1997 Feline Health Grants
March 1, 1997 (published)
Winn Feline Health Foundation

EveryCat Health Foundation
(Formerly Winn Feline Health Foundation)
Eleven studies funded for a total of $128,340

1997 ENDOWMENT STUDIES (Funded from investment income derived from our perpetual Endowment Fund)

Feline coronavirus excretion
$15,000; Diane D. Addie, BVMS, RCVS, PhD; Oswald Jarrett, BVMS, RCVS, PhD; University of Glasgow, Scotland.

This research project in the United Kingdom is designed to prove how feline coronavirus (FCOV), the virus that causes feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), is spread between pet cats. After only the first year of the planned three-year project, 67 pet cats from 15 households are taking part and exciting preliminary data has been generated. Ultimately, 100 cats will participate. Continuation of this study will provide answers to many important questions and ultimately will enable the formulation of control measures to prevent the infection of cats with FCOV and development of FIP. The researchers have found that some cats excrete virus for long periods and may be the major source of transmissible virus as well as being at high risk of developing FIP. Other cats have been found to stop excreting virus and then start again. This may be because they remain infected but shed virus intermittently or because they become re-infected by other excreting cats in the households. Further investigation of such cats isolated in single cat households with no access to other cats will answer this question. Cats kept in small groups tend to cease excretion of FCOV more rapidly than cats kept in large groups. Further study of a large number of cats as funded here is required to establish whether this trend is statistically significant. (Continuation of a grant awarded in 1996)

The influence of age and passive systemic immunity on the severity and duration of feline enteric coronavirus infection
$10,000; J.E. Foley, DVM, MS, PhD; N.C. Pedersen, DVM, PhD; University of California, Davis.

The researchers hope to confirm the existence of age-related resistance to FECV infection, and to determine whether natural infection can be delayed by the administration of FECV immune serum. Kittens reared in catteries are usually infected with non-pathogenic (avirulent) feline enteric coronavirus (FECV) between five and 16 weeks of age. Prior to this time they are solidly protected by maternal immunity. Although this period is brief in terms of a cat's life, the precise age when FECV infection occurs can have serious repercussions. Kittens infected with FECV at a very young age shed much more virus and for a longer time than older animals. Although FECV infection itself is largely asymptomatic, a greater level and duration of virus replication has been shown to increase the subsequent incidence of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Thus, delaying the time of FECV infection as long as possible should significantly decrease overall FIP mortality in an FECV endemic colony. The objectives of this study are, therefore, 1) to confirm the existence of age resistance to FECV infection and the time when resistance becomes maximal, and 2) to determine whether natural infection can be delayed by passively administered FECV immune serum in order to synchronize the timing of primary disease with maximal immunity. (Continuation of a grant awarded in 1995)


The genetics of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
$14,843; M.D. Kittleson, DVM, PhD, DACVIM; K.M. Meurs, DVM, DACVIM; University of California, Davis.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a primary non-curable disease of the heart muscle characterized by thickening of the left ventricular walls. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in human beings is frequently caused by an inherited defect in the gene of a cardiac contractile protein. Clinically, feline HCM is very similar to HCM in humans. The disease may result in heart failure and sudden death. The best hope for future cats is that the genetic cause of the disease can be found so that potential breeding cats with the disease can be identified and eliminated from breeding programs.

The investigators have identified families of domestic cats with HCM. The characteristics of the disease in these cats are very similar to those in humans with genetic HCM. These findings support the hypothesis that feline HCM is inherited and may be caused by mutations in contractile protein genes. The investigators have already screened 75% of these genes and have not identified any abnormalities. The remaining 25% of the genes will be evaluated. DNA will be extracted from the blood of affected and normal cats. The DNA sequence of the genes from normal cats and from the affected cats will be compared to detect any abnormalities that are specific to the affected cats. Subsequently, genetics tests will be formulated to easily and rapidly detect these mutations. (Continuation of a grant awarded in 1995)

Specific identification of gastric helicobacter spp. and assessment of their pathogenicity in pet cats
$13,049; K.W. Simpson, BVMS, PhD; Y-F Chang; P.L. McDonough; Cornell University.

