to intervene at the household level to reduce the burden of microbe-mediated disease," explains Dr. Davis.

We should keep our pets—and keep them healthy—so they can contribute to the good health and well-being of their families.

-Dr. Meghan Davis

"As a molecular epidemiologist and an environmental microbiologist, I study the interface of bacteria and hosts to reduce microbe-mediated disease in humans and animals. My work applies the principles of one health and microbial ecology, evaluating target microbes and bacterial genes specifically and the larger microbial community (microbiome) broadly. I also evaluate non-infection outcomes, specifically asthma, from exposure to bacterial agents and their toxic products," said Dr. Davis. Designing and testing interventions to combat the rise of bacterial antimicrobial resistance and both infection and non-infection outcomes related to microbial exposures in a one health context is the goal of Dr. Davis' research career.

Dr. Davis is also advisor, capstone advisor, practicum preceptor or career mentor for each of the five veterinarians in the full-time MPH class and an additional two veterinarians in the part-time MPH program.

The City Dog Study: Dermatologic and Respiratory Disease among Inner-City Dogs Living in the Homes of Children with Asthma was awarded by the he AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to prevent, treat and cure diseases in all dogs.

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