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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 or call 800.243.2345. 

Search Results

Evaluating Novel Treatments for Shelter Cats with Upper Respiratory Disease

Upper respiratory tract disease (URTD) is expensive to treat and is a leading cause of euthanasia of cats in shelters. Feline herpesvirus 1 and feline calicivirus are the most common causes of URTD. Vaccines for these viruses lessen illness when the cats are exposed but do not block infection, which means exposed cats are infected for life and are susceptible to disease flare ups. This study will test three novel treatment strategies on shelter cats that are suspected to have long-term viral URTD but fail to respond to conventional therapies. Previous studies indicate that each new treatment has the potential to lead to new standardized therapies.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Michael R. Lappin, Colorado State University

Sponsors: Co-sponsors: Neil and Sylvia Van Sloun, the Van Sloun Foundation; The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®); The Lauretta Boyd Charitable Trust

Study ID: D10FE-518

Evaluating the effectiveness of contraceptive vaccine in free-roaming cats

Researchers will investigate the effectiveness of a contraceptive vaccine to manage overpopulation of free-roaming cats.

Principal Investigator: Amy E. Fischer, PhD, Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs


Study ID: D16FE-026

Evaluating the Use of Stem Cells to Control Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a common cause of illness and death in cats, yet most commonly used diagnostic tests cannot reliably detect the disease until the advanced stages. This late diagnosis makes treatment challenging at best. Scientists have been testing mesenchymal stem-cell therapy in rodents with renal disease, and the treatments show promise for reversing or stabilizing kidney function. Mesenchymal stem cells can differentiate into a variety of cell types, and intravenous administration of these cells has been proven safe for cats. this study will evaluate the therapy’s effectiveness in treating cats with CKD. If this study generates positive data, the results will significantly improve the development of new strategies to manage feline CKD using mesenchymal stem-cell therapy.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Steven Dow, Colorado State University

Sponsors: Co-sponsors: Douglas and Kathryn Miller, in memory of Marla & Priss; The Peter and Karen Iacovelli Charitable Foundation, Inc.; Pamela Winter, in memory of Karen Williams; Carolyn S. Norgren, in memory of Holly Hildenbrand

Study ID: D12FE-025

Examining the Role of Stem Cells and Genes in Mammary Tumor Development

Mammary tumors are among the most common cancers in female dogs and cats. Surgical removal is the most widely accepted treatment option for mammary tumors in small companion animals, but this treatment has a high incidence of tumor recurrence and metastatic disease. There is an urgent need for better understanding of the genes involved in tumor suppression. One tumor suppressor gene, SYK, has been little studied but appears to affect breast tumor development and aggressiveness in humans. Accumulating evidence indicates that mammary stem cells are the primary target cells for cancer development, and SYK has been found in the mammary cells of dogs and cats. The researchers will examine SYK and mammary stem cells and their role in cancer development in an effort to better understand how different genes affect mammary tumors.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Gerlinde R. Van de Walle, Ghent University, Belgium

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Anonymous, for Hazel

Study ID: D12MS-002

Finding a safe and effective treatment for feline infectious peritonitis

According to a recent epidemiological study, about 1 in 300 cats seen in veterinary teaching hospitals developed feline infectious peritonitis, a uniformly fatal disease and a leading cause of death in young cats. Despite the impact of this viral disease on cat health, no effective vaccine or treatment is currently available. Researchers will investigate if a novel antiviral drug can cure or greatly extend the lifespan and quality of life of client-owned cats with naturally occurring FIP. Potential drug resistance also will be studied.

Principal Investigator: Yunjeong Kim, DVM, PhD, Kansas State University


Study ID: D16FE-512

Finding an Easier Way to Give Cats Heart Medications

The drug pimobendan is used in cats and dogs to treat congestive heart failure caused by various types of heart disease. While it is relatively easy to give dogs the treatment orally, the large tablets can be difficult for cat owners to administer, which results in missed doses and suboptimal disease control. Researchers will investigate delivering a transdermal gel formulation of pimobendan to healthy cats. They will then compare whether transdermal and oral delivery methods are equally effective in delivering therapeutic levels of pimobendan. Use of a transdermal gel formulation for cats with heart failure would give those that are intolerant of pills the best chance for survival and optimal quality of life.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Sandra P. Tou, North Carolina State University


