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Morris Animal Foundation Serves Up Specialty Medicine for Pets

By Tina M. Martinez

In some ways, Morris Animal Foundation operates like a specialty grocer. We have our shelves stocked with top-of-the-line products (the groundbreaking studies into widespread diseases we usually talk about). Like the best natural grocers, however, we also provide specialty products through research into rare diseases that may not affect a lot of animals but that when they strike, have a severe, sometimes fatal, result.

President/CEO David Haworth and his dog Luna

The majority of the Foundation’s funding goes toward research into common diseases and ailments, including cancer, heart disease, urinary disorders and arthritis. But we also hold shelf space for less frequently occurring but highly impactful diseases, such as feline asthma, cytauxzoonosis and immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA).

One to 5 percent of cats suffer from feline asthma, believed to be provoked by the cat breathing in airborne and surface allergens. That’s a fairly small percentage of cats, but for those that suffer, the effects are extreme. To borrow a phrase, when your cat cannot breathe, nothing else matters. Likewise, cytauxzoonosis, a tick-born disease carried by bobcats and spread by the Lone Star tick, is common only in certain geographic locations. The disease causes a high fever and most infected cats die from it—though thanks to Foundation-funded research more cats are surviving.

IMHA is a disease in which abnormal antibodies stick to an animal’s red blood cells and cause the body to believe the cells are a foreign invader. The immune system then attacks the red blood cells eliminating them from the body, and resulting in a severe lack of oxygen-carrying capability in the blood.  When the blood can’t carry oxygen to the rest of the body, the animal suffers debilitating weakness, organ failure, and all too often, death. This devastating disorder occurs more commonly in dogs than in cats and results in the death of more than 50 percent of those affected. Most animals die within weeks of diagnosis.

Despite the severity of these diseases, there are few organizations that provide funding for research into their causes and treatments. That’s why Morris Animal Foundation feels so strongly about supporting scientists looking for ways to prevent and treat these important diseases. 

“There is a huge unmet need for funding these types of studies.” says Dr. David Haworth, president and CEO of Morris Animal Foundation. “The federal government generally won’t fund research into veterinary-specific diseases. This is probably fair, since dogs, cats, horses and wildlife don’t pay taxes, but someone needs to find cures.” Morris Animal Foundation is the leading organization currently funding research into these lesser known but highly important animal diseases. “Through our independent scientific advisory boards, we can identify the best studies, but we need the help of animal lovers everywhere to secure the necessary funds to make these cures a reality.”

To learn more about these and other diseases, visit

Posted by MAFon April 9, 2012.

Categories: Animal health, Animal studies, Animal welfare


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