Oregon State College of Veterinary MedicineWhat do you do when your back forty is covered in blackberries? You can spray herbicides (expensive and not environmentally friendly), you can hire a crew to chop them down (expensive and temporary), or you can get a goat.

Goats love to eat, and they really love the nasty stuff: blackberries, ivy, scotch broom. They’ll even eat poison oak.

That’s how Debbie Bales became a goat fan. “We bought a place with a pasture that was overrun with blackberries,” she says. “Someone wisely suggested we get a goat or two.”  Their first goat, Sweetie Pie, was a Boer, a breed known for their distinctive white body and red head, large size, and docile personality; perfect for a family pet that will do some yard work.

Sweetie Pie gave birth to Kahlua, and soon after, Bales bought Chewy and Bambi. They now have seven goats, half from what Bales refers to as the ‘sweetie’ line. “Sweetie, Kahlua, and her two daughters all exhibit the same affectionate, loving personality,” she says. “It is very comparable to a dog that likes to cuddle.”

Kahlua, whose nickname is Loo Loo, is especially friendly. “She is always the first to approach people and will stand with her head resting on your leg, begging for some petting.  She loves scratches on her top shoulders and she returns the favor by putting her nose in my face very gently, to let me know she likes me back.”

Kahlua’s close bond with Bales helped them both through a recent health crisis: Kahlua was diagnosed with breast cancer.

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Oregon State College of Veterinary MedicineWhen Thomas and Virginia Knott decided to get a family dog, they did their homework. First they made a list of qualities that fit their lifestyle: good with children, athletic and outdoorsy, easy to train, and a history of good health. Then they started attending dog shows and visiting breeders.

One day, they saw a breed that really impressed them: the Landseer European Continental Type. Sometimes confused with the Newfoundland Landseer, the Landseer ECT is taller, more athletic, and has shorter hair. The Knotts decided to investigate further.

They discovered that the breed is strictly controlled by the German Landseer Club, which restricts breeding to dogs who pass x-ray checks and other requirements. This has prevented Landseers from developing hip dysplasia and other joint issues associated with many large, purebred dogs.

The German Landseer Club showed the Knotts books of documentation on every dog that had been released for breeding, going all the way back to 1976. The Knotts were so impressed they bought their first Landseer, a male named Charlie.

In 2005, a job transfer took the Knott family to China, where they lived for several years. Then they settled in Seal Rock, Oregon and, at last, were able to follow their longtime dream of introducing Landseer dogs to the U.S.

In 2011, the Knotts brought a female Landseer named Ginger back from Germany, and soon Charlie was the father of eight puppies. Ginger had a difficult labor and, sadly, died during an emergency C-section. Her puppies survived and one had a black mark on her shoulder that looked like a flower. The Knotts named her Bluemchen, which means “little flower” in German.

Bluemchen grew into a confident, strong dog who loves swimming in the ocean. Soon she was ready to be a mother but the Knotts had a dilemma. There were no other Landseer males in the U.S., and taking Bluemchen all the way to Europe and back would have been an ordeal for her.

Then the Knotts heard about the artificial insemination program at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH). With approval from the German Landseer Club, VTH Dr. Hernan Montilla imported frozen semen from a certified Landseer in Belgium and soon Bluemchen was pregnant – with thirteen puppies!

On average, Landseers have six puppies, so the Knotts were concerned about Bluemchen, and when she went into premature labor, they decided to take her to the VTH for observation.

By the time Bluemchen arrived at the hospital, she was running a fever and was very uncomfortable. She delivered three puppies but no more. Dr. Montilla gave her IV fluids and pain killer, but when she still had not delivered the remaining puppies by the next day, he advised the Knotts that a C-section would be necessary.

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OSu College of Veterinary MedicineCold laser therapy is a noninvasive procedure that uses light to stimulate cell regeneration and increase blood circulation. Although it has been used in humans for decades, cold laser therapy is a relatively new treatment option for dogs and cats.

A laser is a beam of light that travels at a frequency high enough to generate heat and penetrate tissue; it can be an effective alternative to surgery or medication for certain problems like arthritis. “The laser helps to encourage repair of damaged or weak tissue and reduces inflammation,” says Sarah Smith, Certified Rehabilitation Practitioner at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “It is a good option for pets with arthritis, tendon or soft tissue injuries, or post-surgery pain and stiffness.”

At the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, laser therapy is just one of the tools used in the small animal rehabilitation unit. In the treatment room are colorful balls and toys, a row of pet swim-gear, a pet-sized swimming pool and an underwater treadmill. To one side is a big, cushy mat where Smith reclines with patients receiving laser therapy.

One of her regular patients is Levi, a 12-year-old Shepard mix. When Levi was 8 years old he was diagnosed with bone cancer and his left hind leg was amputated. Although dogs adapt to three legs fairly well, Levi’s age and arthritis made walking more of a challenge for him. “He had developed a pogo-stick hop,” says Smith. That method of movement was hard on his body so Dr. Wendy Baltzer prescribed a plan of rehabilitation to modify his walk.

“He spent several months on the underwater treadmill to encourage him into a rolling walk,” says Smith. Then he began laser therapy for the arthritis in his right hip. “It helps lubricate the cartilage,” says Smith, “and encourages scar tissue which helps pad his joint.”

Levi is very relaxed as Smith applies the laser wand to his hip. He has been receiving this treatment for several years and comes about once a month.

Each laser treatment takes 10 minutes or so and has no unwanted side effects. In fact, animals seem to enjoy the therapy. Results may not be immediate, but after a few treatments, the reduction in pain and increased mobility will usually last for several weeks.

Kanip in her short summer coat and shaved legs from recent knee surgery, is not, perhaps, looking her best but is feeling much, much better.
Kanip, in her short summer coat and shaved legs from recent knee surgery, is not, perhaps, looking her best, but is feeling much, much better.

Kanip is a three-foot tall, fluffy alpaca with big brown eyes. Physically, she doesn’t stand out from the crowd of 26 alpacas and 6 llamas that live on Mary Warbin’s farm in LaCenter, Washington, but Kanip is not an average alpaca.

For one thing, she is unusually vocal; she grumbles, clucks, and screeches.  And when she is anxious or unhappy, she really let’s it rip. She may be curly and cute, but her screams are ear-splitting. “We got her from a farm in Ohio and they had named her Conniption Fit,” says Warbin. “I thought, ‘Who in the world would name an alpaca Conniption Fit?’ Well, it describes her perfectly.”

After the birth of her first baby, Kanip was a reluctant mom. She refused to nurse, so Warbin had to bottle-feed the newborn. “Every time I touched the baby, Kanip would scream at me.” One morning, after many nights sleeping in the barn, feeding the baby, Warbin woke up to find Kanip snuggled at her feet. Then the new mom got up and started nursing her baby. “Since then I am her best friend,” says Warbin. “We are now very close.”

Last year, Warbin went out to the pasture and was surprised when Kanip didn’t come to greet her. She soon realized that something was very wrong. “She could not get up,” says Warbin. “I called the vet but by the time he arrived, she was up and walking normally.”

Then, last month, it happened again. “She was on the ground screaming,” says Warbin. This time she could not get up so Warbin and her husband carried her into the trailer and drove her to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH). X-rays revealed that both her rear knee caps had dislocated and shifted off to one side.

A knee cap that shifts out of position is known as a luxated patella. The condition is fairly common in dogs, but is rare in alpacas. In most cases, a luxated patella is caused by a congenital deformity in the groove where the patella sits; the groove is not deep enough to hold the knee cap in place.

Dr. Michael Huber, a veterinary surgeon with 33 years of experience, is an expert at handling difficult cases like Kanip’s. “It was challenging because both limbs were involved – she did not have a good leg to stand on,” says Huber. “The knee caps were loose and moving both medially and laterally [to the inside and outside]. Since it is usually just to the outside, this indicates severe instability.”

