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May 4, 2023 — If you’ve ever taken your dog to the vet for their yearly exam or in the case of a health emergency, chances are your pet has benefitted from work supported by Morris Animal Foundation. For more than 70 years, Morris Animal Foundation has funded animal health studies that have helped improve diagnostics, treatments, and preventives for our furry friends.

Morris Animal Foundation has funded more than 1,120 canine health studies, investing just over $50 million to improve the health and well-being of dogs everywhere. We are currently funding a $32 million Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, which is tracking the health of 3,000 dogs over the course of their lives to identify risk factors for cancer and other health challenges.

Here are just a few examples of how our research has made a difference in the lives of dogs:

  • Our funding helped develop the first parvovirus vaccine, which has saved countless lives.
  • We supported research that led to the development of improved imaging techniques for diagnosing cancer in dogs.
  • Our funding has helped develop new treatments for epilepsy, heart disease, and osteoarthritis.
  • We are funding research that could lead to new ways to prevent and treat cognitive decline in dogs.

We are proud of the work we have done to improve the lives of dogs, and we are committed to continuing our research to make even more progress in the years to come.

Supported Early Development of the First Parvovirus Vaccine

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that emerged in 1978. The disease rapidly spread around the world, killing thousands of dogs, especially puppies. Our funding helped researchers respond quickly, identify the infectious agent and develop preventives.

Funding continues today to help improve the parvovirus vaccine’s efficacy and to identify potential therapeutic antibodies for novel treatments. 

Screening Tests for Progressive Retinal Atrophy for More Than 45 Breeds
An estimated 80 to 100 dog breeds are affected with vision threatening diseases, including progressive retinal atrophy, a disease caused by inherited genetic mutations. Early detection of PRA is challenging, and dogs are often bred before the disease is identified. Genetic screening tests have been a gamechanger to help eliminate PRA in many breeds.

Improved Drugs
Studies estimate about 1% of dogs experience epileptic seizures during their lifetime, with some breeds at higher risk for the disorder. Researchers found the drug levetiracetam, also known as Keppra, was a safe add-on therapy for epileptic dogs that have not had their seizures completely controlled by other mainstay medications. Levetiracetam is now commonly used in combination or as a primary drug to control seizures in dogs.  Ongoing research is finding ways to help distinguish between epileptic seizures and an episodic movement disordercalled paroxysmal dyskinesia – commonly mistaken for epileptic seizures – to improve diagnosis and ensure that appropriate treatment is used.

Surgical Cure for Accessory Pathways
Accessory pathways are abnormal electrical connections in a dog’s heart that can be life threatening and can severely impair the heart’s pumping function. This minimally-invasive, catheter-based procedure was found to be almost 99% effective in reversing this condition in affected dogs, helping them live longer, healthier lives.

Heart Disease Screening Tests
Our funding supported the development of numerous breed-specific heart screening tests, including subvalvular aortic stenosis in Newfoundland dogs and dilated cardiomyopathy in Doberman pinschers. These genetic tests help inform diagnostic decision-making by your veterinarian as well as screen breeding animals to help remove the prevalence of harmful mutations associated with heart disease in high-risk breeds.

Hip Dysplasia Tests
The Foundation provided early funding for hip dysplasia tests, including PennHIP and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals scoring system. These tests are commonly used today to screen for your dog’s susceptibility of developing painful osteoarthritis associated with canine hip dysplasia later in life. Early detection means earlier care for your pet.

Ongoing research is focusing on osteoarthritis, a chronic, progressive and painful joint disease in dogs. In one of our funded studies, researchers are exploring the potential of gene therapy (reprogramming of cells already present in the body through the transfer of genes) as a new strategy to treat osteoarthritis in dogs.

Safer Pain-Relief Options
Drug dosing is sometimes extrapolated from one species to help another, and it’s important to know what drugs work and which ones don’t. The Foundation is an early pioneer in pain management for pets and continues to support ongoing research in identifying new, and improving existing, drug strategies to control pain in our dogs.

Lower Back Pain
Ongoing research is evaluating a new treatment called extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) for use in dogswith lower back pain. This therapy uses soundwaves delivered externally via a probe placed on the affected tissues. ESWT has had positive outcomes in people suffering from low back pain, and we are optimistic it will help dogs as well.

Metaldehyde Poisoning
Researchers identified a new strategy to help save dogs from metaldehyde poisoning. This blood purification technique is safe and quicker at removing metaldehyde (found in slug baits) from canine blood. Dogs treated recovered quicker with good health outcomes. 

Ongoing studies are looking at toxins associated with the development of lymphoma in dogs.

With about 100 different types of cancers identified in dogs, cancer research remains a top priority for the Foundation. Our funding has helped develop more targeted drug delivery systems (to avoid killing healthy cells); improved imagingto aid diagnostics and surgical removal of tumors; and immunotherapies, cancer treatments that help the dog’s own immune system fight cancer.

Ongoing work includes working on early screening detection methods and, of course, mining the data from the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study for new insights on cancer risk factors.

Advances in science need big data. Morris Animal Foundation launched its longitudinal Golden Retriever Lifetime Study more than a decade ago. This study collects data and samples (urine, blood, biopsies and more) from more than 3,000 golden retrievers throughout their lifetime. This repository of new information is helping scientists learn more about cancer and other health challenges in dogs. 

One surprising finding from the Study is that the majority of cancer deaths in dogs are caused by a deadly cancer called hemangiosarcoma. This new information has prompted the Foundation to fund more hemangiosarcoma research to find better ways to diagnose and treat this devastating disease and save more dogs.


Innovative scientific studies like these take vision as well as financial investment. It’s only with the generous support of our donors that we can continue to fund impactful research on health problems big and small to help dogs live healthier, happier lives.

Follow us to learn more about our latest animal health research, upcoming projects and tips for helping your pet live their longest, healthiest life.


What Owners Need to Know About Parvovirus

What You Need to Know About Seizures and Your Pet’s Health

PODCAST Episode 21: Learning More About Seizures in Dogs

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – Understanding Heart Disease in Cats and Dogs

Hip Dysplasia – Understanding a Common and Challenging Orthopedic Disease in Dogs

Ow, That Hurts – Osteoarthritis in Dogs and Cats

PODCAST Episode 47: New Thoughts on Osteoarthritis in Dogs and Cats

PODCAST Episode 52: New ideas on hemangiosarcoma in dogs

PODCAST Episode 54: Environmental Toxins, Cancer and Pets

Understanding: New Advances in Cancer Treatments

Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

Cognitive Health in Cats & Dogs Webinar