Archive for September, 2012

Smithsonian’s National Zoo welcomes panda cub

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo greeted its latest addition late Sunday night: a panda cub, born to 14-year-old Mei Xiang, said veterinarian Suzan Murray. After being given a 10% chance of becoming pregnant following a series of pseudopregnancies, Mei Xiang gave birth to her second cub, conceived via artificial insemination. Veterinarians have not yet seen the cub and will allow the pair to bond before they examine the animal. “[Mei Xiang] has a huge nest of bamboo, so it’s normal not to see the cub,” Dr. Murray said. “We rely a lot on the sound. We like to hear a little squawking, and we’re hearing a lot of squawking.” ABC News/”Good Morning America”/The Associated Press
Sept. 17, 2012
Mei Xiang, the giant female panda at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., has given birth to a panda cub, according to the zoo.

Chief veterinarian Suzan Murray said the unnamed cub was born at about 10:46 p.m. Sunday night.

“Mother and cub are doing great,” Murray said today on “Good Morning America”  from the zoo.  “We are so excited here at the Smithsonian National Zoo to have this cub.”

This is Mei Xiang’s second birth as the result of artificial insemination. She gave birth to her first cub, Tai Shan, in 2005. Tian Tian, 15, is the father of both of Mei Xiang’s cubs.

Mei Xiang, 14, has had five consecutive pseudopregnancies since 2007 and had a less than a 10 percent chance of being pregnant after so many failed attempts.

“Mom is doing so great,” Murray said.  “She is definitely the poster child for the perfect “panda mom.”

She keeps trying to doze because she is tired and the minute the cub squawks her head perks right on up and she cradles it and cuddles it. She is just perfect.”

PHOTO: Panda Mei Xiang is shown at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in this file photo.
Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Panda Mei Xiang is shown at the Smithsonian’s…
Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Panda Mei Xiang is shown at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in this file photo.
Veterinarians will perform the first physical exam after Mei Xiang and the cub have had time to bond, the zoo said. The new mother will most likely not come out of her den, or eat or drink, for at least a week.

“She [Mei Xiang] has a huge nest of bamboo, so it’s normal not to see the cub,” Murray said.  “We rely a lot on the sound.  We like to hear a little squawking and we’re hearing a lot of squawking.”

With only 300 pandas left in breeding zones and zoos around the world, Mei Xiang and the father of the new cub have become public symbols for endangered species and conservation efforts.

As part of President Hu Jintao’s official state dinner welcome in January of 2011, the announcement was made of a new five-year, $2.5 million deal between the Smithsonian Institution and the China Wildlife Conservation Association. The Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement allowed Washington’s furriest duo to stay in the nation’s capital.

“Pandas are such a good ambassador for conservation and they highlight all that we do here at the zoo,” Murray told “GMA.”  “Everybody is thrilled.  We’re thrilled nationally, globally.  It’s a nice image of the partnership we have with our Chinese colleagues.”

U.S.-China relations have been never been simple. But panda diplomacy is not a new tactic in strengthening international ties. Since the Tang Dynasty from A.D. 618 to 907, China has been sending its national treasure to other countries as a symbol of gratitude.

The first panda couple to be donated to the American people followed President Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 trip to China, one that marked a new beginning for the longtime foes. Greeted with an official ceremony hosted by the first lady, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing lived at the National Zoo for more than 20 years.

ABC News’ Reilly Dowd and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Pet strollers keep older animals on the go

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
U.S. pets are living longer than ever before, and with age often comes back, hip or knee problems. Owners are increasingly purchasing pet strollers to improve their pets’ mobility. AVMA statistics indicate that between 1987 and 2011, the percentage of dogs in the U.S. over 6 years old increased from 42% to 48% while the share of older cats increased from 29% to 50%. The Boston Globe

Strollers for dogs: The latest in pet pampering

Strollers offer one way for people to get around with pets that are inform, elderly — or just a little lazy

Maureen Berry commutes from Roslindale to work in South Boston with Nicholas, her 13-year-old Yorkshire terrier, in his stroller.
Maureen Berry commutes from Roslindale to work in South Boston with Nicholas,
her 13-year-old Yorkshire terrier, in his stroller.



 Really, it should be no big deal. After all, we already live in such a pet-centric world that the sight of a dog wearing Ralph Lauren, or checking into a five-star hotel, or dining on organic, locally sourced food, barely causes a stir. And yet, even in 2012, a dog riding in a stroller seems one pamper too far.

No one knows this better than April Soderstrom, or, as she’s recognized in the South End, the blonde tooling around with a 35-pound French bulldog in a jogging stroller.

“Sometimes people make snide remarks,” said Soderstrom, 28, an executive assistant who also designs and markets her own line of jewely. Or they point and laugh, and hint that 5-year-old Louis is a “diva.”

