1998 Feline Health Grants
March 1, 1998 (published)
Winn Feline Health Foundation

EveryCat Health Foundation
(Formerly Winn Feline Health Foundation)
Eight studies funded for a total of $87,094

1998 ENDOWMENT STUDIES (Funded from investment income derived from our perpetual Endowment Fund)

Enteric zoonotic agents in cats; how common are they?
$12,380; Janet M. Scarlett, DVM, PhD; Charles Victor Spain, DVM; Patrick McDonough, PhD; Susan Wade, PhD; Cornell University.

It is becoming increasingly common for patients with immunocompromised conditions, such as HIV-infected patients, AIDS patients, transplant recipients, and those receiving chemotherapy or other immunosuppressive drugs to seek information about the risks of pet ownership. While it is believed the risk of cat ownership is low, many physicians arbitrarily recommend that animals be eliminated from the household based on minimal data concerning the intestinal bacteria Salmonella, Campylobacter and Cryptosporidium in healthy cats. This practice ignores the abundance of data showing the psychological benefits derived from pet ownership. As a first step towards better defining risks to cat owners this investigator will determine the prevalence of infection due to these organisms in cats less than one year of age among privately owned cats as well as young cats in humane shelters.

Isolation and characterization of Ehrlichia spp. infecting cats.
$6,022; Michael R. Lappin, DVM, PhD; Cynthia J. Stubbs, DVM; Colorado State University.

Ehrlichiosis may be a significant unrecognized clinical disease in cats. An infected cat may exhibit fever, lack of appetite, lack of energy, pain, and decreased red blood cell count. Although a form of Ehrlichia has been found in feline cells, it is not known which species is causing disease in cats. Since one species of Ehrlichia is the cause of human ehrlichiosis, the potential for disease transmission between cats and humans is a valid concern. The goal of this project is to isolate and characterize the disease-causing form of Ehrlichia using newly available techniques.

The pharmacokinetics of metformin in healthy cats.
$4,855; Richard W. Nelson, DVM; Philip R. Vulliet, DVM, PhD; University of California, Davis.

Recently a new oral anti-diabetic drug, metformin, was introduced in the United States for treatment of noninsulin-dependent diabetes (NIDDM) in humans. Metformin offers promise as an effective oral anti-diabetic drug in cats. An appropriate dose needs to be determined before metformin can be tested in diabetic cats. The purpose of this pilot study is to determine the pharmacokinetics properties (action, duration and breakdown) of metformin following single dose oral administration to healthy cats. Results of this study should allow determination of an appropriate dose for cats - information that will then lead to additional studies to determine side effects and effectiveness of the drug to treat NIDDM in cats.


Virus excretion in feline coronavirus infection.
$15,000; Diane D. Addie, PhD; Oswald Jarrett, BVMS, PhD; University of Glasgow, Scotland.

The aim of this continuation project in the United Kingdom is to discover how feline coronavirus (FCoV), the virus which can cause feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), is spread between pet cats. One hundred and six pet cats from 25 households are taking part in the survey. Since nine cats have been lost to the study and because almost 20% of the survey cats are no longer shedding virus, the investigators plan to increase the number of survey cats to 200 - twice the original target. Findings so far have demonstrated that testing for virus in the saliva is not a reliable way to detect cats shedding virus; feces or rectal swabs have to be used. In addition, most cats shed virus for some months and then stop. In this third year of study, the investigators hope to be able to establish guidelines that will help cat owners to protect their pets from FCoV infection and FIP. (Continuation of grant awarded in 1996.)

The genetics of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
$14,987; Mark D. Kittleson, DVM, PhD; Kate M. Meurs, DVM, PhD; Wendy Ware, DVM; University of California, Davis.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a disease of the heart muscle characterized by thickening of the left ventricular walls. The disease may result in heart failure, thromboembolism, and sudden death. The disease in humans is frequently caused by an inherited defect in the gene of a cardiac contractile protein. Clinically, the characteristics of feline HCM are very similar to those in humans with genetic HCM. These findings support the hypotheses that feline HCM is inherited and may be caused by mutations in contractile protein genes. Eight families of domestic cats with HCM have been identified. In a previous Winn-funded study, the investigators examined the largest of the suspect genes for mutations. No abnormalities were identified. In this continuation study, other candidate genes will also be examined. If mutations are found, genetic tests will be formulated to easily and rapidly detect these mutations. (Continuation of grant awarded in 1995.)

