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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Sporadic, Unaccountable Bruising Diagnosed As Auto-Immune Disorder

July 17th, 2015
Fourth-year students exam Max for signs of bruising.

Fourth-year students examine Max for signs of bruising.

Max is a twelve-pound bundle of white fluff. He shares a house with his owner Kathy Sisson, her daughter and grandson, two human friends, two rabbits, one mouse, one guinea pig, two dogs, and three cats. Needless to say, he gets along with all kinds of people and animals. “He is a happy-go-lucky little guy,” says Sisson.

Sisson became disabled three years ago and relies on her family to help her get around. “Max is my constant companion and best friend,” she says.

Because she is on a tight budget, Sisson was very worried when Max began to develop unaccountable, random bruising. She took him to a free clinic, organized by veterinary students in the Shelter Medicine Club, where the volunteer veterinarian suspected Max had a blood clotting issue and referred her to OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH).

Sisson was happy that the experts at OSU were close to home, but she was concerned about the cost. The clinic veterinarian told her about the Olive Britt Hope Fund.

Endowed by OSU alumna Olive K. Britt, the Hope Fund was created to provide assistance to pets of low-income owners who need life-saving treatment. The demand on the fund is greater than the income provided by the endowment, so many generous friends of the college donate to it every year. In addition, veterinary students often hold events like Ride the Heart of the Valley to raise money for the fund.

Sisson called the VTH and verified that a portion of her costs could be covered by the Hope Fund. She and her grandson brought Max in to see resident Dr. Rhonda Holt, who observed bruising on his ventral abdomen and thorax. Dr. Holt ordered complete blood tests and discovered a severe thrombocytopenia (decreased platelet number) of 25,000 g/ul, but a normal coagulation profile. Holt consulted with Dr. Craig Ruaux and they concluded that Max had immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, a serious auto-immune condition in which a dog’s body attacks its own blood platelets.

Dr. Holt prescribed two immunosuppresants, prednisone and azathioprine, as well a gastroprotectant omeprazole. On his two-week check up, Max showed marked improvement with normal platelet levels.

Commonly this condition responds well to treatment, and many dogs can eventually be weaned off medication. “The medications are necessary to stop his platelets from being destroyed by his body,” says Holt. “Keeping that in mind, we must be very cautious as we taper the dosage of his immune suppressive medications, and continue to monitor his platelet count closely.”

Max is doing well and Sisson is grateful to OSU for saving her best friend. “I don’t know what I would do without him,” she says.


Llamas Are The Life Of The Party At Wild View Acre

July 17th, 2015

Zeke helps celebrate the birth of a new cria.

If you chat with a random selection of people who work at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, you will find that most of them like animals – not a big surprise. Even the staff who don’t work with animals – accountants, clerical support, lab technicians, etc. – often own one or two pets.

Then there are the folks like Jill Pfaff. A microbiologist in the bacteriology section of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Jill owns lots of animals, including 6 llamas, and is obviously very devoted to her furry family. Technically, the llamas are hairy, not furry, but they are a big part of her life.

Jill grew up on Wild Bunch Ranch in southern Oregon where her family raised cattle, horses and pigs, and were very active in 4-H. She now volunteers, along with her partner Matt Gholden, as a 4-H leader with the Benton County Lucky Longneck Llama club. This keeps her and the llamas very busy participating in parades, competitions, and other events, including OSU Pet Day.

One of Jill’s favorite llamas, Zeke, recently marched in the Corvallis Christmas Parade. He also joined ten 4-H kids and their leaders at Pet Day, where they are a very popular attraction, and patiently put up with a whole day of being petted by city folks.

Zeke is a wily and curious llama, so Jill has another fun activity to keep him busy: “My goal for Zeke was to produce an animal with good conformation and personality that I could socialize from the beginning of his life, and train him to compete in llama carting obstacle-course competitions,” she says. “Believe it or not, there are two national llama and alpaca organizations (ILR and ALSA) that have competitions across the country.”