Infection with several species of Helicobacter is common in cats. These spiral-shaped bacteria have been found in the stomachs of clinically healthy cats with recurrent vomiting. The relationship of helicobacter spp. to inflammation of the stomach and clinical signs such as vomiting is unresolved in cats. Some, but not all, infected cats have inflammation of the stomach, and many cats are outwardly normal despite infection. Determining whether helicobacter spp. cause disease in cats is complicated, as several species of spiral bacteria have been detected. In humans, however, this relationship has already been established and is effecting treatment. As the harmful effects of helicobacter probably depend on which species is present, specific identification of helicobacter in cats is also important as certain species detected in cats, particularly H. pylori, are associated with disease in humans. To date, the precise identification of gastric helicobacter spp. in pet cats with gastritis has been hampered by the lack of a specific and easily performed test. The purpose of the study is to develop a species-specific assay to enable the rapid and specific identification of H. pylori, H. felis, and H. heilmanii in gastric biopsies. This test would then be used to correlate the presence of individual helicobacter spp. to gastritis in cats. (Continuation of a grant awarded in 1996)

Determination of strain variability of Microsporum canis
$6,560; K.A. Moriello, DVM, DACVD; D.J. DeBoer, DVM, DACVD; University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Effective treatment recommendations for feline ringworm require accurate and reliable information on the effectiveness of antifungal therapies. The fungicidal activities of many products, particularly disinfectants, are determined by using the culture plate form of M. canis and not the naturally infective form (i.e., infected hairs and spores). Recent studies have shown, however, that the use of the naturally infective state of M. canis provides a more accurate assessment of a compound's antifungal properties. The results of these studies suggested that there might be some variation in the susceptibility of different M. canis isolates to antifungal compounds. The purpose of this study is to determine if strain variation of M. canis exists. The existence of different strains of M. canis has great potential to affect how feline ringworm is treated. This study is the first step in determining whether or not routine diagnostic tests for culture and sensitivity testing of M. canis isolates will improve treatment recommendations for the disease.


Influence of dietary fatty acid composition on the insulin sensitivity of cats
$11,142; Q.R. Rogers, PhD; R.C. Backus, DVM, PhD; University of California.

Diabetes is the most common of the hormone-related diseases in cats. The goal of the study is to determine whether modification of dietary fat composition has promise for the treatment of feline diabetics. Recently, diets high in fish oil have been shown to affect the sensitivity of laboratory animals to the hormone insulin. In this study, the effect of dietary fish oil on the sensitivity to insulin of six normal cats will be determined. For comparison, insulin sensitivity will also be determined in three groups of six cats fed diets high in either saturated or polyunsaturated fats. In humans, Vitamin E, an anti-oxidant which protects polyunsaturated fats from oxidative damage, is reported to improve insulin action in type II diabetic patients. Therefore, five cats given a high vitamin E diet will be compared with those cats given a normal vitamin E diet to determine whether some forms of dietary fat have promise for treatment of feline diabetes.

Cuproenzyme activities in the queen as an index of copper adequacy for normal fetal development
$13,332; J.G. Morris, PhD; A.J. Fascetti VMD; University of California.

Copper is an essential trace element for all animals and is especially important for fetal development. While testing commercial diets, the investigators found that queens fed three of these diets produced offspring with clinical signs compatible with copper deficiency, including neonatal death, underweight kittens, and collagen abnormalities. These diets contained cupric oxide, a source of copper that cats can't utilize.

Queens consuming diets containing twice the current recommendation of cupric oxide had the lowest rate of conception, while queens consuming a diet with double the recommendation of copper sulfate had the highest rate of conception. Increasing copper sulfate in the diet significantly decreased the time it took for queens to conceive. Queens consuming the copper oxide diet took four times as long to conceive as those on the highest concentration of copper sulfate. This study also demonstrated that plasma (blood) copper concentration is a poor indicator of copper status in the cat. The objective of this study is to find non-invasive methods to determine the copper status of queens to ensure the birth of normal kittens.

