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Animal Care

Research Roundup NC State Veterinary Medicine, March 2024

Our discoveries drive innovation. Researchers at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine are continuing to find creative solutions to the complex problems that face the welfare of both humans and animals through novel devices, interdisciplinary collaborations and translational approaches to medicine. 

Emotional black and white portrait of a sad lonely girl hugging her dog

Discovering Crossmatch Compatibility Among Rabbit, Canine and Feline Blood

Nicholas G Dannemiller, Sarah M Ozawa, Olivia A Petritz, Sarah E Musulin

The popularity of zoological companion animals is growing, meaning unique species, including rabbits, are seen more often in veterinary hospitals and critical care units. There are countless emergencies in which a blood transfusion is vital, but there is not a lot of current information on clinically recognized blood types for rabbits and certainly no readily available blood banks. A blood transfusion from another species, also called a xenotransfusion, could be a life-saving alternative. There is already some literature on xenotransfusions between certain domestic animal donors and zoological animal recipients, but this study evaluated the compatibility specifically between rabbit recipients, rabbit donors and the major canine and feline blood types. This study, conducted by members of the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Clinical Sciences, is the first to report the major crossmatch compatibility between blood of rabbit recipients, rabbit donors and the four major canine and feline blood types. Though researchers still want to explore this area further, their conclusion is that if a blood donor rabbit is not readily available, an emergency xenotransfusion with canine or feline blood products to a severely anemic rabbit may be a life-saving alternative. 

This study was published in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care and can be found here.

Providing Safe Housing for Pets of Domestic Violence Victims

Hillary L Pearce, Becca Spielman, Cassie Weatherwax, Monique Pairis-Garcia

In unfortunate cases of domestic violence, family pets are often a comfort to victims, but these animals also face serious welfare concerns. Most domestic violence shelters do not allow animals in the facility with their owners. Additionally, a percentage of victims reported that concern for their pets’ welfare delayed their attempts to escape, keeping both human and animal victims in danger. A recent study, including NC State’s Animal Welfare Specialist Monique Pairis-Garcia, documented and evaluated a novel partnership model of a program to keep  pets owned by domestic violence victims safe. The study, which ran from May 1, 2021, to June 1, 2023, with 19 animals referred to the program, was a partnership among domestic violence social workers, corporate partners and veterinary practices. These entities worked together to ensure the health of the animals upon arrival and to find foster homes for them until the pets could be reunited with owners. The authors concluded that, as the concept of One Welfare – similar to the concept of One Health – grows, members of the veterinary field should be more proactive in asking about human-directed violence anytime they suspect animal abuse. They also should find more ways to become involved in supporting domestic violence programs in their communities. Similarly, domestic violence advocates should ask about pets in the household and be aware of local veterinary resources. This paper seeks to act as a guide for veterinarians, domestic violence programs and other community stakeholders who want to replicate similar programs in their own regions and build more collaborative communities to support both human and animal victims. 

The study was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and can be found here

Finding the Prevalence and Risk Factors of Dental Disease in 100 Miniature Horses 

Tracy Tinsley, Callie Fogle, Elaine Means, James Robertson

Miniature horses are anecdotally known to have dental and other unique diseases that are related to their small stature and large teeth, but, aside from a few studies, there isn’t much hard medical evidence that backs up these claims. The goal of this study was to perform a cross-sectional analysis of dental diseases of miniature horses and identify any risk factors for their presence. To determine the prevalence and characteristics of dental disease of miniature horses, the team performed oral and dental radiographic examinations on 100 miniature horses. The results confirmed the hypothesis that the prevalence of dental disease among miniature horses is high (95% of miniature horses examined in this study had dental disease). The five most common dental abnormalities in this patient population were crown elongations, oral mucosal ulcerations, diastemata, class 1 malocclusions and hypodontia. Many of the diseases identified (skeletal and dental malocclusion, hypodontia, retained deciduous teeth) are developmental in nature. The study recommends that t early and frequent oral examinations be included as a part of the preventative health program for miniature horses. These examinations can identify the presence of dental diseases and facilitate their management.

The study was published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science and can be read here

Evaluating a Novel Device to Quickly Detect Deadly Disease in Elephants

Ashlyn Heniff, Alex Lynch, Laura K Ruterbories, Larry J Minter, Timothy A Georoff, Julie A Balko 

Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is believed to be present in many, if not all, adult elephants, regardless of whether they are in the wild or their care is managed by humans. Although the virus doesn’t always cause clinical disease, occasionally the infection can induce a fatal hemorrhagic disease in captive juvenile Asian elephants and in African elephants as well. The tests used to detect the disease can be difficult to perform in the wild as the supplies needed are not easy to transport, and the results can be delayed because  samples have to be shipped to laboratories. Because of the threat this disease is posing to both Asian and African elephants, there is a critical need to develop diagnostic tests that can quickly identify the hemorrhagic disease before its clinical signs develop. A team of researchers, including faculty and staff from the NC State CVM’s Departments of Clinical Sciences and Molecular Biomedical Sciences, investigated a novel point-of-care viscoelastic coagulation monitor, called VCM Vet, that was previously evaluated in dogs, cats, and mice to see whether the results would be comparable in elephants. Devices like VCM Vet are easily transportable and can measure the hemostasis of a blood sample and detect changes in the properties of a blood sample onsite. The study found that VCM Vet is a promising diagnostic tool in the surveillance, diagnosis and management of hemorrhagic disease in elephants. 

The study was published in the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine and can be found here. 

Sick dog rests after surgery, looking tired

Identifying Novel DNA Sequence Mutations in Canine Cancer to Create New Treatment Opportunities Across Species

Rachael Thomas, Claire A. Wiley, Emma L. Droste, James Robertson, Brant A. Inman,  Matthew Breen

Each year in the United States, more than 50,000 dogs are diagnosed with urothelial carcinoma, a cancer of the bladder or prostate. Of these cases, 85% share the same DNA sequence mutation, a single nucleotide change in the BRAF gene known as V595E. This mutation, also found in several human cancers, disrupts a genetic pathway called MAPK, leading to uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells. Several years ago, NC State CVM researchers developed a urine-based test that can detect urothelial carcinoma in dogs even before clinical signs develop, allowing for more prompt and efficient treatment. Excitingly, the team recently completed a new study that focused on the 15% of canine UC cases that do not have the BRAF V595E mutation. They found that half of these cases had short DNA sequence deletions located elsewhere in the BRAF gene or in another gene that acts within the same genetic pathway. By combining their DNA-based tests for these biomarkers, the team can now detect up to 93% of canine UC cases with a urine specimen. BRAF and MAP2K1 deletion mutations also occur in some rare cancers in people. Early research indicates these cancers may be more susceptible to a different class of drug treatment, compared to those with BRAF V595E. Identification of BRAF and MAP2K1 deletion mutations in a common canine cancer now offers exciting opportunities for partnership between human and veterinary medicine in developing new treatment strategies for both species.

The study was published in PLoS Genetics and can be found here.

Research Connection: Balancing Life-Changing Research and Leading a Department with Dr. Michele Battle

Dr. Michele Battle sat down to talk with us about her research, her recent transition to head of the Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences and what she finds to be the pillars of her career in academia. Dr. Battle was a professor in the Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy at the Medical College of Wisconsin before joining NC State. She previously worked with NC State scientists and researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University as part of the federally funded Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease. Her lab focuses on studying how tissues develop, specifically the processes that govern how the linings of the esophagus and stomach form, in an effort to better understand and treat esophageal and gastric cancers.