Veterinary cardiologist Dr. Nicole LeBlanc and her patient.
Veterinary cardiologist Dr. Nicole LeBlanc and her patient.

What would you name a cute, little, white ferret? Snowball? Fluffy? How about Satan?

Satan’s owners chose his name because, when they rescued him and took him home, he was so happy he ran around in circles like he was possessed.

Crystal and Stephanie Belikoff adopted Satan after he was removed from the home of an animal hoarder. “We knew nothing about ferrets,” says Stephanie Belikoff, “but we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to increase our household by one, and add a new species to the list.”

The little ferret settled into four years of a happy new life, until one day Belikoff found him collapsed and unresponsive in his romping room. She raced him to the nearest exotic animal veterinarian, who ran tests and discovered a rhythm problem with Satan’s heart. His diagnosis was complete atrioventricular block, a condition in which the electrical signals within the heart are blocked and prevent normal contraction. The veterinarian offered medication to help ease the pain, but the prognosis for the little ferret’s future was not good.

After doing some internet research, Belikoff discovered that humans with a complete atrioventricular block are often cured with the implantation of a pacemaker. “So I asked the crazy question: Can we do this with my little guy?” Her veterinarian referred her to the cardiology unit at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH).

The cardiology team at OSU, led by Dr. Nicole LeBlanc, included resident doctors, interns, veterinary technicians who focus on cardiology, and fourth-year students from the College of Veterinary Medicine. After testing and evaluating Satan, the team confirmed the diagnosis of a third-degree block, but they also discovered problems with Satan’s heart valves, which added some risk. In consultation with the Belikoffs, the team decided that a pacemaker was a viable option for improving his symptoms, and possibly extending his life.

The soft-tissue surgery team at OSU has extensive experience placing pacemakers in dogs and cats, but this was their first ferret. Where do you get a pacemaker for a ferret? Dr. Milan Milovancev has done many different kinds of surgeries on ferrets, and felt confident that the pacemaker they routinely use for cats would also be good for Satan.

Xray shows the pacemaker implanted in Satan.
Xray shows the pacemaker implanted in Satan.

“The surgery went very smoothly,” says Milovancev, “largely because the same principles I use to insert pacemakers in other animals also applied to this ferret; and I was familiar with the surgical aspects that were ferret-specific.” Milovancev was also able to rely on the expertise of the OSU veterinary anesthesia service which is adept at safely monitoring all kinds of species undergoing surgery. “It allows me to focus on the surgery and know the patient is safe,” he says.

As soon as the pacemaker was implanted, Satan’s heart started beating normally, and his blood pressure stabilized. He spent several days recovering in the hospital ICU, while the cardiology team fine-tuned his pacemaker via remote control. At the end of the week, Satan was able to go home.

Satan will have to take medication for his enlarged heart, and periodically return to the hospital for a tune-up. “Every six months, we check the battery with a pacemaker programmer that wirelessly reads data from the device through the skin,” says Dr. LeBlanc.

The Belikoffs report that Satan is doing well, and enjoys most of the usual ferret past times. “He is a surgical pioneer,” says Belikoff. “We went to OSU not only because they had previous experience with pacemakers, but also because Satan was able to be a hands-on learning tool. Hopefully, his ordeal will help shape a future veterinary cardiologist.”

KelseyTake a look inside the OSU College of  Veterinary Medicine with student Kelsey Scanlan.


Every year, the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine receives over 800 applications for fifty-six open slots in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. That means our students are the best and the brightest: They are selected not just for their grades and test scores, but also for their passion and dedication to the veterinary profession. Kelsey Scanlan is one of those students.

In her third year at OSU, Scanlan is still excited about veterinary medicine despite the hard work, long hours, and overwhelming cost of her education.

On a non-test day, Scanlan arrives at Magruder Hall for her first class at eight in the morning.  “If it is a test day, I usually show up between five a.m. and six a.m.,” she says. As a third-year student, she is also assigned patients to monitor. “I may have to go in at 7 a.m. to check on a patient, and if I have surgery that day, I’ll be here until 7 p.m. or later,” she says. Then she still needs to study.

