Huckleberry Fin’s owners are passionately committed to using all their skills and resources to provide the best possible life for the pet they love.

FinDogs are inspirational. Their amazing ability to adapt to environmental and physical challenges, and still enjoy life, is the subject of many, popular social media videos. Who doesn’t feel better watching a three-legged dog racing down the beach with his tongue hanging out and a smile on his face?

Because most dogs adapt more readily than humans to a missing limb, the standard of care for a diseased or severely injured leg is often amputation. It is also the reason you rarely see three-legged dogs with a prosthetic.

Despite their great attitude, three-legged dogs face some real challenges, especially if their missing limb is in the front. These dogs have to compensate for the weight of their head, and a great deal of stress is placed on the remaining front leg. This can lead to early arthritis and other health issues.

Dr. Jennifer Warnock is an orthopedic surgeon at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital who fell in love with a puppy named Huckleberry Fin. Fin was born with a rare set of defects in his front leg. His shoulder blade was deformed, and the muscles that move the shoulder were missing. He also had deformed leg bones: his radius was missing, his ulna was too short, and his foot was at the side of the ulna instead of the end where is should be.

“I met Fin when he was brought into the hospital,” says Dr. Warnock. “He was twelve days old and in a little lunch container. His eyes were still closed. We took a CT scan, and sure enough, he had multiple deformities. Basically, he has no functional joints in that leg and nothing is straight.”

CT scan of Fin’s leg before surgery.

Dr. Warnock’s dog Fiona had died three months earlier and she was still grieving. “I kept water bowls out for her, and her leashes were hanging nearby.” She asked her partner, Kevin Thomason, if he would like to adopt the puppy and he said, “Sure.”

From that day forward, they worked together on a plan to help Fin.

“Everyone said, ‘You should amputate that leg,’“ says Warnock, “but Fin was so determined to use it, and because it was his front leg, I knew if we amputated, his other leg would be at risk of overuse injury in just a few years.”

So, while Warnock waited until Fin was old enough for surgery, Thomason, a human physical therapist, began his quest to create the best possible orthotics for their puppy.

The first orthotics were simple braces to support the leg and try to straighten it. They found that the early braces also encouraged him to use his shoulder joint more normally. “He was moving his bad leg in a circular motion instead of moving forward and back,” says Thomason.

When Fin was two months old, Warnock decided it was time to surgically move his crooked foot, and repair his shoulder socket.

Dr. Warnock detached his foot and, being careful not to damage the neurovascular structures that supply blood to it, she pulled the foot down toward the end of the leg bone as far as it would go. Then surgical residents Drs. Jesse Terry and Sara Losinski helped hold it in place while she inserted stainless steel pins.

Fourth-year students on surgical rotation scrubbed in and observed the surgery. “They kept saying ‘What’s that?’” says Warnock. “There was nothing in there that remotely resembled an anatomy textbook.”

Continue reading

The OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital repaired a fractured femur on a bobcat.
The OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital repaired a fractured femur on a bobcat brought in by Chintimini Wildlife Center.

One of the most beautiful cats in Oregon is rarely seen by humans.

Although bobcats have stable populations throughout the state, their nocturnal lifestyle, excellent camouflage, and wariness of humans keeps them hidden from view by all but the most avid back-country hikers.

This week, doctors and staff in the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) were thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a bobcat up close and personal.

A few days earlier, a good citizen found an injured juvenile bobcat in the ditch off highway 20 near Blodgett, and risked their skin to wrap the ferocious, snarling cat in a blanket and take her to Chintimini Wildlife Center. The center immediately provided water and food for the starving cat then sedated her enough to give her an examination. They found a broken leg and called OSU for help.

Several veterinarians in the Corvallis area provide pro-bono assistance to Chintimini, but the most challenging medical cases often go to OSU. (See previous story). “The leg was fractured with a number of pieces and fissures,” says orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Jennifer Warnock.

bobcat-femurDr. Warnock was able to rebuild the leg with plates and screws donated by DePuy Synthes. She designed the placement of the hardware specifically to avoid the formation of soft tissue calluses in the upper leg muscle. “Calluses can cause quadriceps adhesions which would slow the cat down,” she says. That was a critical issue for an animal whose survival depends on speed in hunting.

There are other concerns when operating on wildlife. For one, the anesthesia is different than it would be for a dog or house cat. “Our anesthesia team is amazing,” says Dr. Warnock. “They are so skilled with all species, and great at pain control.” In fact, many hands worked together to save the bobcat, from the skilled technicians who assisted in surgery, to the experts in radiology, to the fourth-year veterinary students who provide post-surgery, tender, loving care.

