2000 Feline Health Grants
March 1, 2000 (published)
Winn Feline Health Foundation

EveryCat Health Foundation
(Formerly Winn Feline Health Foundation)
Ten studies funded for a total of $108,214

2000 ENDOWMENT STUDY (Funded from investment income derived from our perpetual Endowment Fund)

Evaluation of SpayVac™ for Sterilizing Domestic Cats (Felis catus).
$14,484; Julie Levy, DVM, PhD, S Gorman, BS, B Pohajdak,PhD; University of Florida.

The free-ranging stray cat population has proven difficult to control in this country leading to mandatory neutering and cat licensing laws in some communities. In other places, various lethal methods, including hunting, trapping, and poisoning have been utilized in an attempt to lower this feral cat population. Due to limited long-term success and public opposition, these methods are not widely accepted. Trap, Test, Vaccinate, Alter, and Release (TTVAR) programs are becoming an increasingly popular alternative. Unfortunately, the cost and logistics of these non-lethal surgical sterilization programs have limited their success in lowering the total un-owned cat population. Recently, humane attempts to control “Pest species,” such as rabbits, have turned to a vaccine to provide immunocontraception. SpayVac™ is a single dose vaccine that prevents pregnancy by interfering with fertilization. It has already been shown to reduce fertility in rabbits, barbary sheep, and several species of seals with greater than 90% effectiveness. A similar vaccine was used successfully in mountain lions. This study will measure the effectiveness of SpayVac™ in reducing fertility in domestic cats. If successful, SpayVac™ would be an important tool in the effort to reduce the stray cat overpopulation humanely.


Genetic Characterization of a Feline Calicivirus Isolated from Urine from a Cat with Idiopathic Lower Urinary Tract Disease.
$5,428; John M. Kruger, DVM, PhD, A Vilnis, PhD, R K Maes, DVM, PhD, C Rice, DVM; Michigan State University.

Idiopathic cystitis (IC) is the single most important cause of frequent and painful urination, bloody urine, and inappropriate urination in male and female cats. It affects the urinary bladder and urethra (the lower urinary tract) of cats and is sometimes referred to as FLUTD/FUS. The researchers estimate that this disorder affects nearly a half a million cats annually. Despite extensive study, the specific underlying cause(s) of idiopathic cystitis remain(s) unknown. Microscopic evidence suggests that a virus, known as feline calicivirus, may have a causative role in this disease. In 1998, the researchers isolated a calicivirus from urine obtained from a cat with IC. Genetic analyses, funded by the Winn Foundation, indicated that this isolate was distinct from other calicivirus. They have now isolated a second urine calicivirus from an affected cat. It is unknown whether these urine calicivirus cause IC or merely represents coincidental shedding of a respiratory or vaccine strain of calicivirus. Through further genetic analysis, the researchers will learn whether the second urine calicivirus isolate is related to the first urine isolate or to other feline calicivirus. If these urine caliciviruses are unique, and if subsequent investigations can establish a cause-and-effect relationship with idiopathic cystitis, then specific diagnostic tests, antiviral drugs, and/or more effective calicivirus vaccines could be developed to treat idiopathic cystitis or FLUTD.


Bioactivity of Recombinant Feline Erythropoietin.
$15,000; James N. MacLeod, VMD, PhD, JF Randolph, DVM; Cornell University.

Non-regenerative anemia, which is characterized by an inadequate production of new red blood cells, is a frequent and serious complication of kidney failure, certain forms of cancer or cancer therapy, and other chronic diseases. These investigators have developed a new synthesized form of feline erythropoietin, a red blood cell stimulating hormone. The human form of this hormone has been available for more than a decade, but is not safe to use in the cat. This study will assess the bioactivity of this new therapy in the laboratory and in cats with non-regenerative anemia.

Mechanisms of Relaxation of Feline Airway Smooth Muscle: Implications for the Treatment of Asthma.
$8,030; Robert J. Washabau, VMD, PhD; University of Pennsylvania.

Asthma may occur in cats of any age with the most commonly 2 to 8 years. Any breed of cat maybe affected with asthma. Affected cats are typically presented with complaints of coughing, wheezing, and respiratory distress. Signs usually result from airway inflammation and/or lower airway obstruction. Some cats are mildly affected and live otherwise healthy lives. Many cats, however, develop chronic bronchitis and experience life-threatening airway obstruction. Traditional medical therapies for this disorder have included anti-inflammatory agents (e.g. corticosteroids) and Beta agonist-like bronchodilators (e.g. theophylline and terbutaline). Cats with chronic asthma may require continuous medication, and complete elimination of signs may not be possible. Further, both groups of drugs may produce significant side effects or be of little clinical benefit in some animals. Recent studies in other animals suggests that potassium channels are important in regulating airway smooth muscle tone and that drugs that facilitate opening of the potassium channels cause relaxation of airway smooth muscle. This study will determine the role of these channels in the cat. The researcher then hopes to identify new, and potentially better, medical therapies for the treatment of bronchial asthma in cats.

Evaluation of Ifosfamide in Cats with Spontaneously Occurring Soft Tissue Sarcomas.
$12,825; Kenneth M. Rassnick, DVM, AS Moore, MVSc, SM Cotter, DVM; Tufts University.

