2001 Feline Health Grants
March 1, 2001 (published)
Winn Feline Health Foundation

EveryCat Health Foundation
(Formerly Winn Feline Health Foundation)
Twelve studies funded for a total of $144,080

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

Bioactivity of Recombinant Feline Erythropotein.
$15,000. James MacLeod, John Randolph; Cornell University - Continuation

Nonregenerative anemia, 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. Human erythropoietin, a red cell stimulating hormone, has been used in cats, but is not safe. These researchers have synthesized a form of feline erythropoietin and have shown that it induces red cell production in tissue culture and in mice. This study will assess the activity of feline erythropoietin in cats suffering from anemia due to chronic kidney disease.

Pulmonary Distribution of Nebulizer Radiopharmaceutical in Awake Cats.
$4800. Rhonda Schulman, Sonia Crochik, Stephen Kneller; University of Illinois.

Feline asthma is a common cause of respiratory disease and the incidence of it is on the rise. Feline asthma can lead to severe, potentially fatal respiratory distress. The problems with current modes of treatment include many potential side effects, difficulty in giving pills which results in poor compliance, and the fact that acute episodes need to be treated with intravenous injections. The objective of this study is to analyze the feasibility of using a facemask to deliver aerosolized medications. This method will deliver the medication directly to the site of inflammation. Inhaled medications usually require less medication with fewer side effects. Researchers will administer a compound to the cats that can be tracked in the lungs using a specific purpose camera. If cats tolerate this procedure, this will expand treatment possibilities for asthmatic cats.

Evaluation of Ifsofamide in Cats with Spontaneously Occurring Soft Tissue Sarcomas.
$13,695. Kenneth Rassnick, Cornell University; Antony Moore, Tufts University -- Continuation

Sarcomas are malignant cancers of connective tissues. They may be movable lumps under the skin or growths that deeply attach to underlying structures. The incidence of sarcomas has risen significantly since 1991, and vaccines (especially those for 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 one of the remaining options for cats with this cancer. Ifosfamide is a chemotherapy drug that has proven effective against sarcomas in humans. Preliminary studies by our group have shown treatment with ifosfamide caused one patient with a large, inoperable tumor above the eye to have a dramatic reduction in the size of the tumor. The researchers will continue to evaluate ifosfamide in cats to determine the best dose and the response to the drug. If successful, this chemotherapy drug could make a major advance in the fight against vaccine-site sarcomas in cats.

Comparative Pharmacokinetics of Behavior-Modifying Drugs and Amitriptyline and Buspirone after Oral and Transdermal Administration in Cats.
$15,000. Katrina Mealey, Rance Sellon, Washington State University; Kenneth Peck, Texas A&M University

Because difficulties are often encountered with chronic oral drug administration in cats, topical formulations of many drugs are being offered to cat owners. While this route of administration is convenient for owners, there are currently only a handful of drugs that have been specifically formulated and tested for topical administration. Determining which drugs can successfully be administered topically requires pharmacokinetic studies (measurement of the time course of drug concentration in the blood). This pharmacokinetic study will determine if three drugs used for treating behavioral diseases in cats can be administered topically safely and effectively.

See two studies listed above.


Prevalence of Positive Aeroallergen Reactions in Cats with Idiopathic Feline Asthma.
$4,325. Karen Moriello, Rebecca Stepien; University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Feline asthma is a respiratory disease syndrome of cats characterized by recurrent episodes of coughing, wheezing, and difficulty in breathing. The onset of clinical signs may be sudden and life threatening. In most cats, a correctable cause is never found and the cat may require life-long corticosteroid therapy to control the symptoms. There is increasing evidence to support the suspicion that the underlying cause of feline asthma is an allergy to an inhaled allergen. In the past, allergy testing has not been helpful in uncovering the cause of the allergy, but the reason may be that the incorrect allergens were used. Allergy testing has previously focused on outdoor or seasonal allergens, and not on indoor allergens. In fact, when a small group of cats with feline asthma were intradermally skin tested using indoor allergens, positive reactions to mites, house dust, and cockroach were found. More importantly, these cats responded to immunotherapy ("allergy shots"). The purpose of this study is to determine the prevalence of positive aeroallergen reactions in cats with feline asthma. In addition to commonly used allergens, a battery of indoor allergens including house dust, several species of house dust and storage mites, and cockroach will be used. Information from this study will be used for studies on the pathophysiology of the feline asthma and treatment trials.

Immunopathogenesis and Medical Intervention in Neurological Feline Infectitious Peritonitis.
$14,500. Janet Foley, University of California-Davis.

Feline infectious peritonitis is a common fatal disease in cats from pedigreed catteries and shelters. The disease is almost impossible to manage or treat, partly because it is difficult to diagnose and there is little information about immunity to the infection. Also, cats vary amongst themselves with respect to the types of lesions they develop, the way their disease manifests, and their ability to cope with the infection. In neurological FIP, the pathology and immunology are much more homogeneous than forms of FIP affecting the entire cat, i.e. "wet" or "dry" FIP. Thus, neurological FIP appears to be a good system for establishing some baseline understanding of the way the virus and the immune system interact in this disease. The proposed research compares a panel of immunological chemical messages in the brain tissue of FIP-affected cats with brains of cats without neurological FIP, and characterizes major changes in their immune status. Subsequently, a pilot study is proposed, which intervenes in cats with neurological FIP by either replacing a deficient immune chemical or using antibodies against abnormally elevated immune chemicals. Based on this information, we hope to understand major problems with the immune system in FIP and have preliminary data on how to correct these abnormalities.