He explained to Warbin that Kanip’s kneecaps could be fixed with a surgical technique called trochlear recession and soft tissue imbrication. The surgery would deepen the groove in the leg bone where the knee cap sits and tighten the bands of tissue that hold it in in place.

Fourth-year student, Christina Crawford, was assigned to large animal hospital rounds when Kanip first arrived. She provided much of the basic care the alpaca received before and after her surgery. “Kanip was quite shy when she first arrived,” says Crawford. “We moved slowly and talked quietly around her. We discovered that she really enjoyed being petted right behind her ears, and that seemed to calm her.”

The OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital has the largest group of board certified veterinary specialists in Oregon, so complicated surgeries are often a team effort. For Kanip’s surgery, Huber consulted with small animal surgeon Dr. Wendy Baltzer, who had performed this procedure on dogs. Huber also had the benefit of onsite anesthesiology specialists. “They provided controlled, prolonged anesthesia and monitoring,” he says.

Kanip had some complications, including a shift of one patella due to a post-surgery fracture of the stabilizing bone. Once Huber fixed that issue, Kanip was able to take advantage of the hospital’s extensive rehabilitation unit, primarily used for dogs and cats. “Kanip was the first large animal to have planned physical therapy at the VTH,” says Huber. “Treatment included cold laser therapy, limb manipulation, and electrical muscle stimulation. It had a major role in her recovery.”

As a student, Crawford valued the learning experience of working alongside Dr. Huber’s team and caring for Kanip. “I learned that a case can take unexpected turns, and that you should not give up because they can have excellent results.”

“The students were very important in her recovery,” says Warbin. “They provided the pampering and babying she needs because she is so emotional. Without them, she would not have recovered so quickly.”

Six weeks after her surgery, Kanip is nearly back to normal. “She has been a wonder. She has picked up her pace and is even walking up inclines,” says Warbin. “ One day her baby was startled and landed on Kanip’s back leg. I freaked out but everything held and she was okay.”

Dr. Huber is also pleased with the results. “Kanip was a special patient; very vocal with some ‘human’ responses and emotions. I understand Mary’s connection to her.”

In fact, that connection is now so strong, Warbin has built a new home for Kanip and her baby between the house and the alpaca pens where the rest of the herd lives. “She is part of our family so we built her stall right next to our deck so she can be near us.”

Dr. John Schlipf with Johnny Cash
Dr. John Schlipf with Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash is a gentle giant. He doesn’t play the guitar (not yet, anyway) but he is a favorite with the kids taking Hunter-Jumper classes at Quiet Rein Riding School in Portland.

You would think a 1,400 pound Thoroughbred/Shire cross might scare a child just learning to ride, but he’s so sweet-tempered that trainer Jill McGrady uses him as a demonstration horse in her beginning classes. “He’s a dreamboat,” says owner Jill Taylor. “Not spooky and very safe.” Cash is also a bit of a character and has learned to zip and unzip people’s jackets with his mouth.

Last year, Taylor began to notice some ‘funniness’ in his hind end but it didn’t affect his gait or enthusiasm for events. “He always went great,” she says. However, when a potential new owner put him through his paces and then conducted a neurological exam, he reacted by nearly falling down.

Taylor took Cash to OSU Veterinary Hospital where Dr. John Schlipf did a complete neurological work up. Although he only rated a 1+ on a neurological scale where 5 is the worst, radiographs and a mylogram revealed compression of two vertebral joints in his lower neck. Schlipf thought Cash was a good candidate for Spinal Basket Surgery and explained the procedure to Taylor, who agreed.