Around Magruder, you’ll often see a T-shirt that states: ‘Real doctors treat more than one species.’ Human doctors may argue that point, but certainly it is true that veterinary students are required to memorize a massive and diverse amount of information: The cranial tibial muscle is superficial in a dog, but deep in a large animal; some animals get antibodies from their mother through the placenta, others get it from mother’s milk; the same drug can work differently in dogs than in cats; and so on. Veterinary students get tested on all of it.

“I came in from undergrad thinking, ‘I’m going to do fine because I know how to study, but this is a whole new ball game,” says Scanlan. “By the second week, when I had a stack of 400 flash cards, I knew this wasn’t going to work,” she laughs.

Now Scanlan studies with her good friend Kelsey Anderson. “We go through our outlines, then quiz each other on important points. We like to sit in coffee shops around town; I like to hear the music and laughter . . . it’s nice to know that life is going on around us.” That is important when you spend all day in classes and labs, study until ten or eleven every night, then study some more on Saturday and Sunday.

But Scanlan is not complaining; far from it.

“It’s amazing,” she says. “It can be stressful, so sometimes you forget how lucky we are to be here. It sounds corny, but every day when I walk into this building, I know that the stress is good because it means I am in a graduate program where I get to help people and animals in a job that millions of people would love to do.”

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Fourth-year veterinary student, Jennifer Moore, was assigned to care for Wombat during his stay at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Fourth-year veterinary student, Jennifer Moore, was assigned to care for Wombat during his stay at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

If you want to see living proof that pit bulls can be sweet, gentle dogs, you just have to meet Wombat. Despite a very rough start in life, including bad owners and painful ear infections, he greets everyone, dog or human, with a happy face and wagging tail.

When Wombat was young, his ears were mutilated in a botched, at-home, ear cropping attempt. The resulting damage to his ear canals left him with constant infections and significant hearing loss. Then he ended up in a Los Angeles animal shelter. Because pit bulls are euthanized at a much greater rate than other breeds, his hopes of survival were slim.

Lucky for Wombat, a guardian angel from Oregon came to his rescue.

Liesl Wilhardt is the executive director and founder of Luvable Dog Rescue, a Eugene organization dedicated to re-homing exceptional, loving dogs rescued from high-kill shelters. “I was so moved by his story, I started working to get him transferred to my shelter,” she says. “He was a victim of cruelty and ignorance, who has remained gentle, patient, and trusting with every human who has befriended and cared for him. I love this dog so much.”

Once Wombat was settled in Eugene, Wilhardt took him to Edgewood Animal Clinic where Dr. Jason Kimball quickly realized that the only way to control his rampant ear infections was through a total ear canal ablation and bulla osteotomy (TECO-BO) in both ears.

The delicate, complex surgery removes damaged ear canals, and diseased tissue in the middle ears. It requires an experienced veterinary surgeon and Wilhardt knew just where to go. “From working with OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) in the past, I knew the surgeons, residents, and students could provide Wombat with the exceptional care he would need,” she says.

She also knew the cost of the surgery would be a challenge, so she asked one of her volunteers, U of O student Claire Colby, to help create a video of Wombat’s story. The video was posted on You Tube and Go Fund Me, and raised most of the money needed.

Dr. Katy Townsend is a board-certified, soft tissue surgeon at the VTH. She agreed to perform the challenging surgery. “Due to the high risk of complication with this surgery, we decided to do one ear at a time,” she says.

Pre-surgery: Wombat's ears were chronically infected due to a botched home ear-cropping.
Pre-surgery: Wombat’s ears were chronically infected due to a botched home ear-cropping.

In April, Liesl brought Wombat to the hospital for his first surgery. She also brought his best buddy, Pika, for moral support. Third-year student Jennifer Kelsey assisted with Wombat’s intake exam: “I was not expecting his ears to be so bad,” she says. “I had never seen ears so calcified. He must have been in extreme pain, but he still greeted us, wagging his tail, with lots of kisses.”

