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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

Investigating the Safety and Effectiveness of a Pain-Relieving Drug for Foals

Equine neonates experience many painful injuries, illnesses and surgeries, but veterinarians have limited analgesic choices for them because many currenlty used pain relievers cause side effects in foals.. Buprenorphine is a potent pain-relieving drug with a fairly long duration of action. It is administered under the tongue, which eliminates the need to administer the drug with a painful injection, and has been approved for use in horses in the United Kingdom. Researchers will determine the plasma concentrations and adverse effects of buprenorphine administered under the tongue and intravenously to neonatal foals. Results will provide veterinarians with a safe option for providing pain relief in foals and will help researchers design further studies of this drug in foals. The determination of safe and efficacious dosing recommendations for a long-acting opioid that can be administered under the tongue would allow for safer and more consistent pain management in neonatal foals.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Tamara L. Grubb, Washington State University


Study ID: D14EQ-039

Investigating Why a Tick-Borne Parasite Is Resistant to Treatment

Theileria equi is a tick-transmitted parasite that attacks and destroys the red blood cells of horses, resulting in a mortality rate as high as 20 percent. This fellow will compare two drugs used to treat T. equi and examine the mechanism for its developing drug resistance. Understanding the factors that lead to drug resistance
could help researchers develop new treatments to fight this devastating disease. In addition, this fellowship will facilitate the training of a veterinary scientist, addressing a critical need in veterinary medical research.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Siddra A. Hines, Washington State University, Pfizer Animal Health—Morris Animal Foundation

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Pfizer Animal Health

Study ID: D12EQ-901

Investigating Why a Tick-Borne Parasite Is Resistant to Treatment

Theileria equi is a tick-transmitted parasite of horses that attacks and destroys their red blood cells. The mortality rate can be as high as 20 percent among susceptible animals. Once recovered, horses remain chronic carriers yet do not show clinical signs, which include fever, lethargy, anorexia, anemia, dehydration and, in severe cases, death. Aside from the obvious threat to equine health, the reemergence and persistence of T. equi in the U.S. horse population will result in significant economic losses to the U.S. equine industry because of decreased performance, quarantine and treatment costs. In infected horses, treatment with anti-parasitic drugs may offer a desirable alternative to quarantine and euthanasia, but some strains of T. equi seem to be resistant to treatment. The fellow will compare two drugs used to treat T. equi and measure a protein that is known to be resistant to each of the drugs. Knowing the factors that lead to drug resistance could help researchers develop new treatments to fight this potentially devastating disease.

Principal Investigator: Siddra Arielle Hines, Washington State University, Pfizer Animal Health–Morris Animal Foundation Fellowship


Study ID: D12EQ-901

Managing the Spread of Salmonella

Salmonella is one of the most common bacterial diseases of adult horses. Infection can occur via contamination of the environment, feed or water, or by contact with animals actively shedding the bacteria. Researchers will collect critical data on Salmonella shedding in affected horses, determine factors that may contribute to the duration of shedding, and record adverse health effects on stablemates. This critical new information will help researchers develop sound, evidence-based infection control practices to protect horses as well as their owners who also are at risk of contracting Salmonella.

Principal Investigator: Brandy Burgess, DVM, PhD, The University of Georgia


Study ID: D17EQ-304

Optimizing Stem-Cell Therapy to Treat Tendon Injury in Horses

Tendon injury is a significant cause of injury and suffering in horses. Because natural repair is slow and results in inferior biomechanical properties, up to 80 percent of horses suffer a second injury. Much interest has been placed on regenerative therapies such as stem cell therapy, but little is known about which stem-cell type is optimal for repairing tendon injuries or how best to prepare these cells for treatment. Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy has reduced the re-injury rate by about50 percent, but further improvements can be made. Researchers will use an artificial tendon bioreactor system to mimic tendon injury and tendon rehabilitation in vitro. This will allow them to determine which type of stem cell is best for treating tendon injury and which growth conditions best promote stem-cell tendon formation. Once completed, this study will enable scientists to conduct a prospective clinical trial to determine the safety and efficacy of the optimized therapy in horses with naturally occuring injuries. In addition to improving stem-cell therapy in horses, this study will provide significant training of veterinarians, veterinary surgeons and veterinary scientists. 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jennifer G. Barrett, Virginia Tech


Study ID: D14EQ-018

Pfizer Animal Health - MAF Fellowship, Characterization of Alveolar Macrophage Sensitivity and Phenotype in the Pathogenesis of Equine Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO)

Characterization of Alveolar Macrophage Sensitivity and Phenotype in the Pathogenesis of Equine Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO)

A passion for animals prompted Eilidh Wilson, BVMS, to first pursue a career in veterinary medicine. Her dedication to healing animals then led her to veterinary research. After working in an equine practice, Wilson became frustrated by a lack of disease knowledge and innovative treatment options.

