Meredith Merton and her duck Issanah.
Meredith Merton and her duck Issanah.

Despite a ninety-year sports rivalry between the OSU Beavers and the Oregon Ducks, doctors and staff at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital are committed to saving the lives of all animals, even ducks. And especially when a badly injured duck belongs to a young girl who is very fond of her pet.

April Merton has a small, urban farm on the outskirts of Corvallis. There, she and her two daughters have eighteen goats, numerous rabbits and chickens, and seven ducks. Ten-year-old Meredith Merton likes the ducks best. “They are nicer than chickens,” she says. Her favorite duck is Issanah because she is “friendliest with people.”

Last month, they found Issanah bleeding from multiple throat lacerations. April Merton thinks she may have been mauled by a racoon. “We’ve had problems with raccoons,” she says. “They opened the latch on the hen house and killed some chicks.” Meredith was very upset and asked her dad if they could take Issanah to a veterinarian. He agreed and they rushed her to the OSU veterinary hospital.

Usually, the hospital refers avian medical cases to a private practice veterinarian. But when the Mertons showed up with Issanah, Dr. Jorge Vanegas made an exception because the duck’s injuries were severe, including a lacerated esophagus and fractured right wing. He sedated Issanah and sewed up her neck with dozens of small stitches. “It was difficult,” he says, “because there is so little skin and muscle in a duck’s neck.” Then he set the wing with two tongue depressors for a splint.

Fortunately, student Katelyn Hollars was on duty that day and was familiar with raising ducks. “She was very helpful,” says Dr. Vanegas. “She helped calculate the medication dosage and wrapped the repaired wing next to the duck’s body.” He sent the Mertons home with an antibiotic to add to Issanah’s water, and instructions to keep her quiet and confined to a small area.

Meredith took extra good care Issanah, but one small hole in her throat was not healing well, so Dr. Vanegas added more stitches on a follow-up visit. That did the trick. “I wasn’t sure if she would make it, but I guess ducks are tough,” he says.

Now Issanah is doing great, scurrying around the farmyard with the other ducks in their little family group. “She went right back to laying eggs,” says April Merton, who now has an incubator with eggs from two ducks; the white ones with brown speckles look just like their mom Issanah.

 

Rusty_topWhen a coworker asked Kirk Rogers if he was interested in adopting a dog, he said, ‘Probably not.’ Then he saw Rusty’s happy face and big, goofy feet, and fell in love. Rogers took him home that day.

Rogers was not the only one to fall for Rusty’s charm. The two-year-old Bassett Hound-mix makes friends wherever he goes. On a recent visit to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, he came through the lobby door and immediately went around the room saying ‘Hello’ to everyone by politely standing in front of them and wagging his tail. “To him, everyone is a friend,” says Rogers.

Rusty was feeling especially good that day because he had recently resumed normal dog activities. Rogers was feeling good too: just two months earlier, he had rushed his canine buddy to the veterinarian after a seizure left Rusty unable to move his two right legs.

When Rusty went home with Rogers, they started a daily routine, taking one or two walks where Rogers allowed the dog to follow his nose. As a scent-hound, these walks were Rusty’s favorite activity.

But a few weeks after settling into his new home, Rusty started acting like his neck was stiff and sore, so Rogers took him to a veterinarian who prescribed NSAIDS and rest. Rusty got better. Then it happened again a month later, and periodically after that.

Rusty_Composite
Top: An MRI shows the fractured vertebra in Rusty’s backbone. Bottom: The repaired vertebra after surgery.

One day, while out on a walk, Rusty had a seizure, collapsed, and could not get up. Roger’s immediately took him to his veterinarian who referred him to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. There, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Wendy Baltzer ordered an MRI which revealed a fracture of the C2, the second cervical vertebra in his neck. The C2 forms a pivot upon which the C1 vertebra, which holds up the head, can rotate.

The C2 fracture was causing dislocation of the two vertebrae and resulting in a severe compression of Rusty’s spinal cord. Dr. Baltzer recommended surgery.