Lil' Zeke

Lil’ Zeke

As a long-time employee of the college, Jill supports its mission in many ways. She has volunteered at the International Camelid Medicine Conference, held every other year in Corvallis. She also made an unusual but important contribution to student training. “We had to euthanize one of the llamas who had an unfixable tooth abscess that had deformed her jaw. We donated Marilyn to the vet school where they use her jaw in anatomy lab,” says Pfaff.

Jill recently welcomed a new llama to the family at Wild View Acre. His name is Wild View’s Lil’ Zeke, and the whole gang held a birthday party in his honor.

New Test Developed for Carcinogenic PAH

July 9th, 2015


Vet Med Associate Professor Christiane Lohr, and a team of researchers from the OSU Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, have developed a faster, more accurate method to assess cancer risk from exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

PAHs are molecules found in fossil fuels and are produced when insufficient oxygen or other factors result in incomplete combustion of organic matter (e.g. engines and incinerators). PAHs can also be found at high levels in meat cooked at high temperatures over open flame. PAHs have been identified as carcinogenic and are considered a concern for the potency of potential adverse health impacts.

The results of the PAH study were recently published in the Journal of Toxicological Sciences and was also highlighted in the current issue of NIEHS Environmental Factor.

People are primarily exposed to PAHs in the form of mixtures, and this proof-of-concept study demonstrated a first step toward moving away from risk assessments based on individual components of PAH mixtures, to using methods that examine the whole mixture.

To determine the carcinogenic risk of PAH mixtures, the researchers measured the chemical bioactivity profile in skin cells of mice just after short-term PAH exposure. The bioactivity profile, which provides a unique fingerprint of genes and pathways activated by chemicals after exposure, can be used for predicting long-term consequences such as cancer. They tested PAH mixtures found in coal tar, diesel exhaust, and cigarette smoke. After only 12 hours, the researchers could predict the ability of certain PAH mixtures to cause cancer. Other methods take months for tumors to develop.

Although the method needs further testing, the findings demonstrate that long-term cancer outcome for PAH mixtures can be predicted by evaluating bioactivity after short-term exposure. Since the bioactivity profile provides gene signatures that are tied to chemical mechanisms of action, this information could also provide insight into alternate mechanisms of PAH carcinogenesis and related mechanisms for complex mixtures.



Growing Up Around Dryden: Memories of A Vet Med Daughter

June 24th, 2015
Dr. Kermit Peterson was instrumental in growing the Department of Veterinary Medicine into a College.

Dr. Kermit Peterson was instrumental in growing the Department of Veterinary Medicine into a College of Veterinary Medicine.

In 1959, when Dr. Kermit Peterson accepted a faculty position in veterinary medicine at OSU, he moved his family from Salem to a small acreage on the northern edge of Corvallis. At that time, the Department of Veterinary Medicine was part of the School of Agriculture.

In addition to teaching and research, Dr. Peterson was also the veterinarian for the OSU dairy herd and his daughter, Patsy Smith, liked to tag along on his visits to the barn on Harrison Boulevard. “I went on calls with him on Saturdays and, in the summer, I would often go with him in the middle of the night,” she says. “I grew up in that big, old barn; it was fabulous. It had a huge haymow with gorgeous hardwood floors. It was really fun to go up there and play.”

OSU dairy barn (circa 1939) was located off Harrison Blvd. near the site of the current dairy barn. It burned in 1967.

OSU dairy barn (circa 1939) was located off Harrison Blvd. near the site of the current dairy barn. It burned in 1967.

That dairy barn, built in 1937 as a depression-era WPA project, caught fire in 1967 and Smith watched it burn from her kitchen window. “Our view looked out over the barn. It was dark, and when we looked out the kitchen window and saw the flames, my dad realized what it was, and jumped in his truck to drive down there. I don’t remember if they got all the animals out.”