"Research is an avenue that I find more enjoyable and gratifying than clinical medicine," she explains. "I enjoy questioning existing beliefs and searching for answers [that] benefit animal health."

Wilson, who is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, has conducted research projects in studying respiratory disorders, including investigation of diagnostic imaging modalities, heaves and exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. In addition to successful research collaborations, Wilson has conducted independent investigations.

She says the PhD program at Michigan State University, which is partially funded by the Pfizer Animal Health-MAF Fellowship, "not only enhances my training but it may open up new opportunities for me."

Principal Investigator: Margaret Eilidh Wilson, Michigan State University

Sponsors: Sponsor: Pfizer Animal Health

Study ID: D09EQ-910

Recognizing Age-related Differences in Immune Response of Foals

Bacterial infections are major causes of disease and death in foals, and neonatal foals in particular are at increased risk of infectious diseases. Strong innate immune responses are critical for protecting newborn foals from infections. Neutrophils—mature white blood cells that fight disease—play an essential role in innate immunity, but functional responses of neutrophils are immature in newborns. To better understand this deficiency, this research will compare structural changes in genes and the genes’ regulatory elements of neutrophils of newborn foals to those of older foals in order to identify the critical regulators of impaired neutrophil function in newborns. The information obtained from the study will be used to identify biological pathways and processes that are involved in regulating neutrophil maturation and target them for therapeutic interventions to enhance foal resistance to infectious disease. This study could have a major impact on foal health because bacterial infections are the leading causes of disease and death neonatal foals.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Noah Cohen, Texas A&M University


Study ID: D10EQ-020

Searching for a Genetic Defect Responsible for Central Nervous System Disease

This fellowship training grant investigates potential genetic and environmental causes for two of the most common equine brain and spinal cord diseases—neuroaxonal dystrophy and equine degenerative myeloencephalopathy. Results could lead to more accurate diagnostic tools and allow breeders to evaluate the status of their animals before breeding. In addition, this fellowship will facilitate the training of a veterinary scientist, addressing a critical need in veterinary medical research.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Carrie J. Finno, University of Minnesota, Fellowship Training Grant


Study ID: D12EQ-401

Searching for candidate genes responsible for equine metabolic syndrome

Summary: Researchers will search for candidate genes associated with equine metabolic syndrome in five horse breeds – Arabian, Morgan, Quarter Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse, and Welsh Pony.

Description: Equine metabolic syndrome is a metabolic and hormonal disorder in horses characterized by insulin resistance, obesity and susceptibility to laminitis. Little is known about the genetic basis and variation of EMS within and across breeds, which limits the ability to predict disease risk and identify patients that can benefit from management changes or early intervention. Researchers will investigate breed-specific metabolic profiles in five horse breeds to help identify candidate genes associated with EMS using various genomic selection tools. These findings will provide a foundation for discovering new therapeutic targets and aid in the development of genetic tests to identify at-risk horses prior to the onset of clinical disease.

Principal Investigator: Felipe F. Avila, University of Minnesota


Study ID: D16EQ-401

Searching for Genetic Risk Factors for Equine Metabolic Syndrome

Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) is a complex disease, influenced by multiple genetic and metabolic factors. In a previously funded Morris Animal Foundation study, researchers identified more than 180 regions in the horse genome containing genes associated with EMS. In this study, the team will analyze circulating metabolites (substances essential to metabolism and metabolic processes, such as glucose) and gene expression data. Combined analyses will help the team prioritize genetic regions of interest, narrow down the search for candidate genes, and identify risk markers for EMS. Understanding genetic risk factors for EMS will help veterinarians identify animals that can benefit most from management changes and early therapeutic intervention.

Principal Investigator: Molly E. McCue, DVM, PhD, University of Minnesota


Study ID: D17EQ-019

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