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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

Elevated Nonesterified Fatty Acids (NEFAs) Predict Colonic Volvulus in Periparturient Mares

Mares are susceptible to developing a variety of diseases postpartum, one of the most prevalent being colonic volvulus. This is a serious form of colic that requires immediate emergency corrective surgery. Currently, 2 to 10 percent of mares are affected, and the mortality rate approaches 30 to 40 percent, depending on the timeliness of surgical correction. This student project will explore the role that postpartum nonesterified fatty acids and calcium levels play in the development of this disease. Results of this study may produce a tool to measure the risk of colonic volvulus development in horses and, ultimately, decrease suffering and mortality.

Principal Investigator: Kari A. Kurtz, Michigan State University


Study ID: D12EQ-603

Improving allergy immunotherapy for horses

Summary: Researchers will investigate how to improve diagnosis and treatment of equine insect bite hypersensitivity, one of the most common allergic skin diseases in horses.

Description: Equine insect bite hypersensitivity is a common allergic condition caused by biting midges. Allergens, the substances causing the allergy, are proteins present in the midges’ saliva. Although many of these allergens are known, researchers will identify the most relevant ones for IBH in horses for inclusion in allergen-specific immunotherapy (allergy shots). Findings will be used to develop a rapid, sensitive diagnostic test for IBH and to improve allergy vaccines for IBH and other allergic diseases in horses.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Eliane Marti, University of Berne

Sponsors: United States Eventing Association 

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Addressing weight load and welfare concerns in horses

Summary: Researchers will evaluate the effects of increased weight loads carried by horses to provide science-based recommendations to the equine industry and address potential welfare concerns.

Description: Numerous recommendations for maximum weight loads a horse can carry (including rider and tack) are used for many equine events. These recommendations often lack scientific support and vary greatly depending on the source, discipline, and even by country. Researchers will evaluate the effects of varying weight loads on horses, by measuring and analyzing gait characteristics such as stride length, joint range of motion, and joint angles. Results will be used to support or revise existing recommendations for horses involved in various equine events, gauge equine performance, and protect animals from carrying potentially harmful loads.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Kelly W Walter, Truman State University


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Assessing orthopedic disease risk in young horses

Summary: Researchers will study biomechanical forces in different horse gaits as well as genetic risk factors associated with the development of osteochondrosis in Standardbred horses, a breed with high prevalence of OC lesions.

Description: Osteochondrosis is a common developmental orthopedic disease in young horses influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Investigators recently reported differences in both the frequency and location of OC lesions in the hocks (a hind limb joint) of Standardbred pacers and trotters. It is unknown if these differences are due to genetic risk, differences in biomechanical forces related to gait, or a combination of the two. Researchers will study OC hock lesions in a group of Standardbred pacer and trotter foals from birth to 1 year of age to determine if gait preference has an impact on lesion healing. Researchers also will evaluate several previously identified candidate genetic risk variants to determine if they are associated with OC in this group of horses. Defining the roles of genetic and biomechanical factors in OC development will facilitate early intervention and help reduce the risk of clinical disease in horses.

Principal Investigator: Annette M. McCoy, University of Illinois


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Assessing Stem Cell Therapies’ Ability to Repair Neurological Function in Horses

The research fellow will evaluate whether stem cells and regenerative therapies can be used for treating horses with brain and spinal cord diseases.

Principal Investigator: Sally Ness, DVM, Cornell University, Fellowship


Study ID: D15EQ-903

Better Understanding of Bacterial Pneumonia in Foals

Rhodococcus equi causes severe bacterial pneumonia in foals, and the disease is endemic on many horsebreeding farms. On such farms, costs associated with early diagnosis, veterinary care, long-term therapy and significant foal mortality are exorbitant. In spite of the magnitude of this problem, little progress has been made in the prevention of infection by this devastating pathogen. In contrast to foals, adult horses are resistant to R. equi infections. The ability of R. equi to survive in macrophages (a type of cell that can kill other bacteria) is at the basis of its ability to cause disease. The study will investigate mechanisms by which macrophages can become activated to kill R. equi. A better understanding of how foal macrophages can eradicate R. equi may lead to ways to prevent the disease.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Steeve Giguère, University of Georgia; Dr. Tracy Sturgill, University of Georgia, Fellowship Training Grant


Study ID: D10EQ-009 & D10EQ-403

Boosting the Immune System in Foals to Help Fight Infections

Rhodococcus equi pneumonia is the most common and severe form of pneumonia in foals younger than 6 months of age. To date, no safe and readily available vaccine is available in the United States to protect foals from this infection. Researchers will explore the ability of two agents  to stimulate the immune system of newborn foals and provide protection against R.equi infection. They will analyze how each treatment affects the immune system cells found in airways, which serve as a first line of defense against foreign invaders. Identifying new methods to improve neonatal immunity will reduce foals’ susceptibility to infections and may also improve their response to vaccination.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Angela I Bordin, Texas A&M AgriLife Research


Study ID: D15EQ-405

Building a Better Horse Genome to Help Researchers Study Equine Diseases

Genome sequencing allows researchers to read and decipher genetic information found in DNA. It is especially useful for mapping genes that cause disease in animals. Morris Animal Foundation helped fund the first genome reference sequence for the domestic horse, released in 2009. Since that time, there have been dramatic improvements in sequencing technology and the computational hardware and algorithms used to analyze the data. Researchers will use this new technology to improve the reference genome for the horse and create a more complete map of the horse’s genetic code. This map will help the research community find new approaches for tackling serious equine health problems.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Theodore S Kalbfleisch, University of Louisville, Established Investigator


Study ID: D15EQ-019

Confirming Genetic Mutations Responsible for an Orthopedic Disease in Horses

Osteochondrosis (OC), a developmental orthopedic disease commonly diagnosed in young horses, is caused by abnormal cartilage development. OC can vary from mild to severe, and it nearly always requires surgical intevention to prevent ongoing joint damage. Researchers have identified several genetic mutations associated with OC in a population of yearling Standardbred horses from the United States. They now plan to validate these findings in a second, unrelated population from Norway. Identification and verification of genetic mutations are crucial to developing a genetic risk model of OC. This model could then be applied to individual horses to guide management changes and facilitate early intervention in high-risk horses. Knowing which horses have a high risk of developing OC would also allow for informed breeding decisions to reduce disease incidence.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Annette M McCoy, University of Illinois


Study ID: D15EQ-813

Creating a lung tissue bank to study respiratory diseases in horses

Summary: Researchers will develop a cryopreservation technique to preserve airway tissue from horses that die of natural diseases with the goal of creating a tissue bank for studying respiratory diseases in horses. 

Description: The ability to bank viable airway tissues from well-defined, diseased and control equine populations is critically needed for studying complex gene interactions responsible for common equine respiratory ailments, such as recurrent airway obstruction and inflammatory airway disease. In this pilot study, researchers will develop cryopreservation techniques that will facilitate banking sections of airways from horses that die of natural disease. This is an essential step toward increasing research efforts to improve treatments for horses with respiratory diseases.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Cyprianna E. Swiderski, Mississippi State University Research & Technology Corporation


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