As an undergrad at OSU, Smith worked in the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. At that time, it was housed in the small cement building south of Dryden, now the Veterinary Research Laboratory. “It used to have a big incinerator out back where they burned all the carcasses,” she says. “Farmers would bring them for testing; mostly it was lots of chickens. It was a very stinky place to work.” She also remembers that Dr. Donald Helfer, a professor of veterinary medicine who was the poultry science expert, treated wild birds in the Dryden barn. “He was the only person around here who treated wild birds, so people brought them in to him. He kept owls in the haymow; that’s where he treated them. He had a Great Horned Owl he got as a chick and kept as a pet; his name was Socrates. He loved women with long hair, and would sit on your shoulder and comb your hair with his beak.”

After graduating from OSU with a degree in virology, Smith worked as a tech in the laboratory of professor Donald Mattson. This was in the late 1970s and Smith remembers the ‘can-do’ spirit of the faculty. “Dr. Mattson would go to the slaughter house and get calf organs and blood. He’d come back in his little car with buckets of blood, and we’d have to spin it all down. Now you just order all that stuff.” They also reused all their plastic labware. “He built a box with UV lights in it, and we washed all our plastic plates and everything, then sterilized them in the box and reused them. You would never do that now, but it worked fine.” Dr. Mattson also built all the tissue culture hoods out of plywood in his garage. “He was a great guy; quite the handyman.”

Her dad, Dr. Peterson, was also a practical problem solver. The Department of Veterinary Medicine was on the second and third floors of Dryden, and he was concerned about the wooden stairwell. “He took one look at it and said, ‘If there was a fire, we’d never get out of here’,” says Smith. “We had these big heavy ropes for tying horses; he tied one to the steam radiator in the lab, and tied knots in it. It was right by the window so the idea was, in the case of fire, you could shinny down it. That rope was still there when I left in 1981.”

Dr. Peterson was a professor from 1959-1977. In 1975, the Oregon Legislature established the School of Veterinary Medicine with Dr. E.E. Wedman as the first Dean. Dr. Peterson was the Assistant Dean. “He was very involved in the inception of the vet school,” says Smith. “He really wanted a veterinary school here and worked hard to support it. He was involved in hiring Dr. Wedman. Later he was very active in establishing the WICHE program.”

Dr. Peterson’s first love was teaching, and in addition to his other duties, he always taught classes. “I remember him home at night, preparing for the next day’s lecture,” says Smith. “He was also a 4-H leader and was great with kids. He took all the kids to horse shows and on horse camping trips. Friends from grade school tell me how influential my parents were in their lives.”

Dr. Peterson’s wife, Mildred shared his love of kids and animals, and was very proud of her husband’s accomplishments. She saved all the newspaper clippings, photos and memorabilia from his OSU career; many of these have now been scanned and added to the OSU archives.

In her will, Mildred Peterson left a contribution to the scholarship fund at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. “My mom had such a passion for what my dad did, and was so proud of what he had done in his life. My sister and I talked about it, and decided to build on her contribution to create a scholarship in perpetuity.” The generous donations of the three women have now become the Kermit and Mildred Peterson Scholarship which is awarded to a veterinary student each year.

“I’m really proud to be able to do something in their name, because he was so passionate about veterinary education, and starting a veterinary school,” says Smith. “He really wanted that for Oregon and it’s so great that it now exists.”

Dr. Peterson's research was focused on dairy cattle.

Dr. Peterson’s research was focused on dairy cattle.

Dogs Benefit From Radiation Shielding

June 12th, 2015

Nemanic-coverProtective lead shielding of patients is not routinely used in veterinary radiology. The probable reason: A general belief that because the dosage of radiation received during routine radiographs is small, the timeline for the possible development of related cancer would exceed the lifespan of the animal.

However, in a recent study published in the May 2015 issue of Veterinary Record, Dr. Sarah Nemanic, Assistant Professor of Radiology at OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, notes that there is evidence that species with shorter lifespans may take less time than humans to develop radiation-induced cancer from high-energy radiation sources (Raabe, Health Physics, 2010, 2011). If the effects of lower energy x-rays are similar, then dogs may develop cancer faster than humans.

