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Giving Shelter Animals Better Health

Today is National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day! Morris Animal Foundation’s mission is focused on animal health, and we recognize that health and welfare are interconnected. That’s why we’ve invested in many studies that have improved the lives of animals in shelters.

Two illnesses of particular concern in shelters are canine influenza virus (CIV), commonly known as canine flu, and feline upper respiratory tract disease (URTD), which causes signs similar to the human common cold. Both of these respiratory illnesses spread rapidly in shelters and can be tough to prevent and manage.

With Foundation funding, a researcher at the University of Illinois is developing a way to increase the sensitivity of tests used to detect CIV. This tool should help improve surveillance and the ability to detect viral changes that make vaccines ineffective.

Work funded by the Foundation at Colorado State University recently determined that more often than not, CIV comes from the community and doesn’t begin in the shelter. This was great news for shelters, which are often blamed for spreading CIV among dogs in a community. With this information, researchers have helped to educate shelter workers on new management techniques to help control the disease.

 Morris Animal Foundation funded studies have also improved life for shelter cats. URTD is a highly infectious disease of cats, can be an expensive illness to treat, and the virus spreads rapidly between cats. Cats with signs of an upper respiratory infection are also less likely to be adopted, and this disease is a common reason for euthanasia of shelter cats. Another research team at Colorado State University evaluated two new treatment strategies for cats with resistant upper respiratory infections. Both treatments were well tolerated, easy to administer, and inexpensive. The vast majority of the cats in the study had significant clinical improvement, including several cats that had failed other treatments. Information from this study has provided veterinarians with better treatment options for viral URTD and has improved the health and lives of shelter cats.

Additional studies funded by the Foundation have focused on improving the overall shelter environment. For example, cats get very stressed in shelters, which negatively affects their immune systems and makes them more likely to get sick. One study found that simple changes in cage design helped reduce stress in cats while another study devised behavioral interventions to help reduce stress among shelter cats.

These types of studies help ensure animals are healthy until they can be adopted into forever homes.

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Categories: Animal welfare
April 30, 2014