New Therapy for Feline Colonic Motility Diseases.
$10,800. Robert Washabau, University of Pennsylvania

Constipation and megacolon are important problems in the domestic cat, and many cats will require invasive surgery (i.e., colectomy) if medical treatments fail. Experiments performed in our laboratory in 1995 showed that cisapride was a potentially effective colonic prokinetic agent in healthy cats and in cats affected with constipation and idiopathic megacolon. Cisapride was used successfully by feline practitioners for about five years before it was discontinued by the manufacturer in July 2000. Consequently, there is a need for new drugs to treat this disease. This study will test two new drugs that have efficacy in humans as potential treatments for cats with megacolon.

The Efficacy of Novel Corticosteroid (Budesonide) for Treatment of Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease and its Effects on the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis.
$15,000. Beth Lynn Whitney, John Broussard, Bobst Hospital at the Animal Medical Center; Jorg Steiner, David Williams, Texas A&M University

Inflammatory bowel disease is a common and severe intestinal condition in cats causing chronic, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. Most cats require long-term corticosteroids drug therapy that usually carries the risk of system (whole body) effects. In many cats severe side effects result, or they fail to respond at tolerable doses. In others, serious side effects of steroids can include alterations in blood sugar, urinary tract infections, and loss of muscle mass. Cats that do not respond to steroids, or have severe side effects when treated with these drugs, are often placed on toxic chemotherapy agents.

Budesonide is a new type of steroid that has shown great promise when used to treat inflammatory bowel disease in humans. This drug has minimal systemic effects on the body because the liver rapidly clears it from the blood stream. When budesonide is administered by mouth, it can provide potent, positive effects on the intestines prior to being cleared from the body by the liver. Thus, budesonide may provide a valuable alternative to regular steroids, or chemotherapy type drugs in the management of feline inflammatory bowel disease.

Bioavailability and Efficacy of Transdermal Methimazole in Cats.
$12,560. Lauren Trepanier, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hyperthyroidism is a common disorder in older cats which leads to weight loss, rapid heart rate, anxiety, and increased appetite. Methimazole is administered as an oral tablet, and is effective in lowering thyroid hormone levels and resolving the clinical signs of hyperthyroidism in most cats. However, 10 to 20% of cats experience vomiting and loss of appetite during treatment, and some cats cannot be treated with oral methimazole because of poor appetite, a fractious nature, or concurrent problems with intestinal absorption. Recently, custom veterinary pharmacies have offered methimazole in a gel formulation for topical application in cats. When applied as a small amount of gel to the inner ear, this route of administration is much more convenient for owners and appears to successfully control hyperthyroidism in a small number of cats that have been treated. The purpose of this study is to determine the degree of absorption of topical methimazole in cats, and to determine whether topical methimazole is as effective as oral methimazole for the control of naturally occurring hyperthyroidism in cats.

Leptin as a Marker for Development of Hepatitic Lipidosis in Cats.
$8,400. Kerry Heuter, John Broussard, Bobst Hospital of the Animal Medical Center; Jorg Steiner, David Williams, Texas A&M University

Hepatic lipidosis is the most common liver disease of cats in North America. Unfortunately, clinical examination cannot readily distinguish between cats with hepatic lipidosis and cats with other liver diseases. Since treatments for these diseases can vary markedly, the importance of an accurate diagnosis cannot be overemphasized. Currently, a definitive diagnosis of hepatic lipidosis requires a liver biopsy. However, a biopsy is an invasive procedure that can result in life threatening blood loss. Clearly, a noninvasive test would be preferable and substantially reduce diagnostic risk. Leptin is a hormone primarily produced by fat cells. The rate of leptin secretion and its plasma concentration are correlated with the amount of fatty tissue. In people, leptin concentrations have been shown to be elevated in patients with hepatic lipidosis. We propose that leptin concentrations may be significantly increased in cats with hepatic lipidosis and that they may serve as a useful diagnostic marker. We will compare leptin concentrations in cats that are clinically normal, cats with hepatic lipidosis, and cats with liver disease from other causes.


Identification of Genetic Markers for an Inherited Craniofacial Deformity Syndrome in Burmese Cats.
$15,000. Leslie Lyons, University of California-Davis.

Burmese cats can produce kittens with a cranifacial defect that is not compatible with life. This has already been proven to be an autosomal recessive gene, and “hidden” carriers can exist. This study hopes to find a genetic test to identify this lethal gene and enable breeders to reduce or eliminate the gene from breeding populations.

Candidate Gene Screening and Genetic Mapping of Loci for Feline Autosomal Dominant PKD.
$15,000. Leslie Lyons, University of California-Davis; David Biller, Kansas State University

Some Persian cats have been shown to have cysts in the kidneys (polycystic kidney disease) that are inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion. Only one copy of the mutation is required to cause the disease. The cysts occur very early and they can generally be detected by six to eight months of age using ultrasound. Cats can be considered free of the disease if cysts have not formed by 12 to 18 months. These researchers propose to test if the two known genes that cause polycystic kidney disease in humans are the cause of feline PKD. They will also develop a pedigree study that will prove or disprove an association of feline PKD with the known genes and determine if other genes could be involved. Eventually, a genetic test could be developed that would enable breeders to gradually eliminate the gene from breeding populations.