Study ID: D15FE-802

Generating a High-Density Genetic Map of the Feline Genome

Genome maps provide outstanding tools for scientists to study genetic disease. The cat genome was sequenced for the first time in 2007. Very recently a high-resolution sequence of the cat genome was completed using next-generation sequencing technology; however, 18 percent of the cat genome remains unrepresented in the map. These missing pieces will result in mapping ambiguities or inaccuracies in future mapping efforts. In this study, researchers will work to generate a high-density genetic map of the cat genome using a gene chip containing single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The SNPs, genetic footprints found in DNA, function as genetic markers that will help scientists identify genetic predispositions to such diseases as diabetes, cancer, arthritis, kidney disease, infectious diseases and others. If successful, the accurate map could become a valuable resource for all future gene discoveries in domestic cats and a powerful veterinary model for gene discovery of hundreds of hereditary, infectious and chronic complex diseases.


Principal Investigator: Dr. Stephen J. O’Brien, National Cancer Institute


Study ID: D12FE-501

Genetic Analysis of Mycoplasma haemofelis

About 25 percent of all cats that are anemic or acutely ill are also infected with Mycoplasma haemofelis. This parasite has been widely studied in cats because of its role as a primary pathogen, its role as a cofactor in the development of retroviral and other diseases and its propensity to establish chronic infections despite antibiotic treatment. The objectives of this research are to analyze the genomic sequence of M. haemofelis,  understand how this hemoplasma causes disease and provide new insights into the evolution of infectious mycoplasmas. The information gathered could provide valuable clues about the culture conditions needed to support hemoplasma growth in vitro, which to date has not been achieved and would help scientists study how this parasite causes disease in cats.


Principal Investigator: Dr. Joanne B. Messick, Purdue University


Study ID: D10FE-004

Identifying Genes of Susceptibility for Feline Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the most common diseases that affects middle-aged and older cats, and it is very similar to type 2 diabetes in humans. Some breeds of cat, like the Burmese, seem to have an increased risk of developing diabetes, which suggests an underlying genetic predisposition. As in the human population, the number of cats suffering from diabetes has progressively increased in recent years. Several risk factors have been identified that might predispose cats to developing diabetes, including being overweight and lack of exercise. Recent studies in humans have revealed that in addition to these external risk factors, there is an underlying genetic basis for disease susceptibility. Researchers will use a higher-powered test to identify more genes that contribute to genetic susceptibility to feline diabetes. The investigators will use SNP chips – a type of DNA chip that contains single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP), genetic footprints found in DNA, to identify the location of disease causing mutations. Better understanding of the genetic factors that contribute to disease susceptibility could help prevent and treat diabetes, not only in cats, but potentially also in humans with type 2 diabetes.


Principal Investigator: Dr. Yaiza Forcada, University of London, United Kingdom


Study ID: D12FE-512

Identifying Genes that Cause Feline Breed Characteristics

Pedigree breeding and the creation of specific breeds of any type of animal have some inevitable genetic risks, such as increasing the chance of inherited diseases and compromising genetic diversity. This is evident in a few types of cat breeds. Manx, which are bred to not have a tail, can experience lameness, incontinence and fecal impaction, and the Scottish Fold cat breed has a mutation that may cause mild to severe bone dystrophy. These two breeds are not among the most popular of cat breeds, but some other breeds, such as Persians and other short-faced cats, that are bred to have specific traits, are among the most popular cat breeds. The short face is a highly desired trait as it gives the cats big round faces and big eyes, but it also likely causes significantly more health problems than the ear fold and tailless mutations combined. The secondary health effects of the extreme shortening of the facial bones leads to constant tearing, nasal discharge, eye problems and chewing problems. Researchers will study the major genes that cause short face characteristics in domestic cat breeds using SNP chips, a new genetic tool that could help better determine the genes involved. SNP chips are a type of DNA chip that contain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), genetic footprints found in DNA, to identify the locations of disease causing mutations. The data from this research could help researchers develop genetic tests to monitor mutations linked to health conditions in certain breeds so that breeders can produce healthier cats.


Principal Investigator: Dr. Leslie A. Lyons, University of California–Davis


Study ID: D12FE-506

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