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Our Research

Science has the power to change the world

As the global leader in supporting scientific research that advances veterinary medicine, Morris Animal Foundation has invested more than $100 million toward more than 2,400 studies to improve the health and well-being of dogs, cats, horses, llamas/alpacas and wildlife.

At any given time, Morris Animal Foundation is managing more than 200 active studies. Each year, we also fund about 30 veterinary student scholar projects. Search our health study database by species or area of study to learn more about research that will make a true difference in the lives of animals—today and tomorrow.

To sponsor a study, please contact a member of our sponsorship team for the most up-to-date status on our research projects at sponsorship@MorrisAnimalFoundation.org or call 800.243.2345. 

Search Results

Finding solutions to combat parasitic infestation in critically endangered Ridgway’s hawks

Fewer than 300 Ridgway’s hawks remain in the wild. A new threat to the survival of these Caribbean birds – heavy parasitic fly larvae infestation in nests – has led to increased mortality in Ridgway’s hawk nestlings. This prompted The Peregrine Fund to take action by treating individual nests and nestlings for these parasites which has helped stabilize the population. Researchers will determine the effects of parasitism on nestling survival and measure the effectiveness of current treatment methods. Investigators also will study the lifecycle of the parasitic fly, using the data to design improved control measures. Finding new solutions to combat parasitic infestation will ensure the long-term health and conservation of the critically endangered Ridgway’s hawk.

Principal Investigator: Martín A Quiroga, PhD, The Peregrine Fund

Sponsors:

Study ID: D15ZO-836

Improving diagnostics for raptors exposed to toxic rodent poisons

Summary: Researchers will validate a diagnostic tool to measure coagulation and establish normal clotting ranges in great horned owls and red-tailed hawks to improve diagnostics for raptors exposed to deadly, anticoagulant rodent poisons.

Description: Wild birds, especially raptors, are routinely at risk of ingesting prey containing deadly rodenticides. These toxic substances commonly are used in urban and agricultural areas as well as for eradication of invasive rodents on islands. These poisons, once ingested, inhibit blood clotting in birds causing severe and often fatal bleeding disorders. Currently, limited options exist for coagulation assessment in birds and only extreme cases typically are recognized. Using blood samples from great horned owls and red-tailed hawks, researchers will measure coagulation using a point-of-care unit to establish normal clotting ranges for raptors and compare results with reference laboratory values. Successful validation of this device will help veterinarians with diagnosis and treatment of wild birds exposed to deadly rodenticides.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Julia B. Ponder, University of Minnesota

Sponsors:

Study ID: D16ZO-828

Improving the Health of the Scops Owl in Madrid

Researchers hope to identify the arthropod that serves as intermediary host for Gongylonema sp., a parasite which causes necrotic oropharingeal disease in scops owl chicks.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Francisca L.S. Pereira, Brinzal Owl Rescue Centre, Spain, Pilot Study

Sponsors:

Study ID: D14ZO-834

Improving Treatment of a Deadly Infectious Disease of Birds

Researchers will investigate the use of slow-release subcutaneous implants for administering antibiotic and antifungal agents to birds with aspergillosis, a common infectious disease.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Patrick T. Redig, University of Minnesota, Pilot Study

Sponsors:

Study ID: D14ZO-824

Investigating Cryopreservation of Avian Red Blood Cells

Because storage of avian red blood cells is challenging, it is difficult to treat birds with life-threatening anemia if fresh whole blood from a donor is not available. Cryopreservation (freezing) would allow for long-term storage of avian red blood cells and serve as a source of blood if a homologous donor is unavailable. The investigators will compare cryopreservation versus deep-freezer storage of avian red blood cells. They will also investigate cell survival after transfusion of cryopreserved cells to ensure that cryopreservation effectively maintains red blood cell viability.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jennifer E. Graham, Tufts University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D14ZO-849

Investigating Lead Exposure and Health Impact in Urban Birds

Lead contamination is common in many cities worldwide. While its impact on humans has been well studied, little is known about the impact of sub-lethal exposure on urban wildlife. In a previous Morris Animal Foundation-funded pilot study, researchers showed that lead levels in mockingbird adults, nestlings and eggs appear to be correlated with environmental lead exposure, and noted health problems and hyper-aggressive behavior in birds with higher lead levels. The team will build on these preliminary results and focus on how lead exposure impacts mockingbird behavior and its effects on reproductive success and health. Mockingbirds eat a broad range of prey items, including bugs, fruits and berries, and the relative proportion of these items to the overall diet varies among life stages and territories. For this reason, mockingbirds serve as a valuable model to understand the broader risk of sub-lethal lead exposure in urban wildlife and pets. 