The effects of early flea exposure on the development of flea bite hypersensitivity in cats
$15,000; Gail A. Kunkle, DVM, DACVD; University of Florida.

Flea allergy dermatitis reactions are common in cats. The researcher believes it is likely that the immune system of a kitten learns to recognize the flea as non-foreign through a mechanism known as tolerance. Immunologic tolerance is a basic property of the immune system that allows an individual to come in contact with substances without developing adverse reactions to them. For over 100 years, it has been known that early ingestion of different foods can serve as a method of oral tolerance to prevent later unwanted immune reactions such as food allergy. This pilot study will evaluate the role of early exposure to fleas in the development of flea allergy and the findings will contribute important information concerning what happens to cats when they develop allergic reactions to fleas. Information gained in this study may lead to development of a vaccination or other strategy to prevent or minimize allergic reactions to fleas in cats.

Modulation of platelet aggregation by dietary fatty acids
$13,632; M.A. Hickman, DVM, PhD, DACVN; D.C. Lewis, BVSC, PhD., ACVIM; L.A. Foster, DVM, PhD; J.B. German, PhD; R.L. Walzem, PhD; Kansas State University.

Heart disease is one of the most common problems seen in cats. In addition to the symptoms related to poor heart function, many cats with heart disease develop significant complications related to abnormal blood clotting. Unfortunately, few therapies are available that prevent the occurrence of blood clots and they remain a significant cause of death in cats with heart disease. The objective of this study is to develop an alternative therapy that will lead to effective inhibition of blood clot formation by the administration of essential fatty acids. Cats will be fed diets low in the fatty arachidonate, supplemented with other fatty acids. The effects of these fatty acids will be determined by evaluating platelet and lipoprotein fatty acid composition, platelet function and blood clotting inhibition.

Histopathological characterization of the cutaneous lesions associated with feline hyperthyroidism
$3,040; A. Hiller, BVSC, MACVSc, DACVD; M.B. Calderwood-Mays, DVM, DACVS; K.W. Kwochka, DVM, DACVD; D.J. Chew, DVM, DACVIM; The Ohio State University.

Feline hyperthyroidism is a common disease of middle-aged to older cats. Higher than normal levels of thyroid hormone production by the thyroid glands cause skin disease in approximately 30% of affected cats. The most commonly seen skin changes include excessive shedding, matted hair coats, excessive grooming, hair loss, abnormal nail growth, greasy coat or dry scaling and thin skin. These changes can be confused with many other skin diseases. Microscopic examination of skin samples obtained by biopsy is often performed in cases of unresolved skin disease. To date, there have been no studies or reports describing the microscopic changes associated with the skin lesions of feline hyperthyroidism. This study will document the microscopic changes detected in the skin of hyperthyroid cats with skin lesions. The information gained will be used to familiarize veterinarians and pathologists with the microscopic changes seen with hyperthyroidism.

Evaluation of renal function with long-term follow-up in hyperthyroid cats before and after treatment with radioactive iodine
$12,742; K.S. Rogers, DVM, MS; M.Slater, DVM, PhD; D. Steinheimer, DVM; W. Burkholder, DVM, PhD; Texas A&M University.

Older cats are at increased risk for both kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is usually treated by one of three methods: surgical removal of the hyperactive thyroid gland, oral anti-thyroid medication, or radioactive iodine. Radioactive iodine is an effective therapy with a high success rate, few side effects, and no requirement for anesthesia or surgery. Some hyperthyroid cats appear to be at increased risk of developing kidney failure after being treated with radioactive iodine. No investigator has evaluated specific kidney function tests or other kidney values within one to two weeks after radioactive iodine injection or for periods longer than 60 days. Therefore, these investigators will conduct a controlled study of cats receiving uniform care and treatment to determine if information can be generated that will help predict which cats are at greatest risk of developing kidney disease after radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism.