It’s a beautiful, sunny morning at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, as a small group of students set up twenty-seven portable canopies along the road leading to the horse arena. In the nearby pasture, another group of students is unloading baby goats, rabbits, and miniature horses into a newly-built petting zoo; and under a huge heritage oak tree, the pet costume contest committee is creating a runway in the grass. It’s the thirty-third annual Pet Day at OSU, and down the road a group of Girl Scouts from Troop 20519 are helping Cera Reusser set up a booth to chase away canine cancer.

Troop 20519 has volunteered at Pet Day since they were seven-year old Daisy Scouts. It is part of their service project where, under the guidance of troop leader Aaron Marchbanks, they explore their community, choose a topic, and work together to make the world a better place. One of the most important elements in the service project is that it is entirely determined by them.

The Bronze award is the highest honor Girl Scout Juniors can earn. The service project is a big part of that endeavor. “When it came time to choose a service project, animal health and welfare was a top contender. They had spent years visiting the booths at Pet Day learning about everything from herpetology to biomedical research,” says Marchbanks.

Several of the troop members had also seen the Xtreme Air Dogs dock demonstration at an OSU pre-football game. The star of that competition was Olie, an impressive black lab who lost his mother to canine cancer. The girls met Olie’s owner, Cera Reusser, founder of Chase Away K9 Cancer, and learned how the organization works to raise awareness and funds to support cancer research for dogs. They now had a partner for their next Pet Day activity.

Reusser has worked with the oncology service at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital to develop and distribute materials to help owners check, identify, and treat early signs of cancer. Partnering with the Girl Scouts at Pet Day was another way to get the message out.

Troop 20519 brain-stormed ideas for engaging the public at Pet Day and decided to sign up for a booth and provide a pet salon. The big idea: While pets were being spruced up, their owners could learn about early detection of cancer, and possibly make a donation to cancer research.

The troop video-conferenced with Reusser several times to learn as much as they could about Chase Away K9 Cancer. Then, for six months, they researched safe and effective pet salon services, including hair dye, hair chalk, nail polish, brushes, bows, and the safe handling of all different kinds of pets. They also made promotional posters advising owners to regularly check their pets for cancer. Finally, the big day arrived.

Reusser, Marchbanks and the girls set up the pet salon and information booth and got to work! While Reusser answered questions about the best way to check an animal for lumps, the troop beautified over 100 pets including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, a goat and, the favorite, a ferret. “It was so much fun to watch the Girl Scouts in action, helping to spread canine cancer awareness while making the pups that came by happy in their Girl Scout Dog Spa,” says Reusser.

All the pet spa services were free, however, many people made donations. At the end of the day, the girls voted to donate their $66 in earnings to Chase Away K9 Cancer.

Be sure to check your dog on the 14th of every month! For more information, visit

When clients bring their dogs to the oncology service in the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital, they sometimes elect to enroll their pet in clinical trials that study cancer and new treatments. The data collected from those clinical trials provides information that may ultimately save both canine and human lives.

In once recent example, hospital researchers studied 64 dogs and found a link between high cholesterol and osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that behaves the same in both dogs and humans.

“This is one of the first steps into identifying cholesterol as a potential biomarker for canine osteosarcoma,” said Dr. Haley Leeper, Assistant Professor in veterinary oncology. “We don’t have answers as to why high cholesterol is associated with this disease, but we’re hoping to advance these findings in future research.”

Leeper and collaborators at OSU and Iowa State University compared 64 dogs with osteosarcoma against two control groups: 30 dogs that had suffered traumatic bone fractures and 31 healthy dogs similar in age and weight to the animals with cancer.

Researchers found nearly half of the dogs with cancer – 29 of the 64 – had elevated levels of total serum cholesterol, a dramatically higher rate than occurred in either control population; just three of the 30 dogs with broken bones, and only two of the 31 healthy animals, showed high cholesterol. An interesting twist: the dogs with elevated total cholesterol had a median survival time of 455 days, more than 200 days greater than the median survival time for dogs with normal cholesterol.

“When people think of cholesterol they think of cheeseburgers and heart attacks,” Leeper said. “However, cholesterol is involved with many key processes and structures in the body like cell membranes, bone health and the immune system.”

“There are a lot of things we plan on investigating,” she said. “This is exciting and fascinating, partly due to the comparative medical aspects between human research and our research.”

Collaborators in the study included Craig Ruaux and Shay Bracha, colleagues of Leeper in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, and Austin Viall of the Department of Veterinary Pathology at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine.