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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

Genetic Tool for Analyzing Inherited Traits

More than 450 canine genetic traits are listed on the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals list. These traits affect all body systems in dogs and can cause health problems ranging from mild disease susceptibility to severe illness and death. Researchers will use a genetic tool called the Affymetrix Canine SNP Chip to develop a mapping strategy using pooled DNA samples that will map genes for hereditary canine disorders. This method promises to be 10 times more efficient and cost effective than current methods for analyzing canine inherited traits. Once this method is validated, it will be used to map a series of hereditary retinal disorders affecting multiple breeds.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Gregory M. Acland, Cornell University

Sponsors: Co-sponsors: American Spaniel Club Foundation (ASCF); Portuguese Water Dog Foundation, Inc.; Neil and Sylvia Van Sloun, The Van Sloun Foundation; Laura Cook; The Seeing Eye; Newfoundland Club of America Charitable Trust

Study ID: D07CA-085

Identifying Breed Differences in Insulin Sensitivity in Horses

Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) is characterized by high concentrations of insulin in the blood, which can predispose horses to developing laminitis. Certain breeds appear to be more susceptible to EMS. Preliminary data demonstrate that breeds differ in their response to insulin and in the effectiveness of insulin in controlling blood glucose levels (insulin sensitivity). Researchers will examine the metabolic characteristics of muscle and fat tissue in different breeds (Quarter Horses, Arabians, Tennessee Walking Horses and Welsh ponies) in relation to insulin sensitivity. Identifying unique breed-related differences in metabolism will help determine horses at-risk for EMS. 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jane M. Manfredi, Michigan State University, Fellowship Training Grant


Study ID: D14EQ-401

Identifying Genes Involved with Foal Pneumonia

Rhodococcus equi causes life-threatening bacterial pneumonia in foals. It remains unclear why some foals become affected while other foals in the same environment remain healthy. Researchers from Texas A&M University suspect genes may play a role, and in this study, they will use a novel technique to identify genetic variants that correlate with increased susceptibility of foals to R. equi pneumonia. Results of this study will provide insight into the role of genetic variation in the immune response of foals to R.equi.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jessica Nerren, Texas A&M University, First Award Grant


Study ID: D12EQ-305

Identifying Genes of Susceptibility for Feline Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the most common diseases that affects middle-aged and older cats, and it is very similar to type 2 diabetes in humans. Some breeds of cat, like the Burmese, seem to have an increased risk of developing diabetes, which suggests an underlying genetic predisposition. As in the human population, the number of cats suffering from diabetes has progressively increased in recent years. Several risk factors have been identified that might predispose cats to developing diabetes, including being overweight and lack of exercise. Recent studies in humans have revealed that in addition to these external risk factors, there is an underlying genetic basis for disease susceptibility. Researchers will use a higher-powered test to identify more genes that contribute to genetic susceptibility to feline diabetes. The investigators will use SNP chips – a type of DNA chip that contains single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP), genetic footprints found in DNA, to identify the location of disease causing mutations. Better understanding of the genetic factors that contribute to disease susceptibility could help prevent and treat diabetes, not only in cats, but potentially also in humans with type 2 diabetes.


Principal Investigator: Dr. Yaiza Forcada, University of London, United Kingdom


Study ID: D12FE-512

Identifying Genes that Cause Feline Breed Characteristics

Pedigree breeding and the creation of specific breeds of any type of animal have some inevitable genetic risks, such as increasing the chance of inherited diseases and compromising genetic diversity. This is evident in a few types of cat breeds. Manx, which are bred to not have a tail, can experience lameness, incontinence and fecal impaction, and the Scottish Fold cat breed has a mutation that may cause mild to severe bone dystrophy. These two breeds are not among the most popular of cat breeds, but some other breeds, such as Persians and other short-faced cats, that are bred to have specific traits, are among the most popular cat breeds. The short face is a highly desired trait as it gives the cats big round faces and big eyes, but it also likely causes significantly more health problems than the ear fold and tailless mutations combined. The secondary health effects of the extreme shortening of the facial bones leads to constant tearing, nasal discharge, eye problems and chewing problems. Researchers will study the major genes that cause short face characteristics in domestic cat breeds using SNP chips, a new genetic tool that could help better determine the genes involved. SNP chips are a type of DNA chip that contain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), genetic footprints found in DNA, to identify the locations of disease causing mutations. The data from this research could help researchers develop genetic tests to monitor mutations linked to health conditions in certain breeds so that breeders can produce healthier cats.