The atlantoaxial joint, in the upper part of the neck, lies between the first and second cervical vertebra; it is a complicated set of bones and ligaments. Dr. Baltzer stabilized this joint using four screws, two wires, and bone cement, effectively fusing the C1 and C2 vertebra together (see image at right).

Following surgery, Dr. Baltzer placed a brace on Rusty’s neck and, for 72 hours, the hospital ICU closely monitored him for any sign of spinal cord swelling or breathing difficulty. Overall Rusty did really well and soon began standing, and even taking short walks.

Rogers was able to take Rusty home with instructions for seven weeks of gentle physical therapy movement. But, to allow his neck to heal properly, Dr. Baltzer advised strict limits on Rusty’s activity. This meant keeping the dog in a kennel for a large part of the day, and allowing him no walks other than potty breaks: not an easy task for the owner of an energetic hound. “It was really difficult keeping a nose-dog confined to a small kennel, even with anti-anxiety medication,” says Rogers.

Despite the frustration of enforced confinement, Rusty did not lose his happy disposition and, on weekly visits to the hospital to get his neck splint changed, he quickly became a favorite with the staff, students and doctors. “The students and veterinarian were all great,” says Rogers. “I appreciated that everyone fell in love with Rusty.”

Finally the two month ordeal was over and the happy day arrived: x-rays revealed that Rusty’s neck was healing nicely and the neck brace was removed. Dr. Baltzer released him to normal dog activity, even running, but cautioned Rogers to restrict play with other dogs. Rogers is really happy to have his best pal back on the trail. “I really missed our daily walks,” he says.

Rusty in his orange-wrapped back splint. Go Beavs!
Rusty in his orange-wrapped back splint. Go Beavs!
Dr. Milan Milovancev, soft-tissue veterinary surgeon at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, uses cutting-edge technology to remove the lobe of a dog's lung.
Dr. Milan Milovancev, soft-tissue veterinary surgeon at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, uses cutting-edge technology to remove the cancerous lobe of a dog’s lung.

The well-thumbed magazines and stacks of newspapers in the sunny lobby of the Small Animal Hospital at OSU represent many hours of patient waiting for the thousands of pet owners who visit the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital each year.

Referred by their family veterinarian, most of the hospital’s clients bring pets with complex health issues like cancer, compound fractures, heart conditions, or rare diseases. With the largest group of board-certified veterinary specialists in Oregon, and state-of-the-art facilities, OSU can bring together diverse resources and a team effort to heal these challenging conditions.

A recent example of complex teamwork kicked into gear in January when a twelve-year-old Weimaraner visited the hospital with a swollen toe.

Alijah was an outwardly healthy, active dog but his family veterinarian was concerned about a small growth on the second toe of his right foot. She referred his owners to OSU for further evaluation.

Dr. Stewart Helfand is a veterinary oncologist with thirty years of experience in cancer care for companion animals. When the x-rays he ordered for Alijah revealed a suspicious area in his lung, Dr. Helfand was able to consult with Dr. Sarah Nemanic, a veterinary radiologist at OSU. They advised Alijah’s owners  that a Computed Tomography (CT) scan would help determine the nature of this suspicious mass.

The OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) has a 64-slice CT scanner that is currently the fastest, and only one of its kind, used in veterinary medicine in the United States. This high-speed and precise machine is capable of capturing detailed, 3-dimensional images of the entire body of small animals, providing diagnostic information that cannot be obtained using other imaging techniques.

Alijah’s CT scan revealed a two-centimeter, irregular lesion on his left lung. Based on the shape of the lesion, Drs. Helfand and Nemanic decided it was likely to be a lung tumor. The CT also revealed a ten-centimeter mass in the dog’s spleen. Dr. Nemanic then did an ultrasound-guided biopsy of the lung lesion which was tested in the OSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and found to be cancerous.

As with many cases at the VTH, doctors offered Alijah’s owners several options for treatment, from continued monitoring to surgery. His owners elected to have Alijah’s spleen, second toe, and right lung surgically removed. This option was possible because a dog doesn’t need his spleen, the second toe is not a major weight- bearing toe, and the loss of one lobe of the lung does not create a major impairment.