The history of Spinal Basket Surgery begins with a famous horse and, remarkably, ends with human medicine. Several decades ago Dr. George Bagby, an orthopaedic surgeon from Spokane, Washington invented “Bagby’s Basket,” a small, hollow metal cylinder with perforated walls. He designed it to restore lost disc height resulting from a collapsed disc. When the basket, packed with bone graft, is inserted into the space between two vertebrae, the graft begins to grow through the perforated walls eventually forming a solid bond that holds the vertebrae in position.

The surgery became well-known in the horse community when Bagby and Dr. Barrie Grant, an equine surgeon at Washington State University, performed the surgery on Seattle Slew, who was diagnosed with “Wobbler’s Syndrome,” a degenerative condition causing serious neck instability. The doctors implanted the metal basket into Seattle Slew’s spine, successfully relieving his pain and saving him from certain death.

After Seattle Slew’s surgery made the news, Dr. Stephen Kuslich, a spine surgeon from Minneapolis, Minnesota converted Dr. Bagby’s design into a basket suitable for human use. Dr. Kuslich’s device was made of titanium and designed for the posterior lower part of the spine. It quickly caught the attention of his peers, and is now commonly used in human back surgery.

Dr. Grant now has a private practice where he consults exclusively on Wobbler’s syndrome and travels all over the country performing Spinal Basket Surgery on horses. The OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital has brought him to Corvallis several times to operate on horses in their care. “He has probably done more of this procedure than anyone and has truly perfected the technique,” says Schlipf. “Getting the depth and implant placement and alignment correct is critical.”

Cash bounced right back from the surgery. “As soon as we got home, he was back to his sassy self,” says Taylor. “He is moving around so well, you wouldn’t know he had surgery except for his shaved hair.”

Dr. Schlipf advised two months of stall rest for Cash. Taylor knows this will be difficult for the big horse so she bought him some Jolly Balls and other toys and is encouraging everyone at Quiet Rein to give him lots of attention and love. At the end of two months, Taylor will start rehabilitation exercises and hand-walking him.

According to Dr. Schlipf, seventy percent of horses who have undergone Spinal Basket Surgery improve  at least one grade on the neurological scale. Since Cash was rated a 1+ before surgery, his chances for a complete recovery are good. “Will he improve enough to go back to his vocation as a jumper? Only time will tell,” says Schlipf. “It will be twelve to eighteen months before we know what his final neurological status and function as an athlete will be.”

BearHettmanBear loves to go for walks with his parents, Gary and Marsha Hettman. And, of course, being a retriever, nothing makes him happier than a nice, long swim.

Four years ago, while hanging out in the living room with his family, Bear just fell down for no discernible reason. “Looking back, we had heard him fall several times out of our sight, which we attributed to him slipping on our hardwood floors,” says Marsha. But she was shocked to watch him drop right in front of her. So she took Bear to the family vet, OSU alum Dr. Dan Lewer, who detected a problem with Bear’s heartbeat and immediately contacted the cardiology department at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

The following Monday, Bear was in surgery and a pacemaker was implanted next to his heart. The procedure went well and, after several weeks of rest, he resumed normal activity. “He was out running and playing and enjoying life to the fullest,” says Marsha.

Pacemakers are relatively simple devices that consist of a battery, a computerized generator, and a wire. The wire, also called a lead, feeds through a vein connecting the generator to the heart. When sensors on the lead tell the computer that the heart is not beating properly, the generator sends electrical pulses to the heart.

Each year 600,000 pacemakers are implanted in humans. But, despite 78 million pet dogs in the U.S., only 300 pacemakers are implanted in dogs each year.

Veterinary cardiologists are still researching, studying and working on ways to optimize pacemaker procedures in dogs. Bear was about to help them advance veterinary medicine.

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HorseChemoJoe Davie is 27 years old and that makes him a senior citizen.

Joe is an American Quarter Horse. Calm, sturdy, and athletic, Quarter Horses are best known for competing in rodeos and riding off into the sunset in western movies.

Just like an old cowboy, Joe is unsentimental and no-nonsense. “He’s not the most affectionate horse,” says owner Julie Davie.” He’s a bit of an independent guy. But he has good common sense, thinks about things and stays out of trouble.”