Principal Investigator: Dr. Leslie A. Lyons, University of California–Davis


Study ID: D12FE-506

Identifying Genetic Factors of Bone Cancer

Bone cancer, or osteosarcoma, is a relatively common disease in large and giant breed dogs and a leading cause of death in some breeds, such as greyhounds and rottweilers. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small nonprotein-coding RNAs involved in the initiation and progression of cancer in humans. Researchers will use a new genetic tool developed to determine which miRNAs are expressed in canine osteosarcoma cell lines and tumors. They will also try to identify the miRNAs associated with specific breeds, those associated with an individual dog’s prognosis and survival, and those identified as targets for developing new treatments for this painful disease.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Joelle M. Fenger, Ohio State University, Fellowship Training Grant

Sponsors: Co-sponsors: Anonymous: for Tycho; Deborah J. Davenport, DVM, MS, DACVIM and Martin Drey, DVM, Borzoi Club of America

Study ID: D09CA-402

Identifying Genetic Markers for a Congenital Heart Disorder in Dogs

Subvalvular aortic stenosis, the most common congenital heart disorder in dogs, is particularly common in Rottweilers and Golden Retrievers. This study looks for a causative genetic mutation for subvalvular aortic stenosis in these breeds, which will help researchers develop a genetic screening test to reduce disease prevalence in other at-risk breeds.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Kathryn M. Meurs, North Carolina State University


Study ID: D13CA-071

Identifying Genetic Markers for a Congenital Heart Disorder in Newfoundlands

Subvalvular aortic stenosis, the most common congenital heart disorder in dogs, is particularly common in Newfoundlands. This study looks for a causative genetic mutation for subvalvular aortic stenosis in Newfoundlands. Identification of a causative mutation or marker will help researchers develop a genetic screening test to reduce disease prevalence in Newfoundlands and other at-risk breeds.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Kathryn M. Meurs, North Carolina State University


Study ID: D13CA-041

Identifying Genetic Markers for Liver Disorders

Small, purebred terrier-type dogs are at risk of developing two genetically related disorders that cause abnormal liver function. These disorders, known as portosystemic vascular anomalies (PSVA) and microvascular dysplasia (MVD), can occur either alone or in combination. Dogs with PSVA suffer from the liver's inability to remove toxins from food and many are overtly ill, while dogs with MVD may only demonstrate intolerance to standard drug dosages. The researchers hope to identify genetic markers for these disorders and use these markers to develop a test for detecting at-risk dogs. This test would help breeders eliminate these disorders from affected breeds.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Sharon A. Center, Cornell University

Sponsors: Co-sponsors: Arlene and Ron Klein, in honor of Scout; Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)

Study ID: D08CA-001

Identifying Markers for Hypertriglyceridemia

Miniature schnauzers are highly susceptible to a condition known as hypertriglyceridemia, which occurs when a dog has high levels of triglycerides, a fatty molecule, in its blood. This condition develops as a dog ages and appears to be linked to several serious health problems including insulin resistance, liver disease, pancreatitis and eye disorders. The high prevalence of this disease in this breed indicates that it is a hereditary disorder. This study will analyze the dog genome to identify genetic markers associated with this condition. Identifying a marker for this disease would help breeders reduce its incidence through breeding practices and would help veterinarians detect at-risk dogs before they develop clinical signs of the disease.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Panagiotis G. Xenoulis, Texas A&M University

Sponsors: Fully Sponsored: Fort Worth/Tarrant County Animal Foundation

Study ID: D08CA-047

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