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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pebbleA little, nine-pound cat with a dicey history is trying to give Benny Beaver a run for his money in the mascot department. The cat’s journey from critically-ill stray to Beaver Believer began at the Oregon Humane Society in Portland, Oregon.

A unique partnership exists between the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) and the College of Veterinary Medicine at OSU. It began in 2007 with the opening of the Animal Medical Learning Center (AMLC), a full-service animal hospital adjoining the OHS shelter.  At the center, veterinary students from OSU live onsite in dorms and take two-week clinical courses in primary care as part of their graduation requirement. They join OSU veterinary faculty and the OHS medical staff, working on everything from diagnoses to surgery. It’s a win-win collaboration and, as the first program of its kind in the nation, has become a model for other universities to follow. The benefits of the program to veterinary students and the Humane Society are obvious but for Pebble the cat, the partnership between OSU and OHS was a life saver.

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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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FeralCatShuttleThe old cinder-block building on the Benton County Fairgrounds has held a variety of events over the years from holiday bazaars to library book sales, but on a warm, sunny day in November, the floor was covered with an unusual display: row after row of folding tables holding dozens of blanket-covered crates.

Out in the parking lot, pulled up close to the front entry, was a big, white trailer with an enormous graphic of a cat on its side. Shuttling between the trailer and the building, a steady stream of veterinary and pre-veterinary students held unconscious cats bundled into blankets. The Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon (FCCO) had come to town.

The FCCO uses a trap-neuter-return strategy to combat the exploding growth of feral cats in Oregon. The coalition supplies humane traps to property owners who bring captured cats into a clinic for sterilizing. It is the only proven way of reducing the feral cat population and it depends on the kindness of many volunteers including the veterinarians who perform the surgeries.

At the fall clinic in Corvallis, six different veterinarians worked in the operating room of the big white trailer performing nearly 100 sterilization surgeries in just half a day. OSU students from the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) prepped the cats for surgery, moved them to the recovery area, and monitored their progress. The cats were returned to property owners for release the next day.

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OperatingOmetepeOmetepe 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!”

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Bailey the boxer loves her underwater treadmill sessions.

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.

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Brandy_CilesHorseWhat 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.”

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EagleRecoveryThe 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.

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AMLCstudent-with-catWalk through the big glass doors at the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) in northeast Portland and you enter a stylish room with vaulted ceilings and polished floors. It feels like the lobby of a nice hotel until you look to the left and see the Robotic Cat Playroom. A glass-walled space full of cat toys that are wired to move, the playroom hosts groups of cats on a one-day trip to kitty Las Vegas. Behind the scenes, cat-lovers from around the country are using the internet to control the spinning neon fuzzy tails and bouncing doo-dads while watching the ensuing mayhem through a webcam.

The Robotic Cat Playroom is just one of the many impressive features at the OHS, which takes in nearly 1,000 animals every month. Almost one third of those come from other shelters on the west coast who do not have the resources to keep them.  With this many animals to save, it is astounding that the OHS has a 98% adoption rate. None of this would be possible without the work of more than a thousand volunteers who do everything from foster care to running with dogs.

Another piece of this highly successful animal welfare organization is the Animal Medical Learning Center (AMLC). Half the animals that arrive at OHS need spay or neuter surgery, and a significant number need medical care. The AMLC is a unique partnership between Oregon State University and the OHS. In it’s high-tech surgery suite, fourth-year students from the College of Veterinary Medicine complete a two-week rotation as part of their graduation requirement. These extra pairs of hands help the shelter treat and heal pets faster, and reduce the average animal’s stay by 20 percent. It is also an invaluable real-world experience for the students.

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