2007-2011 Funded Projects and Outcomes

Hyperthyroidism study, University of Sydney, October 2011


Dr Deepa Gopinath and Dr Max Zuber were awarded a grant from the FHRF for their study entitled “Diagnosis of latent (occult) hyperthyroidism in cats using thyroid scintigraphy”.

One of the aims of this study was to examine the incidence of cats that have previously presented with symptoms of hyperthyroidism (e.g. weight loss and heart problems), that on testing have normal thyroxine levels but display an increase in thyroid radionuclide uptake during Thyroid scintigraphy*. These cats have what is known as ‘latent’ or ‘occult’ hyperthyroidism and, without a definitive diagnosis using Thyroid scintigraphy, they may not have been diagnosed due to lack of evidence. This study also aimed to investigate outcomes of treatment for these cats, to determine if the response to treatment is similar to that of hyperthyroid cats with elevated thyroxine levels.


This study found that thyroid scintigraphy* is a highly valuable diagnostic test for use in cats with clinical signs of hyperthyroidism and reference range thyroxine levels. This study and its findings were presented by Dr Gopinath at the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) Annual Conference as part of the AVA peer-reviewed abstracts section.

(*Thyroid scintigraphy is a nuclear medicine procedure that uses the selective uptake of administered radionucleotide by thyroid tissue to provide a visual display of functional thyroid tissue.)

Diabetes study, The University of Queensland, September 2011


Professor Jacquie Rand and colleagues were awarded a grant from the FHRF for their study entitled “Developing a reliable DNA resource bank for identifying genetic factors associated with susceptibility of cats to diabetes”.


This study established a ‘bank’ of samples from 38 diabetic and 91 non-diabetic cats that were over eight years of age to exclude cats with other diseases that may cause diabetes, which develop at an earlier age. Case samples were from specialist feline practices (The Brisbane Cat Clinics) and specialist diabetes clinics (Dr Linda Fleeman, Animal Diabetes Australia, Melbourne; The University of Queensland Small Animal Hospital, St Lucia, Brisbane) and Idexx Laboratories. Genomic DNA was extracted from the samples using QIAmp DNA Blood Mini Kit (Qiagen).
The bank of genomic DNA samples will be used as a future resource to identify genes that will predict which cats are at high risk for developing feline type 2 diabetes. Early diagnosis in cats would be helped by DNA screening tests that indicate a genetic predisposition to diabetes. If diabetes in predisposed cats is diagnosed early, good blood sugar controls can be achieved by managing these cats with diet alone, which increases the quality of life of cats and owners.

Permethrin insecticide toxicity treatment study, Murdoch University, Western Australia, April 2011


Dr Katrin Swindells, Dr Rachel Peacock and colleagues were awarded a grant from the FHRF for their study entitled “Evaluation of the use of intravenous lipid for the treatment of permethrin toxicity in cats”.

The aim of this study was to determine whether intravenous lipid therapy is a beneficial adjunctive treatment for permethrin toxicity in cats. Permethrin is a type of flea treatment applied to the skin of dogs. When inadvertently used in cats this product may result in toxicity, which manifests as tremors and seizures. Cats are often euthanised due to the financial constraints of the owners.


This study found that that the affected cats that received 20 per cent lipid emulsion therapy had significantly lower clinical signs recorded over time when compared to the control of cats that received saline solution.

(In December 2012, Dr Rachel Peacock, Dr Katrin Swindells and colleagues advised the FHRF that they were preparing the results of their study for publication.)

Feline Calcivirus study, University of Melbourne, August 2010


Ms Natalie Job, Dr Sally Symes and colleagues were awarded a grant from the FHRF for their study entitled “Development and validation of a qRT-PCR assay for the detection of feline calicivirus (FCV) in clinical samples”.

The aim of the study was to develop and validate a diagnostic laboratory qRT-PCR test for the detection of feline calicivirus in cats. This contagious virus is a major cause of upper respiratory tract disease in cats. It was envisaged that this study would lead to a more reliable diagnostic assay and thus improve the management of cat flu outbreaks by better understanding the pathogenesis and epidemiology of the feline calicivirus infections.


In January 2013, Ms Natalie Job, Dr Sally Symes and colleagues advised the FHRF that they have collected swab samples from cats at different locations over several years. These samples have been tested for feline calicivirus using their newly-developed and refined qRT-PCR test for the detection of feline calicivirus. The interim results of this study indicate that this new qRT-PCR test is far more sensitive than the current RT-PCR diagnostic assay.

