Fall 2016 Funded Projects

Fall 2016 OVC Pet Trust Funded Projects

The Lifetime Lyme Study: Phase 1
Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacterium is transmitted by black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis), and geographic ranges of both the tick and B. burgdoferi are expanding in Ontario. Eastern Ontario is now an endemic region and the range is predicted to continue to expand in the near future. In dogs, Lyme disease can result in disease ranging from no noticeable signs or symptoms to fatal. Lyme disease is commonly diagnosed in Ontario dogs; however, issues with diagnosis and lack of adequate data preclude an accurate understanding of the incidence and impact of this disease. This comprehensive, landmark study hopes to examine the incidence and impact of the disease to guide important decisions about who to treat, how to treat, how to reduce exposure and what the clinical consequences of exposure are.


Use of a local anesthetic to treat a slow heart rate and depressed cardiac function from using the sedative dexmedetomidine in dogs
Dexmedetomidine is a pre-anesthetic drug used in small animal practice due to its sedative and analgesic effects, however its administration may result in some undesirable cardiovascular effects, including marked reduction in heart rate, hypertension, reduced blood flow and dysrhythmias. The reduction in heart rate should not be treated with conventional drugs used for this purpose in other circumstances because these drugs that increase the heart rate when used before or in combination with dexmedetomidine can exacerbate the hypertension and increase the work of the heart, which further reduces blood flow to tissues. This study will investigate the specific effects and outcomes of using lidocaine to counteract dexmedetomidine’s adverse cardiovascular effects.


Minimizing implant failure by optimizing the placement of screws in fracture repairs using a bone plate
Over the past fifty years, the concepts surrounding bone fixation have evolved. The early principles of absolute rigidity and perfect reconstruction have been progressively replaced by more contemporary concepts of joint alignment and relative stability. The study will investigate several plate-screw configurations to determine which configurations are the most durable and least likely to fail. Understanding the complex relationship between the fractured bone, the plate and the screws will lead to better fixations of fractures and reduce complication rates after fracture fixation.

Predicting survival in dogs with lymphoma
Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer in dogs and is derived from a type of white blood cells known as lymphocytes. Most patients initially respond well to chemotherapy but ultimately succumb to the disease. Time to relapse and overall survival can vary from weeks to years. Currently, there are no reliable indicators that could predict clinical outcome. In human lymphoma, minimal residual disease (MRD) has been identified as a powerful prognostic indicator and is used to direct treatment. MRD, or ‘molecular disease’, refers to the tumour cell burden that persists during and after therapy. This project aims at establishing a novel method in veterinary medicine that can accurately quantify tumour burden in response to therapy. This method will be utilized to investigate if tumour burden is predictive of relapse or survival and may be used to investigate the efficacy of novel treatment modalities in future studies.


Can Rapamycin improve radiation therapy while reducing side effects for canine cancer? 
Sometimes cancer in dogs cannot be effectively treated with surgery or chemotherapy. In that case, a palliative approach uses radiation therapy to control pain and ideally improve quality of life. Palliative radiation protocols use higher doses of radiation in fewer treatments. Radiation therapy has been used this way for a variety of canine tumours such as oral melanoma, soft tissue sarcoma, transitional cell carcinoma of the urogenital system and mast cell tumours to name a few. It is typically expected that 50 to 75 per cent of dogs treated with palliative radiation will have a good response that lasts three to 12 months. Ideally, prolonging the life of our patients without significantly increasing the side effects and cost is the hope. One way to do that is to use a treatment that will enhance the killing of cancer cells by radiation while protecting the normal cells in the radiation field from radiation damage. Such a compound is known as a 'radiosensitizer' and a drug known as Rapamycin is reported to have such activity. Results of the study may allow short-term Rapamycin treatment to be added to palliative radiation care for improved outcomes for dogs with cancer. It is expected that the use of Rapamycin will both enhance cancer cell killing and protect normal cells exposed to the same amount of radiation. Such a result would possibly allow short-term Rapamycin treatment to be added to palliative radiation care for improved outcomes for dogs with cancer.


Non-invasive identification of tumour cells in the blood circulation of dogs with bone tumours 
Osteosarcoma (OSA) is a common bone tumour that affects the long bones (limbs) of large and giant breed dogs and causes severe pain and lameness and sometimes leads to bone fracture. OSA is highly malignant and is believed to have spread to other organs (known as metastasis) prior to diagnosis, even when standard staging (radiographs and ultrasound) is considered clean, making accurate prognosis and treatment decisions difficult. Approximately 90 per cent of dogs diagnosed and treated for OSA using the standard of care (amputation and chemotherapy) will develop metastasis within 12 months of diagnosis. Tumour cells released into circulation are known as circulating tumour cells (CTCs). They are precursors of metastasis and their detection in the blood circulation may be used as an early marker of tumour spread. In humans, CTC counts highly correlate with the presence of metastasis and prognosis for certain tumours (e.g. breast cancer) and are also used to monitor response to chemotherapy. CTCs have not been evaluated thus far in veterinary medicine. Improved methods for early detection of cancer spread could allow for earlier intervention, more accurate monitoring of disease progression, and evaluation of a patients’ individual responses to treatment. In turn, this could allow for timely adjustments in protocol as well as improved estimation of overall prognosis for canine patients. 



Investigating the effects of various bandages and perching surfaces on foot weight bearing in a species of bird in the falcon family
The development of foot problems, known as pododermatitis, is an important health problem in captive birds of prey, particularly falcons used for falconry. The condition is characterized by inflammation and infection of the underside of the foot. Reasons for the development of pododermatis are complex, but risk factors are thought to be related to captive housing, training schedule, weight of the bird, foot injury, disease of one leg increasing weight bearing on the other and poor perch design. At present, therapy consists of treating infection with general and topical antibiotics, surgery and bandaging. This study aims to provide more standardized guidelines for bandaging and improving perching surfaces for falconry birds suffering from foot diseases. Results are intended to improve the welfare of captive falcons and to improve the medical management of foot infections in falconry birds.



Comparison between minimally-invasive and standard spay surgery in pet rabbits
Minimally invasive surgical techniques using rigid endoscopes and miniaturized laparoscopic forceps have not been studied in details in rabbits, the most common exotic pet species. Spaying rabbits is very important as unspayed females tend to develop cancer of the uterus. While spays are routinely performed by veterinarians on rabbits, minimally invasive spays are currently not being offered for rabbits in Canada as far as the researchers know. Minimally invasive surgeries have been shown in other species of mammals to decrease perioperative and post-operative pain and speed up recovery. Rabbits are very sensitive to pain and are prone to gastrointestinal stasis and anorexia, which may be life-threatening complications. Rabbits have also more anesthetic complications than dogs and cats overall. The objective is to study the advantages and disadvantages of laparoscopic spays in rabbits compared to regular spays (through a laparotomy incision). This project may be able to provide an alternative to the classic surgical spay in rabbits with an option that is minimally invasive and induces less pain during and after the surgery.



Funded Equipment 


Ultracold freezer for Companion Animal Tumour Sample Bank (CATSB), Institute for Comparative Cancer Investigation
This biobank is used by researchers at the University of Guelph and elsewhere to improve understanding of cancer in companion animals. The knowledge gained from studies using these banked samples benefits future companion animals diagnosed with cancer by improving diagnostic tests, treatment options and predicting responses to treatments. These samples must be collected in special ways and stored at ultra-cold temperatures in specially designed freezers that are four times colder than domestic freezers. Read more about the CATSB.


Multifrequency Bioelectrical lmpedance Analyzer (lmpediVet by ImpediMed)
This piece of equipment is an instrument to measure body fluid compartments using low-grade electrical currents, which may help design safe and more effective fluid delivery plans to sick patients at the OVC Companion Animal Hospital at the University of Guelph. 

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