Researcher pursues passion to help animals with chronic kidney disease

By Sarah Carey

Thirty-seven million Americans a year — one in seven — and one in three cats will develop chronic kidney disease, or CKD, in their lifetimes. The expense of managing these cases in humans alone amounts to about $75 billion.

Dr. Autumn Harris with cat
Dr. Autumn Harris has been a member of the college’s faculty since 2019.

“The odds are if you are sitting in a room with people and you ask them how many of them know someone with kidney disease, many hands will go up,” said Autumn Harris, D.V.M., an assistant professor and board-certified small animal internist at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. “We’ve known about this disease for centuries, and so far, it’s not curative. Instead, we try to manage it with medical management and in advanced cases with dialysis or kidney transplants.”

A member of UF’s faculty since 2019, Harris also completed her residency at the college in small animal medicine in 2016, followed by a three-year postdoctoral fellowship in the UF College of Medicine’s Division of Nephrology, Hypertension, and Renal Transplantation. In 2019, she received the American Physiological Society’s Postdoctoral Excellence in Renal Research Award, as well as the college’s prestigious C.E. Cornelius Young Investigator Award the following year.

Her passion for making a difference in her area of focus is obvious whenever Harris speaks about her work.

“I want to improve the lives of patients with CKD and their quality of life by improving the ways in which we both detect the disease and how we manage it,” she said.

To that end, Harris is actively involved in research, with eight active clinical trials involving cats and dogs. Some are focused on the use of biomarkers to detect disease or complications of disease earlier than they are currently diagnosed, in order to change how these cases are managed.

Preliminary results from some of these trials are promising and could result in new medications being brought to market to benefit animals with CKD. Other studies are looking at the ways that medications used to treat CKD are dosed and the effectiveness of different dosing protocols.

 She currently is in her sixth year of funding from the National Institutes of Health, which extended her five-year K-08 grant focused on understanding sex differences in renal physiology but also human kidney disease.

“We’re one of the few veterinary schools in the country to have a true nephrology/urology clinic,” Harris said. “We are leaders in this area, and I think we can do even better.”

In partnership with Friendship Hospital for Animals, UF was one of six approved American College of Veterinary Nephrology-Urology Training Programs, the first such programs since ACVNU became one of the newest specialties in veterinary medicine last year.

In a testament to her expertise, Harris was accepted into this specialty as one of the inaugural class of residents. Additionally, she contributes regularly to the scientific literature, with recent papers in Advances in Kidney Disease and Health, a publication of the National Kidney Foundation, and in Nature Reviews Nephrology.

“We’re all about the kidney here at UF, but I want us to be the best and to continue to build our relationships with other academic and industry partners toward that goal,” Harris said.


As part of both the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the Academic Health Center, Veterinary Medicine is dedicated to advancing animal, human and environmental health through teaching, research, extension and patient care.


Our Hospitals

Need animal care? Visit the UF Small Animal and Large Animal Hospitals. From dogs, cats, birds and exotics to horses, cattle, llamas, pigs and many other large farm or food animals, our experienced veterinarian staff is ready to assist.