2002 Feline Health Grants
March 1, 2002 (published)
Winn Feline Health Foundation

EveryCat Health Foundation
(Formerly Winn Feline Health Foundation)
Ten studies funded for a total of $128,874

2002 ENDOWMENT STUDIES (Funded from investment income derived from our perpetual Endowment Fund)

Prevalence of Infectious Diseases in Feral Free-Roaming Cats in Northern Florida.
$15,000. Julie Levy, Brian Luria, University of Florida; Michael Lappin, Colorado State University

Feral cats have been a topic of much debate over the years, with particular regard to their health risks to the domestic cat and human population. Feral cats are currently embroiled in controversy over the most appropriate method for their control. Issues of concern include the welfare of the cats themselves, public nuisances they may cause, their impact on the environment, and their impact on public health of both cats and humans. Despite these concerns, little is known about the actual prevalence of feline and zoonotic diseases in feral cats in the United States. This study will investigate the presence and frequency of heartworm disease, Ehrlichia, Haemobartonella (Mycoplasma), feline leukemia, feline infectious peritonitis, Toxoplasma, Bartonella, and Cryptosporidium in feral cats in northern Florida. This information will help define the true risk feral cats pose to the public and provide information important for public health decisions.

Immunopathogenesis of Systemic FIP and Prospects of Intervention.
$15,000. 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 with respect to the types of lesions they develop, the way their disease manifests, and their ability to cope with the infection. Previously, this researcher studied cats with FIP in the brain to determine what immune changes occur in this form of FIP, because neurological FIP is less variable than dry or wet FIP affecting the entire cat system. Based on that work, this researcher is proposing additional research to understand systemic FIP and how it differs from neurological FIP. She is also proposing to attempt therapy in cats with natural FIP, using immune drugs identified in previous research. She will track the immune status of cats while they are being treated. This information will provide the most complete immunological picture of FIP to date and the level of response in naturally infected cats that could be expected using highly targeted therapies.


Transmission of Mycoplasma haemofelis and Mycoplasma haemominutum by Ctenocephalidies felis and Treatment with Imidocarb Diproprionate.
$13,282. Michael Lappin, Colorado State University

Haemobartonella infection is the most common cause of anemia in cats resulting in a syndrome called haemobartonellosis. Based on genetic studies, it is now known that there are actually 2 distinct species that have been reclassified into a new group of bacteria. Mycoplasma haemofelis and M. haemominutum are the proposed names; M. haemofelis is the most likely to make cats extremely ill. It is suspected, but not proven that fleas transmit the organisms between cats. There is currently no universally effective treatment for the disease. Currently used drugs have documented side effects and are difficult to administer for owners since they are given orally for many days. Imidocarb dipropionate is a drug that has been shown to be effective for the treatment of haemobartonellosis in naturally infected cats. The drug was shown to be 100% safe in 10 experimentally treated cats. If effective, this drug would be a much more convenient for owners since it is given only twice by injection. The objectives of this study are to determine whether fleas transmit M. haemofelis and M. haemominutum and whether imidocarb injections eliminate infection.

Mitoxantrone and Piroxicam Versus Piroxicam Therapy Alone for the Treatment of Feline Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
$14,250. Chad Johannes, Kansas State University; Carolyn Henry, Jeff Tyler, University of Missouri-Columbia

Accounting for up to 10% of all feline cancers, oral cancer is an important and deadly disease for cats. As in humans, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common type of oral cancer in cats, comprising 60-70% of reported cases. Most commonly involving the bone of the upper or lower jaw and the tongue, feline SCC typically progresses very rapidly. Treatment of feline oral SCC with surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy has yielded poor results, with typically less than 10% of affected cats living longer than one year. Recent findings in dogs and people indicate that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), a class of drugs that includes aspirin, may be effective in the treatment of certain types of cancer, including SCC. These drugs may help kill cancer cells, decrease the growth of new blood vessels into tumors, or enhance the body's immune response to cancer cells. Piroxicam is one drug in this class of NSAIDs that has been shown to hold particular promise in the treatment of cancer. Mitoxantrone is an injectable chemotherapy agent that has also been found to be beneficial in the adjuvant treatment of SCC. Recently, a study in dogs with bladder carcinoma indicated that combination of piroxicam with mitoxantrone may provide responses superior to piroxicam alone. In fact, the combination nearly doubled the survival time compared to dogs treated with piroxicam alone. This study is designed to evaluate the clinical efficacy of piroxicam alone, compared to piroxicam and mitoxantrone, for treatment of oral SCC in cats. It is hoped that one-year survival times will increase from 10% to 50% of treated cats.

Cyclooxygenase Expression and Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke in Feline Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
$5,070. Kenneth Rassnick, Sheree Beam, Hollis Erb, Cornell University; Antony Moore, Tufts University

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common oral cancer in cats. The prognosis for cats with oral SCC is dismal. Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are ineffective at treating this disease. The average life expectancy for cats with oral SCC is only 2 months. Cyclooxygenases (COX) are a family of enzymes that degrade components of cell membranes. There are two forms of COX. COX-1 is found throughout the body and is responsible for normal functions. COX-2 is found in certain situations, such as inflammation. There has been accumulating evidence that COX-2 is important in many cancers and might be a potential new target for treatments. The purpose of this study is to determine if COX-2 is found in high levels in feline oral SCC. Also, cats might ingest tobacco-related pollutants deposited on their fur through their grooming behavior. Based on the results of this study, it will be important to establish whether drugs that target COX-2 are useful to prevent or treat feline oral SCC.

