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2006-03-08 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets...

by Joanne Anderson

A-Rod, Shepherd mix A-Rod, Shepherd mix "For years animals have been used for medical research into human ills, and now it's time that something be done for the animals themselves."... Mark L. Morris Sr., DVM (1900-1993), founder of the Morris Animal Foundation.

All creatures, great and small, benefit from the cutting edge veterinary studies, supported by the Morris Animal Foundation (MAF). For over 55 years this charitable organization, established by a remarkable veterinarian, has funded over 1,200 humane health studies (with monies exceeding $40 million) that continue to ensure a healthier tomorrow for companion animals and wildlife. In the past, these grants have ranged from the development of the vaccines for our petssuch as feline leukemia and canine parvovirusto Dian Fossey's request for a Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in Africa. In 2005 alone, the MAF donated more than $4.2 million toward 105 veterinary research projects. Some proposals examine methods that have already aided people, while others may someday alter the path of animal, as well as, human well-being.

Morris was a small town doctor with the vision of a veterinary DaVinci. He was one of the first to suggest a clinician could use urine or blood to predict disease in dogs and cats, developing several medical tests himself. In the '30s he discovered that he could manage a dog's kidney ailments by creating a diet low in salt and protein. He used this to prolong the life of Buddy, the first US Seeing Eye dog. Encouraged by Buddy's blind owner, Morris began manufacturing his special diet during WWII when tin cans were quite scarce. His formulas eventually became Hills Prescription Diets. The new company's success allowed Morris to fulfill his dream to improve animal welfare. The contract with Hills stipulated that one half cent of each can sold go to the Buddy Foundation (later renamed for Morris).

Shea, Hound mix Shea, Hound mix At first the legacy of Dr. Morris only sponsored promising studies that would improve and lengthen the lives of dogs and cats. Owners treasure each moment with their pets, but dread medical conditions that will rob from that precious time bank. Kidney failure is still one of the top medical causes of death in dogs, often striking during the pet's prime. Besides controlling diet, researchers at the Univ. of Minn, recently found that giving afflicted dogs a low daily dose of calcitrol, a hormone, stabilized the kidney function and prolonged survival. The same team found that calcitrol was safe for cats but did not increase appetite or slow the disease.

In other kidney studies, doctors at Auburn Univ. found that kidney transplant dogs fare better when some of the donor dog's bone marrow was transplanted along with the new kidney. Another team of vets also discovered a certain medicine boosts urine output in healthy cats. This drug may prove life saving for cats in renal failure from accidental poisonings like antifreeze. It could flush the toxins quickly, before the kidneys shut down.

New treatments are also on the horizon for preventing "surprise attack" illnesses like blood clots that paralyze and kill cats, and an often fatal anemia that strikes middle-aged female dogs. In addition, researchers are rethinking the most effective ways to administer proven medications, and are concentrating on ways to alleviate pain in our animal friends who rarely complain. (A future column will address the MAF/ Cornell collaboration exploring canine cancers and genetics.) Dr. Julie Levy's work on a vaccine to sterilize feral cats, as a labor/cost effective support to Trap Neuter Release (TNR), will help homeless populations too. The feline numbers are staggering. Presently 90 million cats live in US households while an estimated 70 million more roam as strays.

The MAF funded its first horse study in 1959; research for llamas and alpacas followed. In 2005 scientists made strides to help foals: linking thyroid imbalances to premature births and combating a deadly pneumonia. Cornell vets are now working on a vaccine for a neurological parasite, transmitted via deer, that cripples llamas and alpacas grazing in the same field. Other universities are studying diabetes and stomach ulcers in the camel cousins.