Davie has been riding Joe for nearly 20 years, exploring the Oregon countryside together. “He’s not spooky; he will go ahead through things. He’s a super trail horse,” she says.

Last year, Joe was off his feed and obviously not feeling well, so Davie took him to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital thinking he had colic. Doctors ordered a series of tests and found cancer cells in his stomach fluid. A clinical pathologist in the OSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory identified the cells as lymphoma, a type of blood cancer that is rare in horses.

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MerlinChris is a veteran of the Gulf War who lives in a converted bus in southern Oregon with her assistance dog, Merlin. She got Merlin from a non-profit organization where he was specially trained to retrieve her inhalers when she is suffering from a debilitating asthma attack. Many Gulf War veterans attribute their post-service asthma to the hundreds of oil well fires that blackened the skies of Kuwait in the early 1990s. Chris also suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Merlin is her only close companion.

Last year, Merlin developed Aspergillus, a fungal infection in his nose and sinuses. Merlin’s veterinarian treated him by flushing his sinuses with an anti-fungal but the infection proved stubborn and repeat treatments were needed. Then Chris went in for surgery and developed a serious bone infection that kept her in the hospital longer than planned. Worried about her dog and with no one to turn to, she called a former neighbor, Kim Haines, and asked her to check on Merlin.

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ScottieWhen Brenda Cutting was teaching her dog Scottie to lie down and ‘take a nap’, she had no idea how beneficial it would be to his future health, she was just training him to dazzle an audience.

Scottie is a twelve-year-old border collie with a whole slew of doggie titles under his collar. He is a Canine Music Freestyle Champion, a Heelwork Music Champion, and has received 2nd and 3rd place awards at the national Agility Dog Championships. Scottie came to Cutting as a youngster from Border Collie Rescue and the pair have spent thousands of hours together in training and performances.

Last year, Cutting noticed Scottie was breathing heavily during practice and his bark sounded funny. She took him to Ash Creek Animal Hospital where Dr. Bob Archer diagnosed laryngeal paralysis (larpar).

Larpar is a condition where muscles that control the larynx cease to function. It is fairly common in older, large-breed dogs, especially retrievers. Because dogs with larpar can’t breathe effectively, it deprives them of oxygen in their blood and impacts their quality of life. In some situations it can even be life-threatening. “They can get into a crisis situation, especially with heat or excitement” says OSU veterinary surgeon, Milan Milovancev. “A lot of people don’t pick up on the fact that their dog has larpar, they just notice a bark change or raspy sound in their breathing and think their dog is getting older and slowing down. They don’t realize their dog is suffocating.”

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Student Amy Sachs was part the team that saved the life of Leo.
Student Amy Sachs was part the team that saved Leo’s life.

“Leo is taller, has outgrown his halter, and is getting more assertive.”

This email message was big news in the offices and treatment areas of the OSU large animal hospital. Just a few weeks earlier, Leo was one of the sickest little calves doctors had ever seen.

Leo came into the world in April 2012, one of four newborns in Teresa Smith’s small herd of cattle. A white-faced Hereford bull, he arrived bright and peppy but by his fourth day, had a high fever and quit nursing. Smith was very concerned and brought him to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. By the time he arrived, Leo could not stand and was unresponsive. Doctors at the clinic started him on IV fluids and quickly ran diagnostic tests which revealed he was suffering from meningitis. most likely caused by a failure of passive transfer.

A failure of passive transfer happens when a calf receives too little antibody-rich colostrum (early milk) from its mom. Sometimes the mom is unwilling or sometimes the colostrum isn’t adequate; either way, it can be a life-threatening situation because the calf is born without any antibodies to fight bacteria. The amount of time a calf has to ingest colostrum and absorb antibodies is narrow and crucial: two or three hours after birth. It is literally a race against time to protect the newborn.

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