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Seasonal risks for pets

It can be easy to forget about outdoor seasonal risk factors for our pets, especially after a long winter. So here is a refresher on what to look for in the coming months and how Morris Animal Foundation is addressing these dangerous seasonal disease risks.

Cats and ticks

Owners who like to share the outdoors with their cats during the spring and summer months should remember to vaccinate their cats appropriately and to keep in mind that certain insects, namely ticks and mosquitoes, can carry disease-causing organisms.

Cytauxzoonosis is a parasite transmitted from ticks to cats, where it can cause life-threatening disease. Dr. Adam Birkenheuer and a research team at North Carolina State University recently deciphered the Cytauxzoon felis genome sequence and identified about 4,300 protein-coding genes, each of which represents a possible vaccine target. With funding from Morris Animal Foundation, this team will now determine which of these genes have the most potential for development of a vaccine against this disease, which could save the lives of thousands of cats. 

Dogs and heartworm

In another Foundation-funded study, researchers from Louisiana State University are studying heartworm, a disease carried by mosquitoes that affects dogs and, less frequently, cats.

Growing evidence indicates that heartworms are developing resistance to drugs commonly used as preventive treatments. Researchers in one Morris Animal Foundation–funded study mapped practitioner-reported cases of heartworm preventive drug failure in dogs in southern Louisiana and documented areas where drug resistance is emerging. The research provided information on potential failure of a commonly used heartworm preventive medication. While the study results do not suggest that a change is needed in current heartworm preventive treatments, it did offer information that many clinicians will find beneficial for prevention of heartworm infection, especially in those areas where resistant strains may be emerging.

Horses and ticks

Most horse lovers are champing at the bit to take their first trail ride of the year. Just like dogs and cats, however, horses are at risk of seasonal diseases that can be transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks and wild animals.

Theileria equi is a tick-transmitted parasite that attacks and destroys horses’ red blood cells, causing fever, lethargy, anemia and, in some cases, death. Current treatment is not always effective, and there is evidence of resistant strains of the parasite. A fellow, funded by Morris Animal Foundation and Pfizer Animal Health, is comparing two drugs used to treat T. equi in an effort to better understand how resistance develops. Knowing the factors that lead to drug resistance could help researchers develop new treatments to fight this potentially devastating disease. 

For more information about studies Morris Animal Foundation is doing to address seasonal infectious diseases like those described here, visit us at

Posted by MAFon April 13, 2012.

Categories: Animal health, Animal studies


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