Ometepe 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!”
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.
What 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.”
The 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.