More than $53,000 in clinical research grants has been awarded to six principal investigators in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) through the 2004 distribution of Veterinary Memorial Fund research grants.

Founded in 1984, the Veterinary Memorial Fund is a program jointly operated by the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) and the VMRCVM that helps bereaved pet-owners deal with grief and raises money to improve the quality of healthcare available for future generations of companion animals.

Proposals were selected for funding on the basis of contemporary clinical importance by a committee comprised of veterinarians in private practice and in academia. The research will provide much-needed information on topics ranging from complications associated with commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to feline urinary tract disorders.

David Panciera, professor of small animal clinical sciences, was awarded $7,495 to investigate a project entitled "Effects of Deracoxib and Aspirin Administration on Thyroid Function Tests in Normal Dogs." Deracoxib is a new COX-2 inhibitor based non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that has recently been approved for the treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs. Researchers know that NSAID's can affect thyroid function tests in humans. Veterinarians need to know whether those drugs also can interfere with the efficacy of thyroid tests in animals so they can prevent the costly misdiagnosis of hypothyroidism.

Ian Herring, associate professor of small animal clinical sciences, was awarded $10,967 for "Investigation of Adrenocortical Activity in Dogs with Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome." Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) causes sudden and irreversible loss of vision in dogs. SARDS is most commonly seen in dachshunds, miniature schnauzers, and Brittany spaniels, and it seems to affect middle-aged to older female dogs more than others. Researchers have documented some correlation between SARDS and Hyperadrenocorticism (HAC) in effected animals, but it is not clear whether the relationship is one of cause or effect. The study will fully explore the relationship, providing valuable information that can prevent some dogs with SARS from being inappropriately treated for HAC as well.

Don Waldron, professor of small animal clinical sciences, was awarded $10,000 to study "The effect of Nephrotomy on Renal Function in Normal Cats." Urinary tract calculi in cats is a common problem faced by veterinarians. During the past 20 years, the composition of the calculi has shifted dramatically. Twenty years ago, the stones were primarily magnesium ammonium phosphate or struvite stones. Today, possibly because of the widespread use of acidifying feline diets, the most common stones are calcium oxalate, and they are found more commonly in the ureter and in the kidneys. Presently, no medical dissolution protocols are available, and lithotripsy, widely used in humans, is not suitable for treating these problems in cats for a variety of reasons. Surgical intervention by nephrotomy remains the best clinical approach to resolving the problem, but some questions exist concerning whether the surgery causes long-term effects on kidney function. The researchers believe that it does not and will attempt to demonstrate that surgical correction does not negatively affect long-term renal function.

Michael Leib, professor of small animal clinical sciences, was awarded $7,500 for "Comparison of the Effect of Deracoxib (a selective COX-2 inhibitor), Buffered Aspirin and Placebo on the Gastroduodenal Mucosa of Healthy Dogs." Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are frequently used in dogs to treat common pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and for other disorders. Gastrointestinal bleeding and ulceration and other complications have been associated with the long-term treatment of dogs with NSAIDS. A new class of NSAIDS, known as COX-2 inhibitors, are believed to be less damaging to the gastrointestinal system than COX-1 inhibitors. Buffered aspirin, though not approved for use in the dog, also is commonly used as an anti-inflammatory drug in companion animals, and it also causes gastrointestinal problems like bleeding, ulceration, and erosion. Leib will examine how a new COX-2 inhibitor based NSAID called deracoxib affects the gastroduodenal mucosa in healthy dogs through gastroendoscopic examination and cytology.

Otto Lanz, assistant professor of small animal clinical sciences, has been awarded $7,102 to study "Effects of Acute, Experimental, Extradural Cervical Spinal Cord Compression on Morphology of the Canine Cervical Vertibral Venous Plexus." The Vertibral Venous Plexus (VVP) is a network of veins that surround the vertebral canal, spinal cord, and nerve roots. Little is known about how spinal compression affects the VVP, but some clinical studies have suggested that the VPP may play a role in compounding spinal injury and causing neurological problems. Lanz believes that the VVP system may play a role in cervical spinal disease in dogs. The study will test and evaluate the effects of cervical spinal cord compression on the canine VVP, refine an experimental method for inducing acute cervical extradural compression in dogs, and evaluate intraosseous cervical venography as a possible technique for diagnosing cervical spinal cord compression in dogs.

Jeryl Jones, associate professor of small animal clinical sciences, has been awarded $10,000 for "The Effects of CT Image Display Parameters on the Perception of Abnormalities in the Elbow Joint of Dogs with Elbow Dysplasia." Elbow dysplasia is a developmental abnormality of the elbow joint that typically afflicts rapidly growing large breed dogs. Computed tomography (CT) is a useful diagnostic tool for evaluating canine elbow dysplasia, however the diagnostic sensitivity for detecting clinical problems may be affected by technical factors associated with CT such as window/level settings, image display planes, patient positioning and others. Jones' study seeks to develop the most efficacious CT scanning protocol for evaluating canine elbow dysplasia, thereby providing more accurate information on which clinicians can base treatment plans.