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Cytology team at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory: Dr. Sue Tornquist, Dr. Austin Viall, and Dr. Elena Gorman.
Cytology team at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory:
Dr. Sue Tornquist, Dr. Austin Viall, and Dr. Elena Gorman.

While clients of the small animal hospital are waiting to get a diagnosis on a pet who may or may not have cancer, a crack team of cytopathologists are working behind the scenes at the OSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) to provide answers as quickly as possible.

That team of experts includes Dr. Elena Gorman, Assistant Professor of Clinical Pathology, Dr. Sue Tornquist, Interim Dean and Clinical Pathologist, and Dr. Austin Viall, Clinical Pathology Resident. Their work involves the examination under a microscope of preparations made from body fluids or solid tissue that is sent to them by doctors at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“In the course of a day, we take multiple ultrasound-guided, fine needle aspirates and within a few hours, or less if needed, we can get an answer if the patient has potential cancer or not,” says Dr. Susanne Stieger-Vanegas, Assistant Professor of veterinary diagnostic imaging. “Without their tremendous expertise and knowledge, we would not get a quick answer on what we are dealing with,” says Stieger-Vanegas.

Fine needle aspiration is a rapid method for determining if a solid lump of tissue is benign or malignant. By using a syringe to extract cells from a suspicous growth, then examining them under a microscope, an experienced cytopathologist can look for the presence of cell abnormalities and make a diagnosis. It is faster and less invasive than a biopsy.

In addition to the rewards of helping to treat and save pets, there are other aspects of cytopathology that make this team passionate about their work. “Cells are really very beautiful,’ says Dr. Tornquist. “I’m a big mystery fan. Looking for patterns in the cell types, and other things we see in a cytology sample, is like trying to put together all the clues in a mystery and solving it. And at the end of this process, you can have an impact on the lives of animals and their people.”

One advantage of being a VDL pathologist, as opposed to working at a laboratory that services hundreds of veterinary hospitals, is that the patients and doctors are located right down the hall. “I love that I have a plethora of specialists who I can turn to for information and education,” says Gorman. “Being associated with a teaching hospital makes our diagnostic capabilities so much stronger. It’s invaluable to be able to discuss the clinical aspects of a case and even go look at the patient if I so choose,” she says. “I can’t imagine working anywhere else.”

In addition to diagnosing disease, the pathologists also participate in numerous research projects and teach students. “I love teaching and working with students, house officers and clinicians,” says Gorman. “It’s so much more fun to share the experience because, well, cells are cool!”

Dr. Jennifer Warnock, an orthopedic surgeon at the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital, releases at Merlin falcon after repairing its fractured wing.
Dr. Jennifer Warnock, an orthopedic surgeon at the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital, releases at Merlin falcon after repairing its fractured wing.

At the Rogers Wayside Park near Silverton, Oregon, Dr. Jennifer Warnock and OSU veterinary student Kyra Knutson placed a pet carrier in the middle of a grassy field. It was a quiet spot surrounded by trees and, more importantly, it was on the north-south bird migration path of the Pacific Flyway. Warnock donned a pair of heavy, foot-long, leather gloves, opened the carrier door, and gently removed a brown bird the size of a cockatoo. The bird was covered with a lightweight blanket to keep it warm and calm. As Knutson removed the blanket, Warnock lifted her arms and let go. The bird was so fast, it took off in a blur and landed in the nearest tree before they could even watch it fly. After a few minutes, the bird flew across the field to a taller tree. “She’s cutting just the way she is supposed to; that’s a good sign,” said Warnock.

The bird was a Merlin, a type of small migratory falcon, also known as a Pigeon Hawk.  Six months earlier, a good Samaritan had stopped and rescued the bird from the middle of a road north of Rogers Wayside and took it to the Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center near Salem. The Merlin had a fractured wing so they called the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital to ask if a surgeon was available to repair it.

