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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 if Stress Is Responsible for Herpesvirus Reactivation in Horses

Equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) is a threat to horses worldwide, causing abortions and neurological disorders. After initial infection with EHV-1, the virus becomes dormant, but it can reactivate when animals are stressed. This study examines the stress response in cells and its relationship to EHV-1 reactivation, thereby taking an important step toward the development of new prevention and treatment strategies.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Andrea L. Di Marzo, University of Saskatchewan, Canada, Pilot Study


Study ID: D12EQ-821

Evaluating Immune Responses to Rhodococcus equi

Rhodococcus equi is a bacteria that causes life-threatening bacterial pneumonia in foals. it is found in the soil wherever horses are raised, and on some farms morbidity rates can exceed 40 percent. Although horses become immune when they reach adulthood, there are no effective vaccines to prevent this devastating disease in foals. With previous Foundation support, these researchers helped define what immune responses an effective vaccine will need to elicit. in this study, the team will investigate the role of lipids found in the bacterial cell wall in immunity to R. equi. They will also test a novel immunization approach and determine whether inclusion of unique R. equi lipids can induce protective immune responses in foals. This study will help increase the knowledge of this disease and possibly save thousands of foals who could be spared if a vaccine were developed.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Stephen Hines, Washington State University

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Robert & Ginger Detterman

Study ID: D10EQ-046

Evaluating Potential Cell-Based Therapy for Articular Cartilage Defects in Horses

Pain, loss of mobility and osteoarthritis resulting from injured articular cartilage limit the athletic careers of many horses. Although current treatments for osteoarthritis focus on symptomatic pain relief, researchers hope that emergent cell-based therapies, under the broad heading of regenerative medicine, will achieve true cartilage repair. Researchers will study a tissue that is very important in the formation of joint cartilage during normal fetal development. They hope to determine if cells derived from this developmental tissue have a greater therapeutic potential than other types of stem cells to form new articular cartilage in adult horses and help repair joint cartilage lesions. 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Emma N. Adam, University of Kentucky, Fellowship Training Grant


Study ID: D14EQ-409

Evaluating Seasonal Effects on Diagnostic Test Results for Equine Cushing’s Disease

An estimated 20 to 30 percent of the equine population is older than 15 years of age, and about one-third of older horses develop equine Cushing’s disease, also known as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction. Early diagnosis of the disease is critical because the condition is associated with significant health risks. The effects of season on the hormone responses to the diagnostic test currently used have never been evaluated, therefore, there are no seasonal reference ranges for diagnosing Cushing’s in subclinical horses. Researchers will use the current test to evaluate hormone responses over a 12-month period in horses with and without equine Cushing’s disease. This will allow them to determine if seasonal reference ranges are needed to accurately diagnose equine Cushing’s disease early. Characterization of this test will allow for confidence in early detection of equine Cushing’s disease and help prevent its progression.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Amanda A. Adams, University of Kentucky


Study ID: D14EQ-026

Evaluating the Safety and Effectiveness of a Vaccine Against Foal Pneumonia

Foal pneumonia, caused by the bacterium Rhodococcus equi, is a devastating illness that kills young foals worldwide. As yet, there is no effective and safe vaccine. Researchers will evaluate whether mares and foals produce protective immune responses when immunized with a vaccine that elicits antibodies against a sugar polymer found on the surface of many bacteria, including R. equi. They will determine whether these antibodies are found in the milk of vaccinated mares and whether those antibodies are passed on to foals during nursing. Researchers hope these studies will provide a breakthrough approach that will lead to an effective vaccine against R. equi.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Gerald B Pier, Brigham & Women's Hospital


Study ID: D15EQ-035

Evaluating Why Mares Are Susceptible to Colic After Giving Birth

Colic from twisted bowel is a painful and often fatal condition that affects up to 10 percent of mares after giving birth. Researchers suspect that an imbalance of fatty acids and calcium may be to blame, and they will compare blood and stool samples from healthy and affected brood mares in hopes of identifying the underlying cause of this problem.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Susan J. Holcombe, Michigan State University

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Knapp Friesian Foundation, Inc.

Study ID: D12EQ-032

Examining How Hormones Affect Disease Severity in Sick Foals

Sepsis/septicemia is a disease involving bacteria or their toxins in the bloodstream and tissues, it is the main cause of mortality in newborn foals. The clinical signs and consequences of sepsis include multiple organ failure and loss of the hormonal mechanisms that regulate cardiovascular, metabolic and immune functions. Researchers will investigate multiple steroid hormones from the adrenal gland (stress gland) and determine their role in severity of disease and mortality in sick newborn foals. They will also investigate how adrenal steroids and neurosteroids (steroids produced in the brain) affect stress hormones from the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in sick foals. A better understanding of how these hormonal mechanisms respond to disease in equine neonates will enhance scientists’ ability to develop better diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Katarzyna Dembek, Ohio State University, Fellowship Training Grant


Study ID: D14EQ-407

Filling in Gaps in the Horse Genome Related to Tendon Health

Tendon diseases often result in severe lameness and debilitation for horses. Although the equine genome was released in 2007, major informational gaps still exist, slowing the discovery of new treatments and therapies. Using new sequencing technologies, researchers will identify previously unrecognized tendon-specific and tendon-associated genes. This study will provide for a more robust equine genome, will improve our understanding of tendon aging in horses, and will help advance the development of treatments for life-limiting lameness in horses.

Principal Investigator: Michael Mienaltowski, DVM, PhD, University of California, Davis


Study ID: D17EQ-818

Finding new strategies to combat life-threatening glanders in horses

Summary: Researchers will investigate how the bacterium Burkholderia mallei which causes glanders, an infectious disease in horses, regulates immune response to persist in infected animals. 

Description: Glanders is a contagious and life-threatening disease caused by the bacterium Burkholderia mallei which affects horses, mules and donkeys. Signs of glanders include the development of abscesses and ulcerative lesions in multiple organs, notably the respiratory tract and lungs. There are no effective vaccines to prevent the disease, and aggressive treatment with antimicrobials is largely ineffective. Using genome-wide screening technologies, researchers will study B. mallei-infected immune cells to identify host genes modulated by the bacterium that suppress immune responses and are pertinent to disease progression in infected patients. Understanding how the bacterium survives and evades the immune system will help researchers develop new therapeutic strategies to prime and enhance the immune system to mitigate disease and improve survival of infected horses.

Principal Investigator: Sophie A. Aschenbroich, The University of Georgia


Study ID: D16EQ-403

Genetic loci underlying metabolic differences, metabolic syndrome and laminitis risk across breeds

Laminitis affects 15 to 20 percent of all horses over the course of their lifetime, and equine metabolic syndrom (EMS), a clustering of clinical symptoms, is considered the most common cause of this debilitating illness. It is currently difficult to identify horses and ponies at risk for laminitis or to develop new treatment and management strategies because there is a lack of knowledge regarding the disease pathophysiology, individual genetic characteristics, and how genes and environmental factors interact to cause EMS. Researchers will conduct a genome-wide analysis of Morgans and Welsh Ponies to identify genes and alleles associated with EMS and laminitis risk.. The results of this study will expand the understanding of genetic factors that contribute to EMS and will improve veterinarians’ ability to predict disease risk and identify animals that can benefit from management changes and/or therapeutic intervention prior to disease onset.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Molly E. McCue, University of Minnesota


Study ID: D14EQ-033

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