The RVC is a research-led organisation and carries out pioneering research to improve the health and care of animals. The ACT has funded a number of projects carried out by both undergraduate and postgraduate students from 8-week summer studentships to full PhD programmes. Much of our world-leading work to improve feline health particularly in relation to kidney disease and cardiomyopathy is funded by ACT funded PhD studentships.

Some recent research projects supported by the Animal Care Trust include:

Atypical Myopathy

This is a debilitating and fatal equine disease, with around 75-90% of cases resulting in the death of the horse affected. Currently there is no clinically proven effective treatment for AM, but research taking place at the RVC seeks to change that. The onset of AM is rapid and the disease often appears without warning. They become unable to stand and they die of diaphragm muscle wastage or heart failure, or often are euthanised because of unrelenting pain. 

An RVC research team led by Professor Richard Piercy, a world expert in equine neuromuscular disease, is evaluating treatments and causes of atypical myopathy. The team is studying the effect of toxins using cultured cells in the laboratory, thereby avoiding completely any live animal experiments. They will test specific treatments in the laboratory in order to provide much-needed scientific evidence for treatments’ effectiveness, as currently treatments are evaluated purely on anecdotal evidence of their value from the vets and owners of affected animals. The results of their study could be a huge advancement in the prevention and treatment of this horrific disease. Our researchers need investment to keep their studies going so please donate if you can.

Canine Epilepsy

RVC Canine Epilepsy Research investigates canine epilepsy with the aim of better understanding this condition and ways to treat it, in order to improve the quality of life of dogs affected byepilepsy and their owners. The team is led by Professor Holger Volk, Professor of Veterinary Neurology and Neurosurgery, supported by Dr Rowena Packer, Clinical Investigations Postdoctoral Researcher, along with veterinary specialists in training, PhD students, and undergraduate veterinary medicine and science students. The RVC collaborates with epilepsy experts across the world, including those from other veterinary institutions and human medical science to further our understanding of this condition. Donations will support new and ongoing research to help us to find the most effective treatments for epilepsy and the underlying causes of this condition, as well as updates and improvements to our mobile phone app - donate to Canine Epilepsy research.

To find out more about research at the Royal Veterinary College please visit the RVC research webpages.

Immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia (IMHA)


Cocker spaniel in field

Immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia (IMHA) is an important autoimmune disease of dogs that causes severe anaemia when the immune system attacks and destroys normal red blood cells. It is the most pervasive autoimmune disease in dogs across Europe and North America. Generally, it is more common in younger and middle age dogs but it can also occur in elderly dogs. Despite treatment, up to half of affected dogs unfortunately still do not survive the disease, and many others experience considerable distress.  

Although the cause of the disease is currently unknown - it appears to be partially related to genetic background. Some breeds having a higher rate of diagnoses than others. The most susceptible breeds appear to be Cocker spaniels, English springer spaniels and Maltese terriers. 

The disease is typically treated using blood transfusions and immunosuppressive medications, particularly steroids, which may cause severe side effects that have a major effect on quality of life of dogs and their owners. At the RVC, we are conducting investigations using residual (left over) blood samples from dogs with IMHA. We are trying to identify novel markers predicting response to treatment and the likelihood of developing side effects related to medications. We aim to use these markers in future so that bespoke treatments can be tailored for individual dogs. We are aiming to control the disease whilst minimising side effects and maximising the dog’s quality of life.  

You can read more about this research at and donate towards this research here.   

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