CAHF research studies: 2024-25


The Companion Animal Health Fund (CAHF) is investing more than $152,000 in 10 pet health research projects for 2024-25.

Which glucagon formulation is better for treating severe hypoglycemia in cats?
Drs. Elisabeth Snead and Jessica Lam, WCVM

Insulin-induced hypoglycemia (IIH) is a common, life-threatening complication associated with the treatment of diabetes mellitus (DM), especially in cats. Glucagon is a hormone that raises blood sugar, and it plays a critical role in defending against hypoglycemia. However, this response is often impaired in diabetic cats. In this two-stage study, the WCVM research team will investigate the efficacy and safety of two formulations of glucagon for the treatment of severe hypoglycemia in cats.

Is the biomarker Wilms tumour 1 useful for diagnosing cancer in pets?
Dr. Melissa Meachem, WCVM

In human medicine, diagnostic pathologists routinely use immunostaining for a biomarker, Wilms tumour 1 (WT1), on biopsy specimens as a diagnostic and prognostic biomarker for multiple cancerous tumours. Researchers are also developing immunotherapy targeting WT1 for cancers that express high levels of the protein. But veterinary pathologists have minimal and often conflicting information on WT1 expression in companion animals, limiting use of this important biomarker. In this project, WCVM scientists will investigate feline and canine WT1 expression using immunostaining in normal tissue and malignant tumours. Their findings will help determine is this biomarker is useful as a diagnostic tool in the veterinary profession.

Can cone-beam computed tomography scans be used for planning radiation treatments in dogs?
Drs. Monique Mayer, Eriola Hida and Sally Sukut, WCVM; Dr. Michele Keyerleber, Tufts University; and Dr. Narinder Sidhu, B.C. Cancer Centre

Radiation therapy is effective for treating dogs diagnosed with nasal cancer. Before radiation treatment, all patients must undergo diagnostic computed tomographic (CT) imaging so radiation oncologists can understand the full extent of the tumour and calculate the radiation dose. In this project, WCVM researchers will determine if cone-beam computed tomography scans is an effective alternative radiation treatment planning of nasal cancer tumours in dogs.

How can we improve the way that we detect and treat cancer in dogs?
Drs. Arata Matsuyama and Jasmine Yu Gu, WCVM; Dr. Dean Chamberlain, USask College of Medicine; and Dr. Michael Zabrodski, Prairie Diagnostic Services

One out of every four dogs are diagnosed with cancer with half of those animals dying of the disease. Cancer’s ability to spread is a major challenge, making it difficult to detect and treat effectively. In this clinical trial, WCVM researchers will explore potential solutions by using a new approach to studying cancer spreading in canine patients. They will study cancer spreading in pet dogs using two tools: positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) imaging, an advanced imaging technology, and RNA sequencing, a gene profiling method. 

Can atipamezole be safely administered to dogs that have ingested or inhaled xylazine?
Drs. Jen Loewen, Vanessa Cowan and Al Chicoine, WCVM

Xylazine is a large animal sedative that has been found in illicit drugs and can be life threatening to people. It’s also a risk to drug detection dogs that may accidentally ingest or inhale xylazine during scent detection work. Atipamezole, which is labelled to be administered into the muscle, reverses the effects of xylazine. But for non-veterinary personnel, giving an intramuscular drug can be challenging to do properly. This study’s purpose is to describe the pharmacokinetics of atipamezole in dogs based on different routes of administration: into the muscle and into the nose. Characterizing the pharmacokinetics of intranasal atipamezole will be important for developing a user-friendly reversal method for animals exposed to xylazine in illicit drugs.

Can immune checkpoint molecules be used to detect canine and feline lymphoma?
Drs. Ryan Dickinson, Alireza Rocky, Bruce Wobeser, Valerie MacDonald Dickinson, Nicole Fernandez and Melissa Meachem, WCVM; and Dr. Jennifer Davies, University of Calgary

This WCVM study will provide insights about the possible role of immune checkpoint pathways as mechanisms for immune evasion in canine and feline lymphoma. It will also give researchers a better understanding of the potential application of immune checkpoint molecules as suitable targets for cancer immunotherapy. The resulting data will be incredibly important to provide foundational approaches to considering newer combination/adjunctive therapies, disarming targeted specific molecules that are overexpressed in lymphoid malignancies.

Can veterinarians use solensia to treat obstructive feline interstitial cystitis in male cats?
Dr. Kevin Cosford, WCVM

Obstructive feline interstitial cystitis (O-FIC) is a common condition in male cats. In this study a WCVM research team will determine if solensia, a monoclonal antibody used to treat feline osteoarthritis, is effective and safe in managing O-FIC in cats. If results from this trial are promising, researchers expect that small animal practitioners will readily adopt the monoclonal antibody in their treatment regimes. If solensia is effective and safe in managing O-FIC, it has the potential to serve as a practical, easily administered, and widely accessible therapeutic option for cats, clients, and veterinarians worldwide.

Is three days of amoxicillin as effective as a seven-day course in treating UTIs in spayed dogs?
Drs. Al Chicoine and Joe Rubin, WCVM

In this study, WCVM will determine if veterinarians can use three days of amoxicillin therapy versus seven days of drug therapy to treat cases of uncomplicated urinary tract infections in spayed dogs. If researchers demonstrate that three days is no less effective than seven days, veterinarians can use half the amount of antibiotics to treat these patients. Not only does a reduction in the duration of antimicrobial use help to minimize resistance, it also reduces the risk of adverse drug events to the patient. A shorter course of antimicrobial therapy also means reduced cost and greater convenience for the client.

What makes hemangiosarcoma such an aggressive type of cancer?
Drs. Gurpreet Aulakh, Behzad Toosi and Arata Matsuyama, WCVM

Hemangiosarcoma is a highly aggressive and malignant cancer that arises from the cells lining blood vessels, which is found in the spleen, liver and heart of dogs. Hemangiosarcoma is known to have a complex microenvironment that is essential for tumour growth and the spread of cancer. This study’s main goal is to characterize the potential for energy utilization by murine (mouse) and canine hemangiosarcoma cells. Once researchers establish the disease model in mice, the model will provide them with a valuable tool in the future to understand the mechanisms of the development and spread of these aggressive tumours.

Which anesthesia protocol is safest in healthy rabbits?
Drs. Barbara Ambros, Shannon Beazley and Isabelle Duprez, WCVM

Anesthetic mortality in healthy rabbits is considerable higher than in cats and dogs. Anesthetic drug-induced cardiorespiratory depression may be one contributing factor for the increased mortality. This research project will compare the cardiorespiratory effects of two commonly used premedication protocols: alfaxalone-midazolam-hydromorphone (AMH) or dexmedetomidine-midazolam-hydromorphone (DMH). Results will provide veterinarians with more information about the anesthetic management of pet rabbits.


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