Throughout his stay in the hospital, fourth-year student Jennifer Moore was assigned to his case, and responsible for his care. “I was essentially his advocate, and spent a lot of time making sure he was comfortable and healthy,” she says. It was a great learning experience for her. “I was so excited to be a part of the process; seeing a TECA-BO was on my bucket list of procedures to observe.” she says.

Although the surgery went well, and Wombat was able to go home, he developed an abscess that spread to his salivary gland, requiring further surgery. “We did not raise enough money to cover this,” says Wilhardt, “so I’m hoping people will read your story and help us again.”

In May, Wombat was able to have his left ear repaired and, so far, has had no complications. Wilhardt now has the challenging job of keeping him quiet so he can heal. “He can’t play with Pika for two weeks,” she says. “I have been applying ice packs to both sides of his face several times a day. He is very good about sitting still while I do this; in fact, he usually falls asleep.”

Post surgery: Wombat and Pika with fourth-year student Lisa Onstott, surgery resident Jesse Terry, and Liesl Wilhardt, director of Luvable Pet Rescue.
Post surgery: Wombat and Pika with fourth-year student Lisa Onstott, surgery resident Jesse Terry, and Liesl Wilhardt, director of Luvable Pet Rescue.

Wombat’s hearing was minimal before surgery, but now seems to be entirely gone. “He is adjusting to a world with no sound,” says Wilhardt. “But the good news is that he is more comfortable than I have ever seen him. I’m sure it’s the first time in his life that he has not been in pain.”

All Wombat’s caregivers credit his successful recovery to his remarkable personality. “To overcome such an invasive process as quickly as he did, he had to have a very positive personality,” says Moore. “He was the best patient I could have asked for in any situation.”

“Wombat has an unconquerable spirit,” says Wilhardt. “He is young and happy, and as soon as he heals, he should be able to have a long, enjoyable life.”


You can help Luvable Dog Rescue pay for Wombat’s surgery on his Go Fund Me website.


Binnie_farmWith the increased popularity of urban farming, people are discovering goats, and are charmed by their dog-like qualities. But goats are herd animals, so you can’t keep just one; a lone goat is sad, insecure, and loud.

Goats also require plenty of care (at least an hour a day for dairy goats), and are not cost-free. They need a sturdy enclosure, quality feed in the winter, and routine veterinary care including booster shots, worming, and hoof maintenance.

Susan Ragan has always loved animals, but she couldn’t have any when she was living and working as a photojournalist in New York City. “I moved to Oregon so I could have all the animals I wanted,” she says, “Now I have forty, if you count the chickens.” Fourteen of those are goats. “I fell in love with goats when I had the first kids,” she says. “They are so nutty and take wonderful photographs.”

Ragan’s favorite goat is a five year-old Nubian doe named Binnie. “She is the sweetest goat and a wonderful mother,” says Susan. “The funny part is: she is the daughter of the most ill-tempered goat I have ever known.”

In April, Binnie was pregnant with four kids and not doing well; she was lethargic and not eating, so her veterinarian induced birth and delivered the baby goats successfully. However, immediately following birth, Binnie became progressively weaker and could not stand to nurse her kids. Ragan was referred to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital where they ran tests and diagnosed toxemia and dehydration.

Toxemia is common in pregnant goats when they do not take in enough nutrition to support themselves and their babies. Because there is an urgent need for calories, the goat starts breaking down her own body’s fat reserves. “Pregnancy toxemia is a metabolic disease that typically occurs in the last weeks of pregnancy,” says Dr. Trina Westerman. “It is caused by a negative energy balance in does that are not able to keep up with the increased energy demands of pregnancy.  Does at higher risk of pregnancy toxemia are often carrying multiple fetuses, may be underweight, overweight, or have another illness while pregnant.”

The breakdown of body fat in the doe causes a build-up of ketones in the blood and can be fatal. “She was dying,” says Ragan. “OSU saved her.”

