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Celebrating the Past, While Looking Toward the Future

At a time when most veterinarians were working with farmers and agricultural animals, Dr. Mark Morris, Sr, catered to companion animals and their owners. In 1929, he established one of the very first exclusively companion animal veterinary clinics in the country, Raritan Animal Hospital in Edison, New Jersey. In addition to being at the forefront of providing companion animals with outstanding veterinary care, Dr. Morris also felt that nutrition could be used to manage various health conditions that affected animals.

Working with the biochemistry department at Rutgers University, Dr. Morris developed techniques and new approaches for diagnosing disease in companion animals. In addition, he had started formulating balanced, therapeutic diets in the kitchen of his veterinary practice for his clients’ animals, including one to help manage kidney disease. 

The special kidney disease diet proved to be effective at controlling the disease, and soon the special diet grew in use and popularity with the veterinary community. Dr. Morris partnered with the Hill Packing Company of Topeka, Kansas, to produce the diet commercially. Now known as k/d, the kidney disease diet was the first of many prescription diets that Dr. Morris would develop for the company that later became Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

Using the royalties from the diets, Dr. Morris established the Buddy Foundation, later named Morris Animal Foundation, as a separate nonprofit organization in 1948. The organization initially funded health research to benefit small companion animals and later added large companion animal and wildlife studies.

Throughout his life, Dr. Morris remained at the forefront of companion animal medicine. He was the founding president of the American Animal Hospital Association and president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. He also led a committee to establish nutritional standards for pet foods, and these efforts later formed the basis for the guidelines used today by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.

Dr. Morris died in 1993 at the age of 92, but his legacy lives on through Morris Animal Foundation, which in its 67th year is a global leader in funding science that advances animal health. Since 1948, the Foundation has invested in more than 2,300 studies totaling more than $95 million. Foundation-funded studies have led to many breakthroughs and standards for the veterinary and animal health fields. 

Much of Morris Animal Foundation’s funding has come from pet owners and veterinarians across North America. Through our Veterinary Memorial Card Program, more than 750 veterinary clinics and hospitals currently make regular donations to the Foundation. This program honors pets that have passed away, and allows the veterinarian to pay tribute to the close bond between people and their beloved pets, which Dr. Morris understood so well.

The Foundation remains a committed partner with the veterinary community. As 2015 gets underway, staff will be attending the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, Florida, January 17–21; the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, February 15–19; and the American Animal Hospital Association Meeting in Tampa, Florida, March 12–15. Foundation staff will meet with veterinarians, technicians, students and industry leaders to discuss our work and, in particular, the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, the largest observational study ever undertaken in veterinary medicine.

Help continue Dr. Morris’s vision and ring in the New Year with a donation to Morris Animal Foundation.

By: Allen Byrne

Categories: Animal health
January 15, 2015