Specific Tissue Expression of Glucokinase, a Major Enzyme in Glucose Metabolism, Has an Important Role in Glucose Homeostasis of Normal Cats.
$6,354. Thomas Schermerhorn, Kansas State University

Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common endocrine diseases of cats but relatively little is known about the factors responsible for the development of the disease. Glucose (blood “sugar”) is abnormally elevated in diabetic cats and it is well known that even normal cats can develop elevated blood glucose (“stress hyperglycemia”) under some circumstances, such as a stressful event. The propensity of cats to develop stress hyperglycemia along with other peculiarities in the regulation of blood glucose suggests the possibility that cats may possess unique mechanisms for glucose control. Glucokinase (GK), which is found in the liver and pancreas, is an important enzyme in glucose metabolism in some species. Absent or abnormal GK produces diabetes that can range from mild to severe. GK activity is reported to be largely absent in normal cats. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that normal cats possess the gene to allow them to produce GK enzyme and to determine whether GK is found in the liver, pancreas, or both tissues. The results of this study will shed light on the normal glucose metabolism of cats and provide the foundation for additional studies into the role of GK in the development of feline diabetes.

Towards an Understanding of Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Quantitative Evaluation of Inflammatory and Immune Responses in Cats with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
$15,000. Kenneth Simpson, Richard Goldstein, Sean McDonough, Cornell University

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the term applied to a group of poorly understood intestinal conditions characterized by inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestines. It is one of the most common findings in cats presented for the investigation of vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and anorexia. Not surprisingly, treatment of IBD is non-specific. Recent advances in the understanding of the immune and inflammatory processes in people and animals have enabled the underlying intestinal inflammation to be defined more clearly. This has directly resulted in the development of drugs aimed at inflammation, some of which are now in clinical trials. The objective of the present study is to further understand the inflammatory and immune responses of the gastrointestinal tracts of cats with naturally occurring IBD. It is anticipated that the proposed study would substantially advance our understanding of IBD, facilitate distinction of IBD from cancer, and help to define specific targets for therapy in the future.

Screening for Antibodies to the 7b Protein of Feline Coronavirus in Cats for Diagnosis of Feline Infectious Peritonitis.
$15,000. Melissa Kennedy, Stephen Kania, University of Tennessee

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a fatal disease of domestic and exotic cats. Current feline coronavirus antibody titer tests are useless for diagnosing FIP in the live cat. A sensitive and specific test for diagnosis and screening is needed. We are currently investigating the usefulness of an antibody assay that uses a purified viral protein. This protein may be expressed by the virus only in infections that lead to the production of disease. Therefore, use of this protein in a diagnostic assay could distinguish the disease-causing virus from the nonvirulent virus. We propose to produce this protein for development of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect antibodies specific for this viral protein. We will then screen cats with FIP and healthy cats seropositive for FCoV to determine if antibody to this protein occurs only in cats with FIP.

Investigation of the Mechanism of Glucocorticoid-Associated Congestive Heart Failure in Cats.
$15,000. Anthony Tobias, Stephanie Smith, Sherri Ross, Shelia Torres, Karyn Beningo, University of Minnesota

Corticosteroids, particularly methylprednisolone acetate (MPA, Depo-medrolâ), are commonly used to treat a variety of inflammatory conditions in cats. At the University of Minnesota we have observed an association in cats between development of heart failure and a history of recently receiving corticosteroids. This rare side effect was observed most commonly in cats that had received MPA. Heart failure may occur when the blood stream is water overloaded. MPA is generally thought to not cause significant water retention in cats, but we suspect that the development of heart failure in these cats is due to a previously undocumented water retention problem that occurs as a side effect of MPA. To better characterize the impact of this drug on body water status, we plan to evaluate body water levels in cats before and after they receive MPA as treatment for inflammatory conditions primarily of the skin. We will also determine if there are any effects on heart function. We hope to use this information to better predict which cat may develop heart failure as a side effect of corticosteroids, and to better treat those that do.

Association of Helicobacter Species with Feline Cholangitis/Cholangiohepatitis Complex.
$14,918. Rance Sellon, Katrina Mealey, Washington State University

Inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) is a common disease in cats, but in most cases, the underlying cause of the inflammation is not discovered. Understanding the causes of feline hepatitis would be useful to improve treatment and prevention strategies. Inflammatory liver disease of cats shares some features with liver inflammation in other species caused by infection with a type of bacteria known as Helicobacter. Helicobacter is common in the stomach and intestine, and the researchers are going to try to determine whether cats with inflammatory liver disease have evidence of liver infection with Helicobacter. Since this organism is difficult to grow, and can be difficult to see on examination of liver biopsies, they are going to use the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to identify Helicobacter in biopsy specimens from cats with hepatitis and with another liver disease called hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver). They expect to find evidence of Helicobacter in liver samples from cats with liver disease, but not in liver samples from cats with hepatic lipidosis.