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Sydney Banton

Position/Title: PhD Student
Office: ANNU 232

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I graduated from the University of Toronto in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science. After completing a fourth year research project at the University of Toronto in mathematical modelling of infectious disease with Dr. Nicole Mideo, I decided to move to Guelph to pursue my passion of working with animals. Currently, I am a MSc candidate at the University of Guelph, working with Dr. Kate Shoveller. The focus of my thesis is grain-free diets in dogs. Recently, the U.S FDA released a warning to pet owners of a potential link between dogs consuming grain-free diets and the development of a fatal heart condition, dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). However, very little is currently known about the link between nutrition and the development of this disease. My thesis consists of two projects. First, supplementing a grain-free diet with some of the nutrients involved in taurine synthesis, an amino acid whose deficiency has also been linked to DCM, and how those nutrients affect plasma amino acid concentrations after consuming a meal. I completed this experiment with Beagles at the Central Animal Facility and am currently working on analyzing those results. Moving forward, similar studies should be done in dogs with underlying cardiac conditions. My study was done in healthy dogs, as it is important to understand how these nutrients will affect amino acids under normal conditions before moving to abnormal or disease states. 

Second, I recently completed an international survey investigating factors that are predictive of a dog owner’s choice of grain-free diet. Based on results from this survey, those that select a grain-free diet for their dog are more likely to be female, to believe their dog has a food allergy, to follow a more strict dietary regimen themselves and to look for specific claims on pet food labels. The research completed in my Master’s degree will contribute to the growing body of literature that is investigating the link between nutrition and dilated cardiomyopathy. Additionally, the survey data will provide insight into why dog owners are choosing a grain-free diet and how this may impact canine health and well-being. 

When I am not in the department, I enjoy spending time with family, friends, and my family dog, Bebe. I also love movies, board games and photography.