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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

Testing New Drugs for Their Ability to Treat Tritrichomonas foetus Infection in Cats

Feline trichomonosis, a chronic infection in cats, is caused by the Tritrichomonas foetus pathogen. It causes prolonged and intractable diarrhea, often leading to large-bowel disease, and has a reported prevalence as high as 30 percent in the domestic purebred feline population. Currently, only one drug is available to treat this infection, but it is associated with neurotoxicity and reports of resistance. Researchers will investigate the use of novel cysteine protease inhibitors for their ability to alleviate clinical signs of T. foetus infection in cats.

Principal Investigator: Dr. M. Katherine Tolbert, University of Tennessee, First Award Grant


Study ID: D14FE-302

Understanding Genetic Variations Predisposing Cats to FIP

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP ) is a fatal, progressive and immune-augmented disease of cats that is particularly deadly in animal shelters. It is caused by a feline coronavirus (FCoV). FCoV infection is widespread in domestic, feral and nondomestic cat populations worldwide, and about 10 percent of FCoV-positive cats develop FIP . The disease tends to occur most frequently in cats younger than 2 years or, less commonly, in geriatric cats. Epidemiologic data suggest that a cat’s genetic background contributes to the manifestation of FIP , but specific genetic determinants of these clinical outcomes have yet to be discovered. This study will evaluate the genetic factors predisposing cats to FIP —both from a viral and a host perspective. The ultimate outcome of this study will be to develop a diagnostic tool for preventing FIP outbreaks in shelter cats.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Gary R. Whittaker, Cornell University

Sponsors: Co-sponsors: Neil and Sylvia Van Sloun, the Van Sloun Foundation; Maddie’s Fund

Study ID: D10FE-511

Understanding Mechanisms that Contribute to Early Changes in Cancer Stem Cells

Treatment-resistant cancer poses a significant threat to animal health and well-being. Recent evidence from a number of cancer studies suggests the existence of a population of cancer stem cells that give rise to and perpetuate tumor growth. In addition, cancer stem cells are thought to provide a chemotherapy resistant pool of cells that lead to disease recurrence. However, the mechanisms that drive cancer stem cell formation and the acquisition of chemotherapy resistant properties are not well understood. The objective of this research is to identify early changes in the stem cell environment that contribute to cancer stem cell formation. These changes may include altered cell division polarity and the accumulation of genetic damage. Completion of this research will provide important insights supporting the design of future therapeutics to block cancer progression.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Alex Davies, Pfizer Animal Health–Morris Animal Foundation Fellowship, University of California–Davis

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Anonymous, for Bone “qui faisait tout et qui le fait tout bien”

Study ID: D10MS-906

Understanding the Role of Genetics in Feline Heart Disease

Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common cause of heart disease in adult cats. Affected cats are at risk of sudden death, breathing difficulties or blood clots. Increasingly, feline HCM is noted to be inherited, and examples have been reported in the Maine Coon, Ragdoll, Sphynx, Siberian and Norwegian Forest Cat breeds, among others. Using a new genetic tool called a SNP chip, researchers will perform a genome-wide association to identify a genetic marker to HCM in the Sphynx breed. The SNP chips are a type of DNA chip that contain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), genetic footprints found in DNA, to identify disease causing mutations. The identification of a genetic cause for HCM in the Sphynx can be used to reduce the prevalence of this disease in this breed, and it is also very likely to provide information on this disease in many other breeds of cats.


Principal Investigator: Dr. Kathryn M. Meurs, Washington State University


Study ID: D12FE-515

Understanding Why Cats Respond Differently to Common Heart Medication

Principal Investigator:


Study ID:

Understanding Why Some Cats Fail to Clear Red Blood Cell Infections

The research fellow will study cats with naturally occurring hemoplasma infections to determine how the bacteria that perpetuate these infections evade the cat’s immune system.

Principal Investigator: Pierre Deshuillers, DVM, Purdue University, Fellowship


Study ID: D15FE-902

Using a Novel Approach to Understand Genetic Factors of Renal Disease

Reflux nephropathy is a condition in which the kidneys are damaged by the backward flow of urine into the kidney. Renal failure is a relatively common health problem in cats, but scientists recently recognized an inherited type of reflux nephropathy in Ragdolls. The affected cats have a failure to thrive and are often euthanized before the age of 6 years. Researchers from the University of Helsinki will use a genome-wide association-mapping approach with feline single nucleotide polymorphism gene chip arrays to identify the genetic background of reflux nephropathy in Ragdolls. The identification of the causative gene would enable the development of a DNA test for breeding purposes to eradicate the disease from the breed and to test its possible presence in other breeds with renal failures.


Principal Investigator: Dr. Hannes Lohi, University of Helsinki, Finland


Study ID: D12FE-511

Using Behavior to Increase Immune Response

Emotional stress for cats, particularly those in shelters, can lead to upper respiratory infections (URI s). A substance called secretory immunoglobulin A (s-IgA) helps the immune system launch a response against URI s and is highly responsive to emotional states. In other species, increasing s-IgA levels successfully improves the animal’s emotional state. Researchers will examine the relationships among behavior, the stress hormone cortisol and levels of s-IgA in shelter cats. They will then test the effect of various behavioral interventions on the emotional state of cats and examine health outcomes using a technique developed and validated during the first phase of the study. Researchers will use the information to develop effective behavioral interventions that shelter personnel can use to reduce the spread of the disease in shelters.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Clive Phillips, University of Queensland, Australia

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Pfizer Animal Health

Study ID: D09FE-504

Using Genetic Technology to Diagnose Cancer Types in Cats

Each year, as many as 22,000 cats in the U.S. develop sarcomas at the site of a vaccine or other injection. Because these injection site–associated sarcomas (ISASs) are typically more aggressive and prone to recurrence than spontaneous sarcomas that are not injection related, they often require more urgent and radical therapeutic intervention. Distinguishing between ISASs and non-ISASs is essential for optimizing clinical management and outcome for each patient, but at present there are no efficient and definitive means for diagnosis. This study uses state-of-the-art microarray-based technology to identify DNA-based markers that may provide more powerful diagnostic and prognostic tools for evaluating these tumors. These data will highlight cancer-associated gene defects as potential new therapeutic targets and will provide a wealth of comparative data that will advance feline molecular oncology studies.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Rachael Thomas, North Carolina State University

Sponsors: Co-sponsors: The PETCO Foundation; The Blue Buffalo Foundation for Cancer Research

Study ID: D10FE-007

Using Genomic Technologies to Discover Causes of Feline Disease

With many feline infectious diseases, it is difficult to identify the specific pathogen involved. In a previous pilot study funded by Morris Animal Foundation, the research team developed a genetic assay that detected and characterized multiple feline pathogens. In this study they will evaluate the test’s application as a diagnostic method by using it to identify the pathogens associated with three common feline diseases: lymphoma, leukemia and chronic anemia. Modern genomic technologies such as this type of test have revolutionized human medicine but are still underused tools in veterinary medicine. The researcher’s goal is to discover new causes of feline disease, which could lead to better diagnostic tests, therapies or vaccines for conditions that are currently incurable.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Sue VandeWoude, Colorado State University


Study ID: D14FE-007

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