Principal Investigator: Jordan Karubian, PhD, Tulane University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D17ZO-047

Looking for genes associated with a lethal form of dwarfism in California condors

Summary: Researchers will study the genetic basis of chondrodystrophy (a lethal form of dwarfism) to help identify carriers of this fatal disorder in captive and wild California condors. 

Description: Chondrodystrophy is a lethal form of dwarfism that affects California condors. The disease is an inherited cartilage disorder that results in fatal skeletal malformations as well as late embryonic death. Researchers will study the genetic basis for chondrodystrophy in California condors in order to identify the genetic mutations associated with this condition in both captive and wild condors. Genetic mutations of interest will be evaluated for their diagnostic value and used to develop a genetic screening test. This test will be invaluable in guiding decisions about birds released into the wild or paired up in captivity to help save this critically endangered species.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Cynthia C. Steiner, The Zoological Society of San Diego

Sponsors:

Study ID: D16ZO-302

Looking for Genes Associated with Cancer in Sea Lions

Stranded California sea lions often suffer from an aggressive cancer that spreads throughout their reproductive organs and urinary system and causes a slow, painful death. The cause is unknown. Although herpesvirus has been found in all sea lions with these tumors, the virus is also present in healthy sea lions. Zoos and rehabilitation facilities are reluctant to house sea lions because of concerns over potential disease transmission. As a result, apparently healthy animals are often euthanized. Because most mammalian cancers of the same type share common genetic mutations, researchers will compare the genome of the domestic dog to that of the California sea lion to identify genes associated with this cancer in sea lions. The information will provide a foundation for developing cancer treatment options for these animals.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Matthew Breen, North Carolina State University

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Jim and Wendy Dickie

Study ID: D10ZO-003

Saving Ridgway’s Hawks from Extinction

With fewer than 400 birds remaining in the wild, the Dominican Republic’s Ridgway’s hawk is one of the most critically endangered raptors in the world. Numbers are steadily decreasing due to a botfly infestation, seriously reducing the number of fledglings each year. Researchers received a Morris Animal Foundation grant to study the problem, and the group devised a highly successful short-term solution by treating nests with a common flea and tick insecticide. The team found treating the nests and nestlings several times during breeding season significantly increased the fledglings’ chance of survival; for every 10 nests treated, researchers saved eight nestlings that would otherwise die from parasitism. Although successful, the treatment method was labor-intensive, requiring tree climbers to treat and monitor nests three to five times during the breeding season. In this newly funded study, researchers will test a longer-acting insecticide that only requires a single nest application prior to egg laying. This new strategy, if successful, could be a more practical method for treating not only the nests of Ridgway’s hawks, but also other endangered island-endemic bird species affected by botfly infestations. 

Principal Investigator: David L. Anderson, PhD, The Peregrine Fund

Sponsors:

Study ID: Researchers will study a new, long-term method to reduce botfly infestations in Ridgway’s hawk nests, a direct cause of high nestling mortality in this species.

Testing Long-Lasting Antibiotics in Red-Tailed Hawks

There is a critical need to reduce the stress of handling in captive and wild red-tailed hawks that need treatment for bacterial infections. Long-acting antibiotics reduce the number of times a bird must be handled and, therefore, may reduce the bird’s stress during the treatment period. This study evaluates the potential effects, both beneficial and adverse, of a single dose of ceftiofur crystalline-free acid, a long-acting antibiotic, in red-tailed hawks. The study will evaluate two different doses. Results from this pilot study will provide dosing recommendations for a long-acting antibiotic in red-tailed hawks and will also help to decrease handling stress for this species.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Michelle G. Hawkins, University of California–Davis, Pilot Study

Sponsors:

Study ID: D14ZO-808

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