It was a stroke of luck that student Margot Mercer was on rotation in the hospital when the bobcat came in. She had been a Chintimini volunteer for three years prior to starting vet school, so had lots of wildlife experience. “I was really excited to be the surgery student on the bobcat case,” she said. “I was one of the few people comfortable handling her without sedation.” It was also a great opportunity for Mercer to observe a feline fracture repair. “I learned lots of new things that are translational into small animal practice,” she says. “The basics are the same as they would be for domestic cats.”

The surgery bill was funded, in part, from Dr. Warnock’s teaching fund, and, in part, by the college’s Olive Britt Hope Fund. “This is a great example of the quality of OSU care and compassion; how we can come together to make it right for this beautiful cat,” says Dr. Warnock.

The surgery went well and the bobcat is now recovering in its kennel at Chintimini. “Her IV is out and she is eating like a champ,” says a spokesperson for the refuge.

The bobcat will return to OSU in six weeks for a checkup. If the bone has healed, then Chintimini can begin the long process of rehabilitation. Because one of her four canine teeth was broken and pulled, they want to be sure she can still hunt before they release her back to her territory. “It will be late spring before she is released,” says Dr. Warnock. “She needs to be able to reliably kill live prey.”

Dr. Tiffany Kimbrell, student Margot Mercer, and Dr. Jennifer Warnock were part of the surgery team that repaired a fractured femur in a bobcat from Chintimini Wildlife Center.
Dr. Tiffany Kimbrell, student Margot Mercer, and Dr. Jennifer Warnock were part of the surgery team that repaired a fractured femur in a bobcat from Chintimini Wildlife Center.

felix2There are many challenges for the management at the Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP). One of the less critical, but very messy, is a problem with the Canadian geese who like to gather in the prison yard. Until 2011, huge flocks of them made a stinky mess that caused sanitation issues. Then Felix came to the rescue.

Felix is a heeler mix who knows all about rescue. He was saved from a shelter by Project POOCH. The nonprofit organization places rescue dogs in youth correctional facilities, where inmates learn responsibility, and gain emotional support, by caring for dogs. They also train the dogs in basic obedience skills and prepare them for adoption.

Felix was the first dog from Project POOCH to be adopted by OSP. He was ‘hired’ to keep the geese out of the prison yard, a job he does well and enjoys.

Felix also participates in other activities at the prison. He visits patients in the infirmary, and he offers non-judgmental friendship, and the warmth of the human-animal bond, to the inmate population in general. One of Felix’s handlers says, “He is my pride and joy. I now can love for the first time in my life.”

Last year, Felix made a different kind of visit to a different kind of infirmary. He was referred to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital by his veterinarian, who suspected he was lame due to a torn ligament in his knee – also known as a Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) rupture. A relatively common problem in active dogs, these ruptures can be successfully treated with a surgery called a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO).

If you look at a standing dog from the side, you can see that it’s leg is always bent and the knee is slightly flexed. This bend means the CCL inside the knee joint is always load-bearing, and the constant tension makes the ligament susceptible to injury.

With a torn CCL, every time a dog stands or put weight on the leg, the femur rubs on the back of the tibia. This rubbing causes pain and inflammation, and is why most dogs with a torn CCL are lame.

The philosophy behind TPLO surgery is to completely change the dynamics of the dog’s knee, so that the torn ligament becomes irrelevant. During surgery, the tibia is cut and rotated so the tibial plateau, where the femur and the tibia meet, can no longer slide backwards. This stabilizes the knee joint and eliminates the need for the CCL entirely.

TPLO is a delicate and complex surgery that should always be performed by an experienced veterinary surgeon. The OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital has two board-certified, veterinary orthopedic surgeons who perform many TPLO surgeries every year.

Felix surgery was very successful and, within a few weeks, he began taking leash walks, but he is not yet ready to resume his geese-chasing duties. His surgeon, Dr. Jennifer Warnock, also suggested he lose ten pounds to minimize the stress on his other knee joint, and to help prevent arthritis.

Recently, one of Felix’s handlers sent a ‘thank you’ note to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, along with a list of quotes from fellow inmates that was published in a Project POOCH newsletter. The quotes expressed how important Felix is as a friend and valued member of their community.

In his letter to the hospital, Felix’s handler simply said, “Thank you for taking care of my boy, Felix.”