Let the public mock. The white dog with the big pink ears has long struggled with a bad back and hips, but he got around OK until a few months ago when he injured a knee, making the two-block walk to the park impossible. “But I wanted to keep him happy,” Soderstrom said.

She carried him back and forth for a while, but that was exhausting. Enter a $130 dog stroller from eBay. “Louis loves it,” she said. “He stands right next to it waiting to be picked up and put in.”

It’s probably too early to declare pets-in-strollers a full-blown trend, at least in Boston. (In certain neighborhoods in Manhattan, Los Angeles, and southern Florida, the unusual dogs are reportedly the ones who are walking.) But the warning signs are building:

Two Pekingese pups were spotted recently in a stroller in the Prudential Center. A Yorkie was seen riding in the South End, where a cat was also observed taking a drive. In Cambridge, a long-haired dachshund was parked in a stroller in front of a Star Market. Reports of stroller dogs enjoying Castle Island and the Gloucester waterfront have also come in.

At the pet-friendly Boston Harbor Hotel, canine guests have begun arriving in strollers, particularly in the winter, the better to protect their paws from ice-melting salt. “It’s a nice easy way for them to get around,” said concierge Rob Fournier. (A stroller even helped one guest sneak a pooch into the hotel’s Rowes Wharf Sea Grille, a jaunt that lasted until a staffer noticed that the body in the stroller was a tad furry.)

And a dog stroller made the iconic September issue of Vogue magazine. “Two days before my dog Rose died, I put her in the stroller and pushed her down the sidewalk,” the best-selling author Ann Patchett wrote. “When my friend Norma bought Rose a dog stroller the summer before, I hadn’t wanted it, but feelings of idiocy were quick to give way to Rose’s obvious pleasure.”

The stroller movement is the natural outgrowth of several other pet-related story lines, including an increase in spending on pet health care, a growing population of elderly pets, and an increasing belief that our pets are not our animals, but rather our children.

In 2001, US pet owners spent $7.1 billion on pet health care, a number that jumped to $13.41 billion in 2011, according to the American Pet Products Association. Along with that spending has come an increase in the percentage of senior pets who, having benefited  from life-prolonging therapies, need help getting around.

In 1987, forty-two percent of dogs were 6 years old or older, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. In 2011, that number had risen to 48 percent. The percentage of senior cats is growing at an even faster rate. In 1987, 29 percent of cats were 6 years old or older. By 2011, 50 percent of cats were “of a certain age.”

But strollers aren’t just for infirm or elderly pets. Some are for perfectly mobile pets who are more child than pooch. Because dogs can be zipped securely into their strollers, the carriages allow pets to accompany owners on an entire day’s worth of activities.

“We like to include our dogs in what we do,” said stroller-user Debby Vogel, the owner of three Chihuahuas, a 14-year-old with mobility issues, and two 9-year-olds who know a good thing when they see it. “The girl is lazy,” Vogel, the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s volunteer services manager, said of one of her younger dogs, “and the boy is nervous when people loom over him. In crowds he gets freaked out.”

Time was when dogs like that would have stayed at home, but that time is not 2012. In fact, Vogel and her husband, a muscular mixed martial arts fighter confident enough to push a dog stroller, are so eager to bring their dogs along that they have assembled a stroller wardrobe, one for off-road, one for in-town. “Our son is in college and [the dogs] are the second kids,” Vogel said, laughing.

The stroller trend started to build about five or six years ago, said Tierra Bonaldi, a “pet lifestylist” with the American Pet Products Association, and it’s moved from strictly small-dog doll-style strollers to joggers strong enough to hold a 150-pound dog, and manly enough for even macho men to be seen with.

With their drink holders, sun shades, rear-locking breaks, storage bins — and soaring prices — pet strollers are following the trend in the (human) baby stroller world, Bonaldi said. “It’s crazy. Some cost hundreds of dollars.”

On the website, The DoggyRide Lightweight Jogger-Stroller will run an owner $359.10, and is built on a light aluminum-alloy frame. On Amazon, the PetZip Happy Trailer jogger goes for $265, and comes in a jaunty red or a nice blue, and a Pet Gear Expedition stroller goes for $197. Pricey? Perhaps, but as one reviewer noted, the gear is not solely for the benefit of the pets. “The stroller was the perfect answer to the problem of our dogs tiring out before we did,” N. Brabec wrote, “and it has allowed us to take even longer walks.”

In South Boston, a pink stroller emblazoned with paw prints allows Maureen Berry, an assistant manager at the Fenway Bark dog hotel, to commute from Roslindale with one or two of her three dogs. The trip involves the Silver Line, the Red Line, and the Orange line, and wouldn’t be doable without wheels.