“Reducing the amount of radiation exposure to veterinary patients may be important to reduce the risk of carcinogenesis over their lifetime, especially in dog breeds with an increased risk of neoplasia,” says Dr. Nemanic.

The study, conducted at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, measured the effect of protective shielding on the dosage of radiation, as detected by dosimeters during 54 radiographic visits in an ongoing elbow development study of dogs. The goal was to determine if the use of lead aprons and thyroid shields on the bodies and eyes of the dogs would significantly reduce the dose of scatter and tube leakage radiation.

Scatter radiation is low energy radiation that results when the x-rays of the primary beam interact with matter and are deflected in an unpredictable direction. Tube leakage radiation comes through the shielding and housing around the source assembly.NemanicChart

The results of the study indicated that use of protective shielding significantly decreased the dose of scatter and tube leakage radiation to dogs, with the greatest protective effect at the head (see chart).

Because companion animals are so highly valued by their owners, Dr. Nemanic advocates for a level of radiation safety that is similar to human medicine. “Reducing radiation exposure to individual veterinary patients through all means reasonably achievable is a worth-while goal,” she says. “Even though the risk of cancer to veterinary patients from routine radiographs is low, it is reasonable to try to decrease it further through the use of shielding with readily available radiation safety equipment.”

Read the paper: “Decreased dose of radiation to dogs during acquisition of elbow radiographs using draped shielding.”

Shared Love Of Draft Horses Creates New Friendship

June 12th, 2015
Jerry Andres takes Daniel Hansen on a tour of the Sisters View ranch, Clydesdale-style.

Jerry Andres takes Daniel Hansen on a tour
of the Sisters View ranch, Clydesdale-style.

Last week Daniel Hansen, Class of 2018, helped Jerry Andres hitch a couple of Clydesdales to a wagon, and took a tour of the beautiful Sisters View ranch near Redmond, Oregon.

Hansen and Andres had met the previous month at the CVM Awards Ceremony, where Andres and his wife, Jinny, happily presented Hansen with the Andres Family Scholarship. They also invited him to visit their ranch.

Jerry and Jinny Andres raise world-class black Clydesdale horses, and for many years were active in fairs and parades across the Northwest. They often competed with their horses in driving competitions, from single-horse carts to eight-horse hitches. The Andres Family Scholarship was created in appreciation of the veterinary care their horses have received over the years, and designed it to assist veterinary students interested in large animal medicine and rural practice. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to go and personally express a deep sense of gratitude that I have for the Andres family, in a way that is more profound than just saying, ‘Thanks’,” says Hansen.

After arriving at the ranch, Hansen realized the Andres’ shared his passion for draft horses. “Helping them get their big 18-hand Clydesdales out, brushing them, harnessing them, and hitching them up was the perfect way to say ‘Thank you’. They are getting older and don’t hitch up the horses as often, so it was a real treat for both of us.”

Hansen and the Andres family really hit it off, and Hansen has a standing invitation to bring his family out to the ranch for a visit. “Experiences like these remind me why I want to become a veterinarian,” says Hansen.  “I want to associate with, and work for, good, hard-working individuals like them.  They inspire me with their example.”

It is not uncommon for scholarship donors to become friends with their student recipients (see related story in the Animal Connection newsletter). “The college offers scholarship donors the opportunity to connect with the students, and sometimes they develop lasting friendships,” says CVM Development Director Kelley Marchbanks. “It’s one of the nicest things that happens here.”

With the average cost of a veterinary education exceeding $150,000, scholarships are critical to alleviating some of the debt burden under which many students graduate. “Their contribution to my education will not only help reduce my debt load,” says Hansen, “but also it will inspire me to work a little harder, and study a little harder. I feel like they have become part of my education in a special way.”