Investigation of the role of Helicobacter spp. infection in feline gastritis: Determination of proinflammatory cytokines and inducible nitric oxide synthetase in the stomach of cats with gastric helicobacteriosis.
$13,850; Kenneth W. Simpson, BVMS, MRCVS, PhD; Reinhard Straubinger, DVM, PhD; Yung-Fu Chang, DVM, PhD; Patrick L. McDonough, PhD; Cornell University.

The discovery of the association of spiral bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, in humans with stomach ulcers and stomach cancer has led to fundamental changes in the diagnosis and treatment of this condition. Infection with Helicobacter spp. is also common in cats. In contrast to humans infected with H. pylori, the relationship of Helicobacter spp. to inflammation of the stomach and clinical signs such as vomiting is not known in cats, since these spiral shaped bacteria can been found in the stomachs of both clinically healthy cats and cats with recurrent vomiting. Some, but not all, infected cats have inflammation of the stomach, and many cats are outwardly normal despite infection. The relationship of Helicobacter spp. to gastric cancer has not been investigated in cats. It is now known that H. pylori can cause marked changes in the balance of chemical substances, cytokines, which control inflammation in the stomach. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship of Helicobacter spp. to gastric inflammation in cats by evaluating the balance of cytokines in the stomachs of cats who are uninfected and cats who are infected. It is anticipated that this study will substantially advance the understanding of the role of Helicobacter spp. in gastric inflammation and possibly gastric tumor formation in cats. (Continuation of grant awarded in 1996.)


Antioxidant treatment for Heinz body anemia in cats.
$15,000; Mary Christopher, DVM, PhD; Quinton R. Rogers, PhD; University of California, Davis.

This study will test the effectiveness of four antioxidants against Heinz bodies in cats. Heinz bodies are clumps of damaged hemoglobin inside red blood cells that result from oxidative damage and cause anemia. Cat hemoglobin is uniquely sensitive to oxidative damage, and Heinz bodies are readily caused by oxidant drugs, dietary ingredients (fish, onion) and diseases such as diabetes. Veterinarians face a difficult dilemma when presented with a cat with many Heinz bodies but no history of exposure to oxidant drugs. Because the exact source of oxidative stress often cannot be determined, practitioners may not be sure whether dietary change or treatment of underlying disease will alleviate the Heinz body formation. Left untreated, Heinz bodies may persist or worsen and are likely to increase the severity of anemia in an already ill patient. Little research has been done in cats on the therapeutic efficacy of antioxidants. The results of this study will be invaluable for ascertaining the rational use and selection of antioxidants in the treatment of Heinz body anemia in cats.

Development of genetic databases and standard health evaluations for pedigreed domestic cat breeds.
$5,000; Leslie A. Lyons, PhD; Stephen J. O'Brien, PhD; National Cancer Institute.

The development of pedigreed cat breeds splits the naturally occurring gene pool to create distinctive populations of cats (breeds). Several aspects of breed development, such as a limited number of founding cats and inbreeding, reduce the gene pool. Closed pedigrees eliminate the migration of new genes into the breed by not permitting outcrosses. Reduction of the gene pool decreases genetic diversity levels which leads to an increase in rare, recessive diseases, reduces the variation required to improve the breed and increases the occurrence of some genetic health problems. The database will include the genetic typing of 25-30 feline-specific markers for 25 males and 25 females. The Havana Brown breed will be the focus of this prototype study. It is anticipated that this data, and eventually data from other breeds, will assist breeders and registries in making objective decisions such as when to open or close breeds to outcrossing, when to accept a breed for championship status, and how to determine at what level a reduced gene pool may adversely affect the health of a breed. In addition, this information could support efforts to identify breed specific genetic markers for inherited diseases.