What’s new in dog research?

What's new in dog research?

Over the next two years, studies funded by Morris Animal Foundation will offer dog parents new insights on how to best care for their canine companions.

Morris Animal Foundation has funded canine health studies for more than 70 years to improve the health and well-being of dogs everywhere. We’ve contributed to early research that yielded the parvovirus vaccine, and supported the development of genetic tests for heart diseases, eye diseases and seizure disorders. We also are at the forefront of funding cancer studies in dogs, including hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma and osteosarcoma.

Read on for a two-year snapshot of our funded canine health studies and learn how we are working to improve the care and well-being of our furry friends.

Autoimmune disorders

Identify immune system genes associated with meningoencephalitis of unknown origin, a common autoimmune disorder affecting the central nervous system.

Develop a much-needed tool to study immune thrombocytopenia, an aggressive autoimmune disorder that causes platelet destruction, with the goal of finding better treatment options.

Investigate a potential cause of red blood cell destruction in immune-mediated hemolytic anemia to inform the development of targeted treatments.

Blood transfusions

Investigate a novel way to restore and rejuvenate stored red blood cells to help minimize severe blood transfusion reactions.

Cushing’s disease

Study potential drugs to treat pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism, also known as Cushing’s disease, a common endocrine disorder.

Drug variability

Study the genetics of drug response variability in dogs as a first step toward developing a novel drug sensitivity test to increase drug safety and efficacy for individual patients.

Fracture repair

Evaluate feasibility of custom 3D-printed metal plates to repair shinbone fractures to reduce surgical times and improve patient outcomes.

Heart disease

Use novel gene-editing tools to correct damaging mutations in heart cells to advance gene therapies for dilated cardiomyopathy.

Evaluate if the drug rapamycin can reverse the negative heart changes associated with subvalvular aortic stenosis, the most common congenital heart defect in dogs.


Investigate the use of a bacteria to help block transmission of heartworm parasites by mosquitoes.

Identify mosquitoes capable of transmitting heartworm disease to dogs and other mammals to inform disease management strategies.


Create a canine-specific tool to study hematopoiesis, the process by which immune and blood cells are created, to boost research for many diseases, including cancer.

Kennel cough

Develop a canine cell culture model to study pathogens associated with canine infectious respiratory disease complex (kennel cough), and help identify potential therapeutics to control outbreaks.


Use genetic analysis to broaden and improve vaccine protection against multiple strains of leptospirosis, a widespread bacterial disease.


Evaluate how genetic risk factors and owner behaviors contribute to pet obesity.

Orthopedic disorder

Identify genetic factors that may contribute to forelimb anomaly, an inherited orthopedic disorder in Newfoundland dogs, to inform development of a genetic screening test.


Explore gene transfer, the reprogramming of cells in the body, to treat chronic, progressive joint disease.


Investigate how a genetic mutation affects treatment success of this aggressive bone cancer.

Develop a novel nanoparticle system to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to tumors to slow cancer spread and improve survival times.

Pain management

Evaluate the potential of extracorporeal shockwave therapy as a noninvasive and more affordable option to treat lower back pain.


Study how the infectious gastrointestinal virus evolves to escape the body’s immune response to improve vaccine efficacy and identify potential therapeutic antibodies.

Pulmonary hypertension

Determine if higher-than-normal blood pressure in the lungs increases risk of blood clots and if affected dogs would benefit from blood thinners.


Evaluate two types of rabies vaccines to determine any effect on the resistance to unrelated infectious and parasitic diseases, and if this effect differs between males and females.


Investigate brain function, brain metabolism and gut microbiome in dogs to distinguish between epileptic seizures and an episodic movement disorder called paroxysmal dyskinesia – commonly mistaken for epileptic seizures – to improve diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Skin disorders

Evaluate the safety and effectiveness of a novel topical probiotic to treat pyoderma, a bacterial skin infection often caused by Staphylococcus bacteria.

Identify genetic mutations associated with perianal fistulas (painful lesions in the skin and deeper tissue around the anal area of dogs) in two high-risk breeds to inform development of screening tests.

Investigate the immune response in dogs with pemphigus foliaceus, a common canine skin disease causing rupturing blisters and sores.

Urinary tract infections

Conduct a clinical trial to gauge the efficacy of short-course amoxicillin therapy as an alternative to longer antibiotic therapy, with the goal to reduce antibiotic resistance.

Understand the genetic and clinical significance of bacterial coinfections to help improve prognosis and treatment.

Isolate novel antimicrobials from natural products, including plants, and test their ability to inhibit bacteria growth responsible for urinary tract infections.


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