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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

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 research fellow will help the team analyze circulating metabolites (substances essential to metabolism and metabolic processes such as glucose) and gene expression data. Combined analyses will help 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: Elaine Norton, DVM, University of Minnesota


Study ID: D17EQ-402

Searching for the Genetic Mutations Associated with Tying Up in Horses

Recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER), commonly known as tying up, is a musculoskeletal disorder that affects the health and performance of 5 to 10 percent of Thoroughbred and Standardbred horses. Horses with this condition experience painful cramping and muscle cell damage after partaking in mild to moderate exercise. Researchers hope to identify genes and genetic mutations that may increase risk of tying up in Thoroughbred and Standardbred horses. The information they learn would help identify susceptible horses and could be used to decrease the incidence of this painful muscle disorder through informed breeding practices.

Principal Investigator: Dr. James R. Mickelson, University of Minnesota


Study ID: D15EQ-031

Studying How Energy Metabolism Contributes to Laminitis

Laminitis is a common disease of horses, but little is known about why they develop it. In addition, relatively little is known about the normal physiology of the unique lamellar tissue of the equine foot. Using two cutting-edge techniques, researchers will characterize normal energy metabolism in the lamellar tissue of the equine foot. The goal is to develop a better understanding of how failure of energy metabolism might contribute to laminitis.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Andrew W. van Eps, University of Queensland, Australia


Study ID: D13EQ-802

Studying How Intestinal Bacteria Develops in Foals

Intestinal diseases are common in foals, and many are influenced by the bacteria living in the gut (colletively known as the intestinal microbiome). Almost nothing is known about how the microbiome develops in foals, however, so researchers will assess this process. The information will provide insight into why certain diseases occur, diagnosing disease and developing novel ways to prevent and treat intestinal disease in foals.

Principal Investigator: Dr. J. Scott Weese, University of Guelph, Canada


Study ID: D13EQ-002

Studying Stem Cell Therapies for Equine Tendonitis

Researchers are evaluating whether a cell-tracking system using magnetic resonance imaging and superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticle technology is useful for studying stem cell therapies for equine tendonitis. The development of a minimally invasive, longitudinal, in vivo cell-tracking method would enable researchers to monitor changes in cell behaviors in equine patients. Results will be useful to large animal veterinarians who routinely use stem cell therapies to treat tendon and ligament disease.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Alexandra M. Scharf, University of Georgia


Study ID: D13EQ-407

Tackling antibiotic-resistant foal pneumonia

Summary: Researchers will investigate a new treatment strategy against antibiotic-resistant foal pneumonia.

Description: Rhodococcus equi, a naturally occurring bacterium in soil, is a common cause of severe and often fatal pneumonia in foals. Antibiotic-resistant R. equi is an emerging treatment challenge. A practical, long-term solution to this health concern is to decrease widespread use of commonly used antibiotics in foals with pneumonia. Researchers recently showed that gallium maltolate, a semi-metal compound with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, is highly active against R. equi. In this clinical trial, researchers will determine if gallium maltolate administered to client-owned foals with pneumonia minimizes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the gut as measured in stool and soil samples. Gallium maltolate holds promise as a new treatment to help mitigate the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of R. equi – especially important to farms endemic for this difficult-to-treat bacteria.  

Principal Investigator: Dr. Steeve Giguere, The University of Georgia


Study ID:

Targeting Relevant Genes Involved in Cushing’s Syndrome

Because of its crippling nature and prevalence in horses throughout the world, laminitis is a top priority for research. Horses that experience equine metabolic syndrome, also known as Cushing’s syndrome, are more likely to develop laminitis. Investigators from the Ohio State University will look at changes in the way cells within the layers of the hoof communicate and will examine the role of specific genes in an effort to better understand the disease process. Their eventual goal is to identify new targets for treatment of laminitis.

Principal Investigator: Dr. James K. Belknap, The Ohio State University

Sponsors: Co-sponsors: The Johnson-Stillman Family Foundation, American Association of Equine Practitioners Foundation

Study ID: D12EQ-027

Targeting Specific Growth Factors in Ocular Cancers

Advances in chemotherapy in humans have led to improved treatment of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) with fewer or milder side effects. This study examines whether equine SCC, the most common tumor of the eye in horses, shares key properties with human SCC that would allow this treatment to be effective in horses. If true, then horses with SCC could also benefit from treatment with these drugs.

Principal Investigator:


Study ID: D12EQ-803

Testing a New Tool for Evaluating Colic Patients

Colic caused by displacement or strangulation of the large colon is a significant cause of pain and death in horses. Horses often need emergency colic surgery, during which time the surgeon must decide whether the colon is viable or is so severely damaged that it must be removed. Current assessment methods are subjective, time-consuming, inaccurate or impractical. Researchers are investigating the use of a handheld, dark-field microscope, called the Microscan, which will allow them to evaluate the small vessel flow through the colon by simply applying the microscope to the surface of the colon and watching blood cells flow through the small vessels. If effective, Microscan would give equine colic surgeons a novel tool indetermining the most appropriate treatment plan for their equine patients at the time of surgery.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Sam Hurcombe, Ohio State University, Pilot Study


Study ID: D10EQ-805A

Testing a Rescue Therapy for Horses with Acute Respiratory Distress

The prevalence of chronic airway disease is estimated to be 14 to 80 percent in individual horse populations throughout the United States and Europe, accounting for respiratory disease as the second cause of retirement in horses. Recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), an asthmalike disease, has been cited as one of the most frequent respiratory diseases in horses. Intravenous administration of magnesium sulfate solution is used to treat acute asthma attacks in people. Researchers will determine whether magnesium sulfate therapy can relax airway smooth muscle and improve ventilation in horses that experience seasonal RAO. This study will provide new information on the safety and efficacy of this novel and inexpensive therapy for managing horses with acute respiratory distress.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jacquelyn E Bowser, Mississippi State University


Study ID: D15EQ-803

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