A 3D echocardiograph shows the blood moving through Lulu's heart (bright colors).
A 3D echocardiograph shows the blood moving through Lulu’s heart (bright colors).

Lulu is a big bundle of soft, black fur who is full of happy energy despite having been born with a heart defect. The four month-old lab mix was recently transferred to the Humane Society for Southwest Washington (HSSW) from a shelter in Southern California.

As part of the Animal Shelter Alliance, HSSW makes a temporary home in their shelter for several hundred out-of-state animals each year. The majority of those animals have health issues.

Dr. Lauren Overman is the managing veterinarian at HSSW. With more than 5,500 animals entering their shelter each year, her team does a lot of spay and neuter surgeries, but they also diagnose and treat a wide variety of health issues. In a routine exam, prior to Lulu’s spay surgery, Dr. Overman discovered a loud heart murmur, so she referred Lulu to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital for evaluation.

The Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital at OSU is equipped with a state-of-the art, 3D echocardiograph that allows doctors to view the inside of a patient’s heart in real time, as it is beating and pumping blood.

An echocardiogram of Lulu’s heart revealed a small hole between her aorta, the main artery in the body, and her main pulmonary artery. The hole is known as a left-to-right shunting patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) and is a normal vessel in a fetus, but should close within twenty-four hours of birth. That did not happen with Lulu.

In a healthy heart, blood returning from the body is pumped from the right side of the heart to the lungs to pick up fresh oxygen and then returns to the left side of the heart. The left side of the heart pumps the oxygen-rich blood out the aorta to the body. In Lulu’s heart, the PDA allows blood to flow from the aorta into the pulmonary artery, creating a ‘short-circuit’ or shunt from the systemic to the pulmonary circulation. As a consequence, the lungs and the left side of the heart see an increased amount of blood. This often leads to congestive heart failure before a dog is one-year old.

Dr. Courtney Smith is in her final year of a three-year cardiology residency at the hospital, and was assigned to Lulu’s case. She and the entire cardiology team, including Drs. Katherine Scollan, Nicole LeBlanc, and Julia Treseder, decided that Lulu was a good candidate for corrective surgery.

The funding to cover Lulu’s surgery was provided in combination from the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Olive K. Britt Hope Fund and the HSSW’s Chopper fund. The HSSW Chopper Fund was created to help shelter animals with costly medical issues and is supplied through the generosity of the society’s donors.

Amazingly, the surgery on Lulu’s heart was done without having to open her chest. First, a tiny incision was made on the inside of her right back leg, and a catheter was passed from the femoral artery into the aorta and across the PDA. This was done with the aid of a fluoroscope and echocardiography, which allowed Dr. Smith to view the interior of the heart on a screen as she operated. Once in place, the catheter was used to guide a specially designed wire mesh cylinder, called an Amplatz canine ductal occluder, into the open PDA. In a few seconds, blood began clotting within the occluder, and very quickly created a solid plug that stopped the blood flow through the PDA.

Lulu came through the two-hour surgery with flying colors. Chest x-rays and a recheck echocardiogram showed proper blood flow in her heart with no residual flow through the PDA. However, her caregivers will need to restrict her activity for one month while her device permanently adheres in place.

Meg Turnquist and Lucie Crane, fourth-year veterinary students on cardiology rotation, were assigned to Lulu’s care. In addition to monitoring her post-surgery condition and vital signs, they gave her lots of hands-on attention. “She already wants to run and play,” said Turnquist. “She’s mad at me because we have to keep her quiet in the kennel.”

Complex surgeries like Lulu’s are a valuable learning experience for veterinary students. Lucie Crane was pleased to be involved: “It was interesting to be able to hear that very classic heart murmur, and then to observe the procedure by which it was fixed. It was very rewarding to follow the case to completion.”

Lulu went home the next day to her foster family. “They will have their hands full trying to keep her from not being such an active puppy, now that she feels better,” says Dr. Overman.

Lulu’s prognosis is excellent. She will return to OSU in a month for a checkup, and then, if Dr. Smith gives the okay, she can return to normal puppy activity and be placed on the HSSW website where her darling face and sweet, loving personality will find her a forever home.



ACMastheadCooper is a ten-year-old Boxer who loves his family of raggedy, stuffed animals. He visits them every day. “He’s a riot,” says owner Nora LaBrocca. “He barks at his toys and tells them how the day is going.”

Last year, Cooper’s veterinarian became concerned when his gum did not heal after the removal of a bad tooth, so he sent a tissue sample to the OSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The result was bad news: squamous cell carcinoma.