Invasive Aspergillosis (fungal) infection study, University of Sydney, May 2009


Dr Vanessa Barrs was awarded a grant from the FHRF for her study entitled “Evaluation of a New Diagnostic Test and Therapeutic Monitoring Tool for Invasive Aspergillosis in cats — Serum Galactomannan Detection”.

Invasive Aspergillosis (fungal) infection is a rare but aggressive condition that affects the upper respiratory tract of cats, dogs and humans. During the fungal growth cycle, one of the fungal wall components known as Galactomannan may be secreted into the bloodstream. In humans, this antigen has been used as a marker to monitor the infection.


One of Dr Barrs’ Masters students, Dr Whitney, used this knowledge to assess the diagnostic value of a serological test to detect levels of serum Galactomannan in the diagnosis and monitoring of anti-fungal therapy in cats with invasive feline upper respiratory aspergillosis. They found that serum galactomannan testing for detection of these fatal fungal infections in cats is insensitive, in contrast to similar infections in humans, indicating that another type of serological test will need to be found for this type of fatal fungal infection in cats.

Dr Whitney presented the interim results of this study at the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists, Science Week Conference in mid-2011 and was awarded the Edmund Barton Alumni Medal by the University of Sydney for the best Coursework Masters across the whole of the University in 2012. Dr Whitney, with Dr Barrs and their colleagues, has published the results of this study in Veterinary Microbiology 162 (1):180-5 in February 2013

Feline Leukaemia Virus study Stage II, University of Sydney, June 2009


Dr Julia Beatty was awarded a further grant from the FHRF to extend her study entitled “Should Australian cats be vaccinated against feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)? — A pilot study of FeLV prevalence using a new methodology. Stage II”.

Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) is a significant cause of disease in domestic cats with up to 18 per cent of pet cats infected worldwide. Some cats that are exposed to the virus make an immune response and eliminate the infection whereas others are unable to fend off the virus and become persistently infected. These persistently-infected cats eventually develop FeLV-related diseases including anaemia, immunodeficiency and lymphoma. The prognosis for FeLV-infected cats is very poor with 85 per cent of persistently infected cats dying within 3.5 years of diagnosis.

Fortunately, effective vaccination against FeLV is available. However, it is not widely practised in Australia. This is primarily because the threat posed by FeLV to cats in this country is not clear. This Stage II study aimed to determine the prevalence of FeLV infection among 180 young cats (less than one year old) of unknown retroviral status that are undergoing routine veterinary treatment at local veterinary clinics in Sydney. This study built on the first stage of this project that looked at FeLV prevalence in 90 cats with anaemia or lymphoma that had presented to the Valentine Charlton Cat Centre (see FHRF prior study, 2007, in row below).


Dr Beatty and her colleagues have published the results of their studies in Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 13(10):772-5 in October 2011.

Feline Leukaemia Virus study, University of Sydney, April 2007


Dr Julia Beatty was awarded a grant from the FHRF for her study entitled “Should Australian cats be vaccinated against feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)? — A pilot study of FeLV prevalence using a new methodology”.


This Stage I pilot study tested the prevalence of FeLV infection among high-risk cats at the Charlton Valentine Cat Centre, University of Sydney, using a number of laboratory methods including a new, more sensitive method. It was expected that the results would provide a solid foundation on which to base FeLV vaccination policies for Australian cats. After collating the results of this collaborative work in May 2009, Dr Beatty applied to the FHRF for further funding. For further details see “Feline Leukaemia Virus study Stage II”, University of Sydney, June 2009 in row above.

Investigations into glomerular disease in young, related Abyssinians, University of Sydney, April 2007


Dr Joanna White and Dr Jacqueline Norris were awarded a grant from the FHRF for their study entitled “Investigations into glomerular disease in young, related Abyssinians’’.
This project used advanced techniques (immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy) to characterise the histo-pathological features of a rare kidney disease in young, related Abyssinian cats.


During the course of the histopathological study, Dr White and Dr Norris published the clinical features of these cats in Journal Feline Medicine and Surgery 10(3): 219-229 in November 2007.

The authors also prepared a manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. This article described the detailed histology of the kidney pathology that was found in this study.

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Helen Radoslovich: 0408 812 319