Updated January 29, 2019 – When Dr. Mark L. Morris Sr., an ambitious and passionate newly graduated veterinarian, walked into his first private practice job in 1926, little did he realize he was embarking on a journey that would lead to improved lives for animals, large and small, around the world.
Interested in improving veterinary medicine, Dr. Morris conducted research to improve animal health within the parameters of his private practice for nearly a decade. He was interested in applying medical diagnostic and treatment practices used in human medicine to his patients. His passion led to the construction of the Raritan Hospital for Animals in New Jersey in 1928 (one of the first exclusively small animal clinics in the United States), and the formation of the American Animal Hospital Association in 1933, a groundbreaking association committed to improving companion animal veterinary practice.
Throughout this time, the Great Depression was changing everyone’s lives. But it was Dr. Morris who ultimately realized that it also was indirectly affecting the lives of pets. Dr. Morris was puzzled by the unusually large number of dogs with kidney disease he was treating. He was able to identify the cause of the problem: living conditions caused by the Great Depression meant that table scraps normally fed to dogs were being replaced by inexpensive canned and dry dog foods that contained low-grade, meat by-products. It was large quantities of poor quality protein was causing widespread canine kidney failure.
Dr. Morris responded by creating his own dog food mix to treat kidney disease in his patients, and the formula was a great success. However, it was the fateful meeting between Dr. Morris and Morris Frank that unleashed the true potential of this landmark diet. The year was 1939. Morris Frank was the first ambassador of The Seeing Eye, one of the first organizations dedicated to providing guide dogs to the blind. Morris Frank’s guide dog, Buddy II, was ill. A veterinarian friend of Frank pointed him toward Dr. Morris who examined Buddy and determined that Buddy, like so many other dogs, was suffering from kidney disease. Dr. Morris gave Frank bags of the homemade diet he created for other dogs suffering from kidney problems. Shortly thereafter, Buddy was back to his usual self.
Pleased with Buddy’s recovery, Frank encouraged Dr. Morris to start canning his diet. His prodding eventually led to Dr. Morris partnering with Burton Hill and Hill Packing Company of Topeka, Kansas, to produce this formula diet, renamed k/d, on a larger scale, setting the stage for the development, testing and production of many more revolutionary prescription diets.
It was this venture that laid the groundwork for what would become present-day Morris Animal Foundation. Originally called the Buddy Foundation, the Foundation was established in 1948, and was built from royalties of one-half cent per can of food; money dedicated to science and research as a means to advance animal health.
Today, Morris Animal Foundation remains one of the largest and most highly respected animal health organizations in the world. Since its creation, the Foundation has invested more than $136 million toward 2,700+ studies that have led to significant breakthroughs in diagnostics, treatments, preventions and cures benefitting companion animals, horses, and wildlife worldwide.