Sarcomas are malignant cancers of connective tissues. They can be movable lumps under the skin or growths that deeply attach to underlying structures. The incidence of these tumors has risen significantly since 1991, and vaccines (especially rabies and feline leukemia) appear to be associated with this increase. Complete removal of these tumors is nearly impossible since they are poorly defined and spread easily. Even in combination with radiation, the cure rate is low. Chemotherapy may be the one remaining option. Ifosfamide is one of the few chemotherapy agents that have proven effective in humans and dogs. These investigators will determine the appropriate clinical dose of ifosfamide in cats, define the toxic effects, and document the evidence of anti-tumor activity when used to treat cats with spontaneously occurring sarcomas. If successful, this could make a major difference in the treatment of cats with vaccination site sarcomas while increasing their survival rates.

Pharmacokinetics of Enrofloxacin in Kittens: Optimizing Antibiotic Therapy for Pediatric Patients.
$15,000; Julie Levy, DVM, PhD, MA Seguin, DVM, MS, M Papich, DVM,MS,ACVCP; University of Florida.

Bacterial septicemia is a leading cause of mortality in kittens from 10 days to 4 weeks of age. The seriousness of the infection often calls for a broad-spectrum antibiotic to be started prior to availability of culture and sensitivity test results. Treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics in the kitten represents a particular challenge because of the increased risk of drug toxicity. No studies have been done to guide clinicians in the treatment of kittens with this drug. Enrofloxacin (Baytril™), approved for use in adult cats, is largely metabolized in the liver and excreted by the kidneys. Its use is not common in kittens because appropriate dosing information is not available. These investigators will study the use of this antibiotic in kittens less than 8 weeks of age and will determine the appropriate dosing level and schedule for use in these kittens. This will provide veterinarians with another drug in their arsenal to safely treat bacterial infections in young kittens.

The Evaluation of the Passage of Tablets Through the Esophagus in Cats.
$5,800; David C. Twedt, DVM, PF Steyn, DVM; Colorado State University.

This study will document how cats swallow pills and if pills take without water maybe damaging a cat's esophagus. There are many case reports in the human literature of tablet-associated esophageal complications. When a tablet is caught in the esophagus, local tissue damage can occur, especially with tablets having a caustic nature, such as the antibiotic doxycycline. The most common complication is the formation of an esophageal stricture (narrowing), when the esophagus heals. This narrowing can lead to eating disorders and regurgitation of food. Similar findings have been demonstrated in cats, particularly after the administration of doxycycline. A study in people has demonstrated that a pill swallowed without water often lodges in the esophagus. When a volume of water is given following the tablet, the percentage of passage increased greatly. In a preliminary study of 3 normal cats given barium tablets, all of the subjects abnormally retained the tablets in the esophagus for greater than 5 minutes following swallowing. Following tablet administration with water alleviated the tablet retention in the esophagus. Using fluoroscopy, this study will evaluate the ability of cats to successfully swallow tablets and compare dry passage with that of pills that are followed by water. If the researchers can document that tablets given without water do not successfully pass in feline patients, they will make recommendations to veterinarians and clients to administer water following all pilling. They believe this will lead to a decrease in the occurrence of tablet-induced esophagitis and esophageal strictures in cats.

Early Biochemical Detection of Heart Disease in Cats.
$14,450; Philip Solter, DVM, PhD, D Sisson, DVM, DACVIM-Cardiology, A Biondo, DVM, MS; University of Illinois.

Heart disease is an important cause of illness in cats but can be difficult to diagnose, especially in its early stages. As with humans, early detection could make treatment more successful. Diagnosis frequently requires specialized equipment that is expensive and is frequently available only at specialists. In humans, neurohormones that are normally produced by the heart and blood vessels are released into the blood in increased amounts during heart failure. Sensitive screening tests that measure concentrations of these neurohormones have been developed for people to indicate the early stages of heart disease. These investigators will determine if the same neurohormones are useful for diagnosis and treatment of heart disease in the cat.

Serologic Investigation of Cuterebra Larval Migration as a Cause of Neuralgic Disease in Cats.
$12,197; Andrew Mackin, BSc, BVMS, C Siefker, MS, PhD. L Ballweber, BS, MS, DVM; Mississippi State University.

Outdoor North American cats commonly suffer from a parasitic condition in which larvae from the Cuterebra species of bot fly migrate into the brain. This has been suspected as a cause of feline vestibular syndrome (head tilt) and other neurologic conditions. These investigators will look at the migration of this parasite and whether it is a cause of acute neurologic disease in the cat. They will also develop a blood test to determine exposure of cats to this parasite.

Feline Upper Respiratory Disease and Shelter Dynamics: An Epidemiologic Investigation.
$5,000; Julie D. Dinnage, DVM, JM Scarlett, DVM, PhD, JR Richards, DVM; MSPCA/AHES.

Feline upper respiratory tract diseases (cat “colds”) are a devastating illness in animal shelters and other multiple cat environments. The viruses that cause upper respiratory infections (URI), like those that cause human colds, are always present in cat populations. When large numbers of cats and kittens are housed together disease spreads easily. Although URIs are treatable, affected cats in shelters are less adoptable and serve as a source or re-infection for other cats. Therefore, they are often euthanized to make room for healthy cats. Shelters attempt to minimize the incidence of URI through management practices, vaccination programs, stress reduction, hygiene and good nutrition for example. Few studies have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of these approaches. In order to evaluate the various approaches to minimizing the incidence of URI, we first need to establish baseline data describing upper respiratory disease in shelters, which is the central objective of this study. By determining the actual incidence of URI and identifying factors that are associated with risk of URI, we can develop strategies to minimize its occurrence and study the impact of these strategies. This information will then allow us to help shelters, catteries and other multi-cat households to take successful steps toward creating a healthier shelter environment for cats.