Dr. Westerman treated Binnie with IV glucose, electrolytes, and vitamins. She also treated her for parasites. The newborn kids were habituated to bottle feeding, and removed from Binnie’s pen to decrease the energy drain on her. That’s when fourth-year students, on clinical rotation in the hospital, came in handy. Two kids were assigned to Kristen Hinatsu, and two were assigned to Holly Dion. “Although the kids were adorable, they are a ton of work!” says Hinatsu. “Every day they were weighed, and from that weight, we calculated their daily milk intake. We divided this amount into 12 bottle feedings per day. This meant that every 2 hours, we would measure out a certain number of milliliters of goat milk, warm it, and feed it to each of the four kids.”

While in the hospital, the four kids slept huddled together next to the fence separating them from their mother. “Binnie missed snuggling with them and regularly greeted them over the top of the fence,” says Hinatsu. “She also bleated loudly whenever we took one out to be weighed.”

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Endo proudly displays the ribbons he won for equitation at the State Fair.
Endo proudly displays the ribbons he won for equitation at the State Fair.

When Morgan Wagner was thirteen years old, her grandmother gave her a beautiful Appaloosa colt named Endo. Together they learned to ride and work as a team. In 2005, Morgan was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Lupus. Over the next few years, her life was turned upside down. “Normal dreams like building a career and family were gone,” she says. “Endo was always there for me. He was my reason to keep going.”

In 2010, Morgan noticed a cloudiness in Endo’s left eye and took him to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. There, Dr. Jacob Mecham diagnosed Equine Recurring Uveitis (ERU), also known as Moon Blindness. ERU is a chronic, recurring inflammation of the uveal tract of the eye. Although there is minimal research on ERU, it is thought to be an auto-immune disorder, and seems to be more common in Appaloosas. The severity and timing of recurrences can vary.

Dr. Mecham treated Endo with topical anti-inflammatory and pain medication, and the condition resolved in ten days. Unfortunately, several months later, Endo was back in the hospital with uveitis in his right eye, and the disease became progressively worse.

Dr. Mecham prescribed daily doses of pills to control the painful inflammation in Endo’s eyes, but they affected his appetite. “When Endo heard the sound of the pill bottle, he would put his head in the corner of his stall,” says Morgan.

Unable to take medication, and with his pain increasing, Morgan and Dr. Mecham decided to remove Endo’s inflamed eyes. It was a tough decision, but it turned out to be the right one. “He was there for my struggle with accepting and learning to work with my own disability. I was going to help him through his struggle,” says Morgan.

At first he had a hard time adapting. “The hardest thing for him was maintaining his balance. Without his eyes he was unable to see light and dark. We learned there is a huge difference between blind with eyes, and without them. We spent months working on large circles at a walk, then gradually increased the difficulty until he was able to canter small circles,” says Morgan.

Fortunately, Endo is a very smart horse and began to compensate in other ways. “He figured out on his own that the dirt around trees, fence posts, and the arena walls is on an slight incline; he uses that to guide him around the property,” says Morgan.

Endo also has a very good memory. “If I touch his nose to something, he remembers where it is. When we travel for shows, I use the halter to guide his nose along the walls to learn the dimension of his new stall,” says Morgan.

With time, Endo was able to resume some of his favorite activities, like hanging out in the pasture with his buddy, Cinnamon, and riding with Morgan. Amazingly, Endo has little trouble navigating around the farm, including following the road around the buildings. Because he relies on his smell and hearing, there are two things that make him nervous: very loud, continuous noise like a tractor and snow. “The tractor interferes with his hearing,” says Morgan, “and the snow deadens smells.”

Surprisingly, Morgan has also been able to retrain Endo to navigate trail courses, and even jumps, with verbal cues. In 2014, Morgan and Endo stunned the audience at the Northwest Horse Expo All Breed Challenge with their ability to fly through an obstacle course. Later that year, they also competed at the Las Vegas Andalusian World Cup in Working Equitation classes. Morgan’s fees for those events were partially covered by friends of Endo who contributed to a Go Fund Me campaign.

“Endo is amazing,” says Dr. Mecham. “The trust he has for Morgan, that allows him to jump blind, is incredible.”

Morgan just says: “He is a very special horse.”

You can view a video of Endo, coming down the road to Morgan’s call, on Endo’s Facebook page.