OperatingOmetepeOmetepe Island is a tropical jewel in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. It is largely undeveloped and reached only by a forty-minute ferry ride over notoriously rough water. The people of Ometepe have little money and rely on their animals for food and transportation, yet there is no resident veterinarian on the island. This means that many of the domestic animals suffer from disease and malnutrition.

Every year, for seven years in a row, the OSU student chapter of the International Veterinary Students Association (IVSA) has travelled to Ometepe to help.

OSU veterinary medicine students begin organizing their fall trek to Ometepe in the spring. They start early because it is a huge logistical endeavor to move dozens of volunteers, plus huge amounts of equipment and supplies, to an island 4,000 miles away. Laura Meadows is a second-year veterinary student who made her first trip to Nicaragua last fall. She was surprised by how well the complex project functioned. “We brought together students, faculty, staff, private-practice vets, and massive amounts of supplies and equipment, then transported everything and everybody via plane, bus, boat, taxi, and horse to a remote town on a small island in a third-world country. We had the trust of the community to bring their animals from miles away and we successfully treated over 300 animals. Then we cleaned up, packed all our things, and successfully got everything and everybody back home. Whew!”

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Bailey2
Bailey the boxer loves her underwater treadmill sessions.

Bailey is a high-energy dog. Fortunately, she lives with her family on a  farm where she can run alongside their four-wheelers and swim in a nearby river. Indoors, Bailey likes to walk on the treadmill. In fact, if she’s really anxious or excited, she will stand on the treadmill and call her owner, Keri Childers, to come turn it on.

One day last year, Bailey got stung by a bee and took off running. She hit a ditch full of tall grass and came out the other side limping. Childers took Bailey to her local vet who correctly diagnosed a torn ligament in her left rear stifle joint. Sometimes, partial tears can heal without surgery, but after several weeks with no improvement, Childers took Bailey to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital for TPLO surgery.

A dog’s stifle joint is similar to the human knee with one big difference: In a dog, the end of the tibia is sloped so the ligaments in the joint work hard to hold it in place. Once a ligament is completely torn, the tibia slides down the stifle joint causing tissue distress, joint wear, and pain. TPLO surgery removes the slope at the end of the tibia making it possible to stabilize the joint. At OSU, Dr. Wendy Baltzer performed the surgery on Bailey.

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Brandy_CilesHorseWhat does a small Quarterhorse from West Linn, Oregon have in common with celebrities like Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant? She got the same high-end, high-tech treatment for her joint injury as the big-name athletes. And she didn’t have to travel to Europe to get it.

Brandy was a gift to the Savoy family. Soon after her arrival, she became very ill with pneumonia. Still recovering from that, she severely injured her eye requiring more treatment and convalescence. But she bounced back quickly and suffered no long-term effects. “This was when I knew she was a fighter,” says Anne Savoy. “Her ability to deal with the extended and painful treatments at such a young age gave me some insight into her mind and her potential.”

The family was soon taking Brandy on camping and trail trips, and they were making plans to train her as an event horse for their daughter. “She has a great work ethic, is a thinker, and seems happier with more challenge,” says Savoy. “She is a horse that, given the chance to think things through, will do just about anything.  This is why the day of her injury is so bizarre.”

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EagleRecoveryThe OSU Small Animal Hospital treats cats and dogs only. They don’t treat birds. That is, unless a national symbol of freedom shows up.

In March, the Chintimini Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (CWC) north of Corvallis, received a badly injured bald eagle whose wing had suffered multiple fractures. Jeff Picton, CWC director, contacted OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital and orthopedic surgeon Jennifer Warnock agreed to do the delicate surgery.

Bird bones are radically different than dog and cat bones. “The avian humerus is pneumatic, meaning it is connected with the respiratory system making the bird lighter for flight and keeping them cool,” says Warnock. Her experience at UC Davis’ Avian Exotics Service and other wildlife medical services enabled her to tackle the tricky case. “Bird bone is particularly thin and brittle, making implant placement a delicate affair: pins placed in bird bone can easily strip out or further fracture the bone,” says Warnock.  Another concern in repairing the broken wing was putting it back together without shortening it so much that the eagle couldn’t fly well. They used a minimally invasive procedure to place an external metal fixator with nine pins through tiny incisions into the good bone.

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AMLCstudent-with-catWalk through the big glass doors at the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) in northeast Portland and you enter a stylish room with vaulted ceilings and polished floors. It feels like the lobby of a nice hotel until you look to the left and see the Robotic Cat Playroom. A glass-walled space full of cat toys that are wired to move, the playroom hosts groups of cats on a one-day trip to kitty Las Vegas. Behind the scenes, cat-lovers from around the country are using the internet to control the spinning neon fuzzy tails and bouncing doo-dads while watching the ensuing mayhem through a webcam.

The Robotic Cat Playroom is just one of the many impressive features at the OHS, which takes in nearly 1,000 animals every month. Almost one third of those come from other shelters on the west coast who do not have the resources to keep them.  With this many animals to save, it is astounding that the OHS has a 98% adoption rate. None of this would be possible without the work of more than a thousand volunteers who do everything from foster care to running with dogs.

Another piece of this highly successful animal welfare organization is the Animal Medical Learning Center (AMLC). Half the animals that arrive at OHS need spay or neuter surgery, and a significant number need medical care. The AMLC is a unique partnership between Oregon State University and the OHS. In it’s high-tech surgery suite, fourth-year students from the College of Veterinary Medicine complete a two-week rotation as part of their graduation requirement. These extra pairs of hands help the shelter treat and heal pets faster, and reduce the average animal’s stay by 20 percent. It is also an invaluable real-world experience for the students.

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llamaThere is more to llamas than long eyelashes and a smug expression. They are surprisingly smart, friendly, and quirky.

Five interesting facts about llamas:

  1. Llamas make excellent guards for herds of small animals. They are very social and will ‘adopt’ a group of sheep or goats as their own herd. Then they will protect the herd by chasing off coyotes and other predators.
  2. Llamas are smart. They can distinguish between the neighbor’s dog and a predatory coyote.
  3. Llamas are the camel’s hippie cousins. They belong to a group of animals called camelids that also includes alpacas. All camelids spit or stick out their tongue when they are annoyed.
  4. One of the ways llamas communicate is by humming.
  5. Llamas are diabetic — sort of. The OSU College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is using their herd of 30 llamas and alpacas to study how certain hormones affect blood sugar. Because the metabolism of llamas is very similar to that of a human diabetic, the results of this research may provide insight into human diabetes treatment.

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OldDogPacemakers made for humans are adding years to dog’s lives thanks to an ingenious non-profit agency founded by OSU Professor David Sisson. Unsold human pacemakers that are past their shelf date and due to be thrown out can now be used in dogs. The Animal Companion Pacemaker Registry provides a clearing house for pacemaker manufacturers to donate the devices. Veterinary cardiologists can go to the registry’s website and order them online.

There are strict rules about how long pacemaker manufacturers can keep a unit sitting on the shelf; the lithium batteries eventually wear out and pacemakers in people often need to last for decades. But when you put a pacemaker in a 11-year old dog, it is okay if the battery dies in ten years.

The medical devices are often implanted to speed up a slow heart rate in dogs with disorders such as heart block and sick sinus syndrome. A donated pacemaker from the registry costs about $500 compared to $5,000 or more for a brand new one.

Sisson, who is head of the cardiology department at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, says several thousand dogs have gotten the lifesaving implants over the past two decades.

 

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