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is often, ‘No’. The small animal hospital at OSU is generally limited to the treatment of cats and dogs, but Warnock is an orthopedic surgeon with a personal interest in raptor rehabilitation, and squeezes enough money out of her teaching fund to help about one bird a year. She uses that opportunity to give students with an interest in avian medicine an chance to observe the surgery. “It’s a great learning experience for them,” she says.

One of the missions of the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital is to use minimally invasive surgery whenever possible. Dr. Warnock repaired the Merlin’s fractured radius and ulna using fluoroscopy, a technique that uses images obtained during surgery via x-ray. Those images appear on a monitor that the surgeon watches as she operates. “We were able to stabilize the fracture without making incisions, which not only decreases postoperative pain,” says Warnock, “but also preserves bone blood supply, thus allowing comminuted fractures to heal.”

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Dr. Wendy Baltzer helps Henry move his weak leg on the underwater treadmill while student Giovanna Coto helps him stay upright.
Dr. Wendy Baltzer helps Henry move his weak leg on the underwater treadmill while student Giovanna Coto helps him stay upright.

Andy Michaels’ goat Henry is a bit of a couch potato. Although he shares a goat house next to the Michaels’ family home with his buddy, Chris, Henry rarely joins Chris on a stroll around the yard. “He is no athlete,” says Michaels. “He never climbs up on his house and he doesn’t walk about. He is more of a cuddler.”

Michaels’ fondness for the two goats is obvious, and they are definitely pets rather than livestock, so when Michaels found Henry laying on his side, unable to rise or stand on his own, he took the goat to the local veterinary emergency room.  There Henry was diagnosed with mild anemia and intestinal parasites, neither of which explained his lameness. Henry’s x-rays were normal so the veterinarian recommended Michaels take Henry to OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

When Henry arrived at OSU, large animal veterinarian Keith Poulsen ordered diagnostic tests, but it was a simple physical exam that gave him his first clue to Henry’s problem. Dr. Poulsen detected significant muscle atrophy in Henry’s legs. He suspected Henry was suffering from white muscle disease, so while he waited for the test results, he put Henry on vitamin supplements and a high protein diet.

White muscle disease is a degenerative muscle condition caused by deficiency in either selenium or Vitamin E. Selenium is a trace mineral found in soil and it plays a critical role in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism and muscle cell health. Most livestock producers in the Pacific Northwest know that Oregon soil contains very low amounts of selenium, so animals whose primary nutrition comes from pasture and locally grown hay or alfalfa need selenium supplements. But people who own a couple of goats or horses as pets are often not aware of the problem.

Before a pet owner considers adding selenium to an animal’s diet, they should check with their veterinarian. Most dog and cat food already contains selenium and too much selenium can be toxic.

Once Henry’s diagnosis of white muscle disease was confirmed, Dr. Poulsen ordered selenium supplements and a program of rehabilitation for nerve dysfunction and muscle weakness. This included acupuncture, range of motion exercises, physical therapy and walking on the underwater treadmill.

How hard is it to get a goat to walk on an underwater treadmill? Depends on the goat. Henry’s mellow personality made it a cake walk, so to speak. Fourth-year student Giovanna Coto was assigned to Henry’s care while he was in the hospital and quickly became attached to the affectionate, easy-going goat. “He’s a love,” she says.

Every other day, for the first week Henry was in the hospital, Coto loaded him onto to a wheeled platform for his journey through the large animal stalls, down the hallway to the treadmill. He required no straps or sedation, but quietly lay still for the entire ride. Once there, Coto sat with him, stroking his back and talking to him while he waited his turn for the rehab room.

At first, although supported by a sling, Henry had trouble moving his legs on the treadmill and required help. But within a week, he showed marked improvement in strength and coordination. By his eighth treadmill session, he was able to walk from his stall to the rehab room on his own, use the treadmill without help, and walk back to his stall.

Now home with his family, Henry is fully recovered with no residual lameness, but it might be hard to tell because he is back to his sedentary ways. The weeks on the OSU treadmill did not turn him into an exercise afficianado. “He still looks like a stuffed goat,” jokes Michaels,”but he can get around just fine.”

