Kathleen Kelly, DVM, PhD

Understanding the role of infectious disease in feline cardiac disease

Kathleen Kelly, DVM, PhD

Restrictive cardiomyopathy is a common feline heart disease that claims the lives of thousands of cats every year, but the cause is not known. To begin tracking down the cause of restrictive cardiomyopathy, Dr. Kathleen Kelly pursued one of the possibilities: canine parvovirus (CPV). In puppies, CPV sometimes causes inflammation of the heart muscles, a condition called myocarditis, and parvovirus is closely related to feline panleukopenia virus, which infects cats. Kelly investigated the possibility that feline panleukopenia infection might cause restrictive cardiomyopathy by looking for the genetic signature of the virus in preserved heart tissue from cats that had died of the condition. The virus was nowhere to be found in the tissue samples, a result that disproved the idea that feline panleukopenia was somehow involved, but Kelly is undeterred.

Going forward, Kelly is determined to find the cause (or causes) of restrictive cardiomyopathy, and she will work with the Cornell Feline Health Center and outside funding agencies to support the work.