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A legacy of hope for cats with kidney disease

Tom Jackson and Buttons were inseparable friends, until feline chronic kidney disease (CKD) took Buttons away at the age of 14. 

One of the leading causes of death in older cats, CKD is a progressive, irreversible deterioration of kidney function. Veterinarians estimate that up to half of cats over 15 years old will develop kidney failure.

When Buttons was diagnosed with CKD, Tom learned everything he could about the disease in order to provide his friend with supportive care. In his search for information, he discovered Dr. Jessica Quimby, a renowned feline researcher and internal medicine specialist who was conducting CKD studies at Colorado State University. When Dr. Quimby moved to Ohio State in 2017, Tom decided to include the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) in his estate plans.

The Buttons Feline Kidney Research Fund not only memorializes Tom’s beloved best friend, it also supports innovative research to develop better treatments for CKD. Dr. Quimby and the rest of the kidney research team at the CVM are currently conducting multiple clinical trials related to CKD at Ohio State’s Blue Buffalo Veterinary Clinical Trials Office.


CKD is irreversible, so treatments often focus on alleviating symptoms through such things as diet and hydration. Unfortunately, cats with CKD often lose their appetite. Several of Dr. Quimby’s clinical trials have studied mirtazapine, a medication proven to increase appetite in cats with CKD. Her current study tests a form of mirtazapine that is absorbed by being applied to the inner ear flap – avoiding pills that are often difficult for cats to swallow.

Making sure that cats with CKD have adequate nutrition is critical in maintaining a good quality of life, says Dr. Quimby.

“Many owners say to me that the worst part of the disease is the struggle to get their cat to eat, and it’s a hard thing to watch. They ask, ’What we can do to make them feel better and keep eating?’ That is where the appetite stimulant can help,” she says.

Dr. Quimby is currently looking for cats with CKD to enroll in her study. For more information and study details, interested cat owners should go to the Clinical Trials Office website:

Here, owners can fill out a form with their cat’s information and will be contacted about qualifying for the study.

For his part, Tom Jackson hopes his lasting legacy with Buttons will someday help prevent the challenges and heartache for owners of cats with CKD. He believes that Ohio State may one day even find a cure. With his support through the Buttons Fund, kidney research will continue to advance – a lasting tribute to a cat that so clearly demonstrated the strength of the human-animal bond.


Does your cat have chronic kidney disease?  Does he or she qualify for CKD clinical studies?

Signs of CKD may include but are not limited to:

  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Vomiting
  • Poor coat
  • Bad breath

For these studies, cats need to be previously diagnosed with CKD. Because these signs are non-specific, please see your own veterinarian first if you are not sure if your cat has CKD. Our studies only pay for the assessment for cats with known kidney disease.

For details on the mirtazapine study and to fill out an information form about your cat, see the Clinical Trials website at

Clinical trials at Ohio State’s Veterinary Medical Center

Clinical trials for pets are similar to clinical trials for humans. New treatments, diagnostic tests or medical devices are evaluated in an effort to improve patient care and advance medical knowledge.

For most clinical trials at the Veterinary Medical Center, a portion or all of the costs associated with diagnosis and treatment are covered. The trials provide patients with access to advanced state-of-the-art diagnostics and therapeutics often unavailable outside of the clinical trial.

Clinical trials represent a unique opportunity to contribute to medical breakthroughs for not only animals, but humans as well.


Last updated: 

Monday, February 19, 2018 - 2:06pm