Baker Institute for Animal Health


Help now, hope for the future

Van de Walle and SheldonA special partnership has always existed between concerned animal lovers and the Baker Institute. This partnership has brought profound improvements in the health and wellbeing of animals, particularly dogs, all around the world. You, too, can make a difference by supporting our efforts to improve canine and companion animal health through studies of infectious diseases, cancer, reproductive disorders, and other areas.

The Baker Institute has long been known for its work on infectious diseases of animals, and that work continues today in studies of several important pathogens, including canine influenza, calicivirus (which strikes cats), canine herpesvirus, the parasite trichinella, and bovine papillomavirus, a virus that recently crossed over from cattle into horses. Evidence indicates that bovine papillomavirus is the cause of the most common type of cancer in horses: sarcoid tumors, which are invasive wart-like lesions or skin ulcers. Dr. Doug Antczak and his trainees are studying the reasons different horses show different susceptibility to sarcoids, work that could lead to new methods for treating or preventing this life-threatening disease. For Dr. Antczak, the goal is to relieve suffering in horses, arguably our most helpful and hardworking companion animals.

Cancer is a disease that’s familiar to many animal lovers, and Baker Institute scientists are hard at work determining the causes of cancer and ways to defeat it once it starts. In Gerlinde Van de Walle’s lab, Dr. Van de Walle and her trainees are studying mammary cancer – called breast cancer in humans – and the biological differences that determine why it strikes more than 25% of unspayed female dogs and a similar percentage of unspayed female cats, whereas it is almost unknown in horses. The reasons behind these differences could lead to new therapies for preventing and treating mammary cancer. And in Scott Coonrod’s laboratory, they’re studying the ways in which breast cancer in animals and people might be stopped with a novel way of blocking the hormone estrogen from stimulating the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells.

Donations to the Baker Institute also help support our work to improve animal breeding, efforts that can help improve the health of a species as a whole. Hundreds of years of breeding has led to a high rate of disorders of sexual development in certain dog breeds, but because these inherited conditions are often undetectable on the outside of an animal, they frequently don’t come to light until the dog proves to be sterile or infertile. Dr. Vicki Meyers-Wallen studies these disorders, and is using whole genome sequencing of affected and unaffected dogs to pinpoint the genetic defects behind them. Once the nature of the genetic defects are known, a test can be developed to identify which animals are carriers and which are not – information that can help breeders prevent passing the problem on to the next generation of puppies.

Every donation to the Baker Institute helps to support important studies like these and others that expand our understanding of the afflictions of animals – from cancer to sterility – and lead to innovative methods for treatment and prevention.