Watch video of Henry on the underwater treadmill.

Oregon State College of Veterinary MedicineWhat do you do when your back forty is covered in blackberries? You can spray herbicides (expensive and not environmentally friendly), you can hire a crew to chop them down (expensive and temporary), or you can get a goat.

Goats love to eat, and they really love the nasty stuff: blackberries, ivy, scotch broom. They’ll even eat poison oak.

That’s how Debbie Bales became a goat fan. “We bought a place with a pasture that was overrun with blackberries,” she says. “Someone wisely suggested we get a goat or two.”  Their first goat, Sweetie Pie, was a Boer, a breed known for their distinctive white body and red head, large size, and docile personality; perfect for a family pet that will do some yard work.

Sweetie Pie gave birth to Kahlua, and soon after, Bales bought Chewy and Bambi. They now have seven goats, half from what Bales refers to as the ‘sweetie’ line. “Sweetie, Kahlua, and her two daughters all exhibit the same affectionate, loving personality,” she says. “It is very comparable to a dog that likes to cuddle.”

Kahlua, whose nickname is Loo Loo, is especially friendly. “She is always the first to approach people and will stand with her head resting on your leg, begging for some petting.  She loves scratches on her top shoulders and she returns the favor by putting her nose in my face very gently, to let me know she likes me back.”

Kahlua’s close bond with Bales helped them both through a recent health crisis: Kahlua was diagnosed with breast cancer.

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Oregon State College of Veterinary MedicineWhen Thomas and Virginia Knott decided to get a family dog, they did their homework. First they made a list of qualities that fit their lifestyle: good with children, athletic and outdoorsy, easy to train, and a history of good health. Then they started attending dog shows and visiting breeders.

One day, they saw a breed that really impressed them: the Landseer European Continental Type. Sometimes confused with the Newfoundland Landseer, the Landseer ECT is taller, more athletic, and has shorter hair. The Knotts decided to investigate further.

They discovered that the breed is strictly controlled by the German Landseer Club, which restricts breeding to dogs who pass x-ray checks and other requirements. This has prevented Landseers from developing hip dysplasia and other joint issues associated with many large, purebred dogs.

The German Landseer Club showed the Knotts books of documentation on every dog that had been released for breeding, going all the way back to 1976. The Knotts were so impressed they bought their first Landseer, a male named Charlie.

In 2005, a job transfer took the Knott family to China, where they lived for several years. Then they settled in Seal Rock, Oregon and, at last, were able to follow their longtime dream of introducing Landseer dogs to the U.S.

In 2011, the Knotts brought a female Landseer named Ginger back from Germany, and soon Charlie was the father of eight puppies. Ginger had a difficult labor and, sadly, died during an emergency C-section. Her puppies survived and one had a black mark on her shoulder that looked like a flower. The Knotts named her Bluemchen, which means “little flower” in German.

Bluemchen grew into a confident, strong dog who loves swimming in the ocean. Soon she was ready to be a mother but the Knotts had a dilemma. There were no other Landseer males in the U.S., and taking Bluemchen all the way to Europe and back would have been an ordeal for her.

Then the Knotts heard about the artificial insemination program at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH). With approval from the German Landseer Club, VTH Dr. Hernan Montilla imported frozen semen from a certified Landseer in Belgium and soon Bluemchen was pregnant – with thirteen puppies!

On average, Landseers have six puppies, so the Knotts were concerned about Bluemchen, and when she went into premature labor, they decided to take her to the VTH for observation.

By the time Bluemchen arrived at the hospital, she was running a fever and was very uncomfortable. She delivered three puppies but no more. Dr. Montilla gave her IV fluids and pain killer, but when she still had not delivered the remaining puppies by the next day, he advised the Knotts that a C-section would be necessary.

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OSu College of Veterinary MedicineCold laser therapy is a noninvasive procedure that uses light to stimulate cell regeneration and increase blood circulation. Although it has been used in humans for decades, cold laser therapy is a relatively new treatment option for dogs and cats.

