Companion Animal Fund Grant Program Supports 11 New Studies

Dog on clinic floor wearing black heart monitor halter
Kia, a six-year-old Labrador retriever, demonstrates wearing a Holter heart monitor. Dogs with atrial fibrillation enrolled in a Companion Animal Fund-supported study will wear the 24-hour ambulatory ECG monitoring device to assess their response to treatment with antiarrhythmic drugs.

Thanks to grants from the school’s Companion Animal Fund, faculty and residents at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) will launch 11 new research projects aimed at improving animal health care. Over $126,000 in grants are being distributed in 2020.

Researchers will explore a variety of subjects including treatments for feline glaucoma; the genetic basis of fibrotic myopathy, a condition that causes gait abnormality; testing of non-invasive trauma splints to repair jaw fractures in dogs; and new surgical techniques for flexor tendon injuries in horses.

Sonja Tjostheim, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Medical Sciences, was awarded her first Companion Animal Fund grant to study atrial fibrillation, or an abnormal heart rhythm, a common complication of structural heart disease in dogs. Veterinarians are currently constrained by limited information in scientific literature about drugs or interventions to best treat the condition, which increases the risk of cardiac-related death in dogs.

“We know that if we can control the heart rate, we can improve outcomes in dogs, but we don’t know which medicine or combinations of medicines are the best to use,” explains Tjostheim. “Currently we look to human medicine for information. But data and recommendations are not always translatable to veterinary medicine.”

“Companion Animal Fund grants often have a real impact on treatment outcomes — not only at our hospital but across the field of veterinary medicine.”

Tjostheim will study two antiarrhythmic drugs, diltiazem and amiodarone, in client-owned dogs with atrial fibrillation and examine whether treatment with these medicines achieves a target heart rate of less than 125 beats per minute. The findings are expected to provide much-needed details around treatments to improve patient outcomes.

“This study will directly impact the decision-making process of veterinarian cardiologists who are working with this arrhythmia,” says Tjostheim.

The Companion Animal Fund is made possible by donations from veterinary medical clinics with strong ties to the school, as well as individual donors, including many whose animals have been patients at UW Veterinary Care. The Companion Animal Grant Program is supported by donations to the Companion Animal Fund, Feline Health Fund, Equine Health Fund, and other donor gifts that specifically support companion animal health research at the school. Through an annual competitive process, the school awards funds to faculty to further research that will enhance the care of companion animals. In addition, funds support facility and equipment improvements to provide enhanced diagnostics and treatments at UW Veterinary Care.

“We are ever grateful to the donors who support this important program to help advance veterinary medicine and foster academic excellence at the SVM,” says Kristi Thorson, associate dean for advancement and administration. “Companion Animal Fund grants often have a real impact on treatment outcomes — not only at our hospital but across the field of veterinary medicine.”

-Denise Garlow

2020 Companion Animal Fund Principal Investigators
and Areas of Study

View full descriptions of 2020 projects.

Department of Surgical Sciences

Diego De Gasperi
Clinical Instructor of Large Animal Surgery
Equine surgical technique

Grayson Doss 
Clinical Assistant Professor of Zoological Medicine
Avian appetite stimulation

Seth Eaton
Clinical Assistant Professor of Comparative Ophthalmology
Feline glaucoma treatment

Robert Hardie 
Clinical Professor of Small Animal Surgery
Canine lymphatic fluid treatment

Christoph Mans 
Clinical Associate Professor of Zoological Medicine
Reptile plasma uric acid levels

Peter Muir 
Professor of Small Animal Orthopedic Surgery
Genetic basis of fibrotic myopathy

Graham Thatcher 
Clinical Assistant Professor of Dentistry and Oral Surgery
Biomechanical testing of trauma splint

Mary Thurber 
Clinical Instructor of Zoological Medicine
Snake analgesic efficacy and welfare

Department of Medical Sciences

Xuan Pan 
Associate Professor of Oncology
Canine large B-cell lymphoma molecular factors

Sonja Tjostheim 
Clinical Assistant Professor of Cardiology
Canine atrial fibrillation medication evaluation

Lauren Trepanier 
Melita Grunow Family Professor of Companion Animal Health
Oxidative stress in Greyhounds

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