Clinical Trials Saving Kittens

gray cat
Chunk after participating in clinical trials at the UC Davis veterinary hospital. (photo: Dr. Karen Vernau)

Clinical Trials Saving Kittens

**This article appears in the Spring 2023 issue of CCAH Update.**

Chunk was a tiny 21-day-old kitten when he first arrived at the Front Street Shelter six months ago, weighing less than one pound. He was covered in ringworm, a fungal infection of the skin, and brought to the UC Davis veterinary hospital where he was enrolled in a CCAH-funded clinical trial studying various treatments for the disease.

There is little information published on ringworm in kittens, especially the application of certain medications. The disease is highly contagious, and treatment is time consuming. Because of this, many shelters are forced to euthanize kittens with ringworm.

Dr. Karen Vernau, a neurology professor and faculty advisor for the Orphan Kitten Project, directs the study. The relationships she has built with local shelters and rescues have saved hundreds, if not thousands, of kittens over the years and led to important hands-on extra-curricular activities for veterinary students.

“One of the shelters recently told me that whenever they see something concerning in their kittens, they ask if UC Davis has a study on it,” said Vernau. “Thanks to CCAH donors, many kittens are saved because of these clinical trials.”

Chunk’s treatment for ringworm was successful, but his growth was slow. Thanks to attentive care at UC Davis, he was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Vernau was also conducting a clinical trial on this disorder, which is poorly characterized in kittens. The CCAH-funded study is establishing normal reference intervals for thyroid hormone levels in kittens and is determining treatment guidelines.

Chunk was enrolled in the hypothyroid study and quickly started gaining weight.

“He’s so lucky to have had the ringworm study,” said Lesa Saville, Chuck’s dedicated foster mom. “I truly believe that saved his life because that’s how his hypothyroidism was discovered.”

Thanks to both CCAH donor funded studies, Chunk is now six pounds and has been adopted.

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