In 1967 the MAF recognized all wildlife as our global companions. The Foundation strives to help endangered species survive by eradicating infectious diseases, fine tuning veterinary tools, and improving reproductive rates. The rare Ethiopian wolf is threatened by rabies from the village dogs. An oral vaccine may be the answer. In Uganda, a Univ. of Illinois team is tracking disease transmission between primates, humans and domestic animals. Refined anesthesia protocols for bald eagles, white rhinos, and giraffes are making surgical procedures safer. New methods, perfected by Smithsonian scientists, will allow wildlife veterinarians to use assisted reproductive techniques without removing animals, like cheetahs, from their natural habitat. This knowledge assisted in the arrival of "Tai Shan", the National Zoo's baby panda last July.

Morris was a veterinary pioneer, determined to help one guide dog, and, ultimately, all animals. His creativity and compassion lives on in work of the hundreds of scientists, now guided by the Foundation that bears his name. Only a few of these innovative ideas are mentioned here. The Morris Animal Foundation of Englewood, Colorado, (www. morrisanimal foundation.org) applies 100% of all contributions towards tomorrow's advances for our animal companions...and, ultimately, for us, too.

For adoption: 2 ball playing pups at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon want to remind you that it's time for spring training . Our poster pooches worship the NY teams in an "ecumenical" way. "A-Rod" in Cage 37 is a blast. This young Shepherd mix retrieves, and lets you take the ball out of his mouth to throw again and again. "Shea" is a submissive, young Hound mix in Cage 57 who uses her paws to bat the ball like a cat. Her coloring and feline foot work seem quite "Basenji", although she is not the barkless African breed. See more photos on the shelter's Petfinder site, including the litter of puppies who survived a house fire.

Females: the declawed Siamese mix cat, now in C-4; "Queenie"a petite husky/Akita in Cage 95; "Ginger"a small Boxer mix in Cage 81; a Rat Terrier in the Puppy Room.

Males: "Rusty"the Retriever mix in Cage 27; a gorgeous purebred Siberian husky in Cage 11; a sad sack Rottie/Lab in Cage 15; "Moose"the Great Dane mix in Cage 45.

Benefit: "Vivi and the Strays" at the Garden City Hotel's Posh Ultra Club this Sat. 3/11 from 7 to 10 PM.$10 admission, cash bar, music and dancing. All proceeds will benefit the "Bobbi and the Strays" animal shelter at JFK Vetport that is assisting in the search for the missing Westminster Whippet. Call (516)877-9412. ultimately, all animals. His creativity and compassion lives on in work of the hundreds of scientists, now guided by the Foundation that bears his name. Only a few of these innovative ideas are mentioned here. The Morris Animal Foundation of Englewood, Colorado, (www. morrisanimal foundation.org) applies 100% of all contributions towards tomorrow's advances for our animal companions...and, ultimately, for us, too.

For adoption: 2 ball playing pups at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon want to remind you that it's time for spring training . Our poster pooches worship the NY teams in an "ecumenical" way. "A-Rod" in Cage 37 is a blast. This young Shepherd mix retrieves, and lets you take the ball out of his mouth to throw again and again. "Shea" is a submissive, young Hound mix in Cage 57 who uses her paws to bat the ball like a cat. Her coloring and feline foot work seem quite "Basenji", although she is not the barkless African breed. See more photos on the shelter's Petfinder site, including the litter of puppies who survived a house fire.

Females: the declawed Siamese mix cat, now in C-4; "Queenie"a petite husky/Akita in Cage 95; "Ginger"a small Boxer mix in Cage 81; a Rat Terrier in the Puppy Room.

Males: "Rusty"the Retriever mix in Cage 27; a gorgeous purebred Siberian husky in Cage 11; a sad sack Rottie/ Lab in Cage 15; "Moose"the Great Dane mix in Cage 45.

Benefit: "Vivi and the Strays" at the Garden City Hotel's Posh Ultra Club this Sat. 3/11 from 7 to 10 PM.$10 admission, cash bar, music and dancing. All proceeds will benefit the "Bobbi and the Strays" animal shelter at JFK Vetport that is assisting in the search for the missing Westminster Whippet. Call (516)877-9412.

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