A laser is a beam of light that travels at a frequency high enough to generate heat and penetrate tissue; it can be an effective alternative to surgery or medication for certain problems like arthritis. “The laser helps to encourage repair of damaged or weak tissue and reduces inflammation,” says Sarah Smith, Certified Rehabilitation Practitioner at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “It is a good option for pets with arthritis, tendon or soft tissue injuries, or post-surgery pain and stiffness.”

At the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, laser therapy is just one of the tools used in the small animal rehabilitation unit. In the treatment room are colorful balls and toys, a row of pet swim-gear, a pet-sized swimming pool and an underwater treadmill. To one side is a big, cushy mat where Smith reclines with patients receiving laser therapy.

One of her regular patients is Levi, a 12-year-old Shepard mix. When Levi was 8 years old he was diagnosed with bone cancer and his left hind leg was amputated. Although dogs adapt to three legs fairly well, Levi’s age and arthritis made walking more of a challenge for him. “He had developed a pogo-stick hop,” says Smith. That method of movement was hard on his body so Dr. Wendy Baltzer prescribed a plan of rehabilitation to modify his walk.

“He spent several months on the underwater treadmill to encourage him into a rolling walk,” says Smith. Then he began laser therapy for the arthritis in his right hip. “It helps lubricate the cartilage,” says Smith, “and encourages scar tissue which helps pad his joint.”

Levi is very relaxed as Smith applies the laser wand to his hip. He has been receiving this treatment for several years and comes about once a month.

Each laser treatment takes 10 minutes or so and has no unwanted side effects. In fact, animals seem to enjoy the therapy. Results may not be immediate, but after a few treatments, the reduction in pain and increased mobility will usually last for several weeks.

Dr. Morrie Craig has translated his research into a plan for using sheep to clean contaminated soil.
Dr. Morrie Craig has translated his research on rumen bacteria into a plan for using sheep to clean up soil.

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991, and the ensuing Persian Gulf War, left behind half a million unexploded land mines. Today, Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams are still working to clear out those mines.

Less critical, but still a serious health concern, is the residue left from exploded ordnance. Soil across Kuwait is contaminated with TNT and other explosive compounds. If inhaled in dust, or ingested through ground water, TNT residue can cause dermatitis, kidney disease, anemia, and even cancer. Traditional soil cleaning methods like incineration are expensive and mar the environment. OSU Professor Morrie Craig has a better idea: Send out the sheep.

As a toxicologist in the College of Veterinary Medicine, Craig discovered that the multiple stomach chambers in a sheep contain bacteria that break down alkaloid toxins in plants. This makes it possible for them to eat all kinds of nasty weeds that make other animals sick.

When the U.S. military heard about his research, they suggested Craig test sheep bacteria on a synthetic alkaloid toxin: TNT. Used in the manufacture of bombs for the U.S. military since World War II, the military was looking for cost-effective ways to clean up TNT-contaminated sites in the U.S. and around the world.

In 2011, Craig and researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture fed sheep TNT for three weeks and found that it broke down in the sheep’s stomach so completely there was no trace of it in their feces. When coupled with Craig’s earlier research on the use of grasses to suck contaminants out of the soil, these new findings gave Craig a plan for bioremediation of explosives residue: Plant grass in contaminated areas then graze sheep on those fields.

CraigCamelAfter testing his plan on soil at a military base, Craig estimates a flock of 20 sheep can completely clear an acre of explosives residue in less than three years. Now he is working with the Kuwaiti government to help them adapt his discoveries to a plan that will work in their country. They are currently testing warm-season grasses for TNT uptake, and they are investigating the possibility of using camels as well as sheep. Funding for the projects comes from a tax on Iraqi oil as part of a United Nations settlement to compensate Kuwait for damage done by the Persian Gulf War.

In December, Dr. Craig will be the keynote speaker at an international seminar in Kuwait on The Environmental Impact of Explosive Remnants of War.