LaBrocca was referred to the Oncology Service at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) where oncologist Dr. Shay Bracha confirmed that Cooper had a tumor in his jaw. Because the cancer was malignant, Dr. Bracha knew that Cooper’s best chance for survival would be to remove the tumor with a margin of 2 centimeters of surrounding tissue.  Unfortunately, that would require partial removal of the jaw itself. After describing this option to Cooper’s mom, she sadly decided not to proceed. “I thought I was saying ‘Goodbye’,” says LaBrocca.

New Cancer Treatment

Stan Stearns founded the Gabriel Institute after his beloved Saint Bernard, Gabriel, died while being treated for osteosarcoma. The goal of the Gabriel Institute is to save both dogs and humans through support of cancer research. Fortunately for Cooper, one month before his diagnosis, the Stearns Family Foundation donated a $500,000 Intraoperative Radiotherapy System to the VTH. It is the only system of its kind available at a veterinary hospital.

Conventional radiation treatment for tumors occurs post-surgery, and is administered through the skin over a period of many weeks. The Intraoperative Radiotherapy System provides one precise dose of radiation to a tumor cavity during surgery. The dose is created by accelerating electrons through a tube, onto a gold target where low-energy x-rays are generated and emitted evenly in all directions. Then the surgeon closes the incision.

The advantages of the system are fairly obvious: A much shorter treatment span of lower dose radiation to the area most likely to contain remaining cancer cells, while sparing healthy tissue from side effects.

There is a big payoff, for both humans and animals, in using a new therapy in a veterinary setting: animals respond more quickly. “We will learn a lot from these veterinary cases,” say Medical Physicist Kristina Tack, who set up the system. “Animals have shorter lifespans, and disease progression moves forward at a more rapid pace, so you can evaluate efficacy after only one year. Humans are not considered cured for five years.”

Cooper is now more than a year past his tumor removal with no sign of recurrence. A dozen other pets have received the same treatment and are doing well. Bracha will gather data from these treatments to demonstrate the efficacy of Intraoperative Radiotherapy. He is also helping OHSU adapt this treatment to their human cancer patients.

Cooper, and other pets at the VTH, are benefiting from a field known as comparative oncology, which evaluates cancer treatment in clinical studies of companion animals, with the goal of sharing valuable results with the human medical community. “Many of the cancers we diagnose in veterinary medicine are essentially the same cancers we see in human medicine,” says Bracha. “So we can translate findings from one to the other.”

Out Of The Laboratory And Into The Hospital

Researchers in the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University have developed a way to selectively insert a compound called naphthalocyanine into cancer cells. The compound is attached to an extremely tiny nanoparticle whose properties allow it to travel through the blood vessels leading to cancer cells, but not to healthy cells. Once there, the naphthalocyanine will glow when exposed to infrared light. This allows surgeons to more accurately identify which tissue to remove and which to leave. Even more exciting is the component of this new treatment: Exposing the naphthalocyanine to a different level of light causes the compound to burst, killing the cancer cells.

The treatment has been shown to be remarkably successful in laboratory mice with ovarian cancer, completely preventing cancer recurrence while showing no apparent side effects. Now the College of Pharmacy is partnering with the College of Veterinary Medicine to test it on dogs with malignant tumors.

Rebecca Camden is a dog lover and long-time supporter of the College of Veterinary Medicine. She recently purchased a $60,000 Fluobeam Imaging System to be used in the testing of the new nanoparticle treatment. In addition to providing infrared light, the Fluobeam system provides real-time video and images of the process. The first clinical trials are scheduled to begin this summer.

Early Detection Can Save Lives

In another OSU collaboration, Bracha is working with Jan Medlock, a mathematical biology researcher in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Vince Remcho, a researcher in the Department of Chemistry. They have founded an OSU spinoff company called Lasso Metrics that plans to produce a low-cost, early detection test for cancer. The test will use biomarkers – molecules in bodily fluids that are unique to specific kinds of cancer.

The Bracha team recently identified the biomarkers for bladder cancer. They did this by looking at the blood from three groups of dogs: healthy dogs, dogs with urinary tract infections, and dogs with bladder cancer. When the blood was analyzed, they found 96 proteins specific to the bladder cancer patients.

Now Remcho will use this information to develop a microchip that could be placed in a cell phone and used to detect cancer from a test strip with a drop of urine on it. Remcho calls it ‘lab-in-a-chip’. This screening tool could eventually be used by veterinarians and doctors in their offices, providing an early detection tool that is quicker and cheaper than a traditional biopsy.

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.”

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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.