“What do you think, bud?” Berry asked on a recent afternoon as she and Nicholas, her 13-year-old Yorkie, left work. The 18-pound pooch, youthful but with mobility problems, sat upright in his carriage, the wind of Boston Harbor ruffling his tan and black fur, his adorable black nose sniffing like mad. Berry scratched his head and smiled as the pair made their way home, together.

Beth Teitell can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.

Angel Fund Recipient

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Thanks to the Rainbow Vet Hospital in Burbank for helping Jodi with her Sheltie Bonnie by reaching out to the Angel Fund!

AHF Caring Creatures Therapy Dove, Cloud

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Cloud and his handler Daleen Comer is AHF’s first CARING CREATURES therapy animal team.  Watch here while Cloud tries to get a ball to play with him!


Tips to maintain a healthy horse

Thursday, September 13th, 2012
Horses are excellent companions, but they have special needs that require an emotional and financial commitment, according to veterinarian Tricia Pugh, who shares 10 tips for protecting equine health. An enriching and safe environment, proper nutrition and adequate exercise, along with regular veterinary care, are important aspects of maintaining a horse’s health, writes Dr. Pugh. The Press-News (Minerva, Ohio)


Tricia M. Pugh, DVM, who provides veterinary services in Louisville, Ohio and  has provided “top 10 hints to keep your horse happy and healthy.

Dr. Pugh says, “Owning a horse can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience that most of us have dreamed about since we were young. We either grew up with horses or finally fulfilled that lifelong dream of being a horse owner. Like any investment, both economical and emotional, we want to protect it as much as possible. This involves following general guidelines to help assure your horse is happy and healthy!

“The guidelines are as follows:

1. Environment:   A healthy environment is very important to your horse. Providing your horse shelter with a stall, run-in shed, or thick group of trees allows them the opportunity to protect themselves from severe weather elements, such as intense hot sunshine or cold freezing rain. Dry footing, such as grass, dirt, rubber mats, saw dust, or straw ,provides good footing and a healthy environment for their hooves.

2. Wellness Physical Exams:  Physical examinations performed by a veterinarian are the cornerstone of any health care program. Even if the horse is not experiencing any problems, baseline information can be vital when determining if there are subtle changes. This data can be critical for diagnosing diseases that are just beginning or are intermittent and sometimes can be difficult to detect by owners who see the horse on a daily basis.

3. Human Interaction and Handling:  Routine handling of your horse is essential to their physical and mental health. Human interaction with your horse prepares it for a relationship with other humans and releases the tension when it comes time for the veterinarian to examine your horse for routine physical examinations or emergency situations.

4. Exercise: Just as Mother Nature designed the horse to eat on a nearly constant basis, she also built the horse for lots of constant movement. For horses housed in stalls, it is important that daily exercise is available. Adequate exercise leads to muscle development and gives the horse an outlet for energy to be released.

5. Hoof Care:  Regular trimming and/or shoeing by a qualified farrier are the keys to good hoof care. Horses have different rates of hoof growth, so the frequency between trimmings varies from horse to horse. Generally the time range is four to eight weeks for hoof trimming. Daily hoof care consists of picking out the hooves and monitoring for any signs of disease such as cracks or thrush.

6. VCPR:  Through a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship, your veterinarian is able to examine your horse and make recommendations related to specific disease prevention and health management needs. This is a value-added benefit for you as a horse owner and your horse. In the absence of a VCPR, you may be relying on advice from catalogs, feeds stores, internet blogs, or other sources who may not be familiar with the specific medical condition of your horse. Your veterinarian is an expert and is the most capable person to consult on the appropriate health care. The important relationship that your veterinarian has with you and your horse allows them to diagnose subtle changes in your horse’s physical condition. If left undiagnosed, these subtle changes, may progress to more serious problems, which could be difficult and costly to treat successfully. Preventative measures are generally more economical than paying for treatment for conditions that could have been prevented. Choose a veterinarian before  you find yourself in an emergency situation. A veterinarian already familiar with your horse can be a huge plus during an emergency.

7. Nutrition:  The equine digestive system is designed to constantly process large quantities of fibrous foods. Hay or grass is crucial to provide roughage for the horse’s digestive system. Grain may also be supplemented to provide additional energy if needed. Minerals should be provided via mineral blocks, loose mineral, or mixed in commercially available complete grain concentrates. Plenty of fresh water is crucial to your horse’s health as well. Consult your veterinarian or equine nutritionist for more specific individualized feeding recommendations for your horse.

8. Parasite Control:  Parasites have been and continue to be a problem for horses. When left untreated, these pesky worm parasites can cause everything from weight loss to a poor hair coat and can even lead to colic. Many dewormers have now become resistant to the worms in the pasture. With the help of your veterinarian, you can analyze your horse’s unique parasite risk profile to create an individualized deworming plan that fits their needs. The start of this program begins with a fecal egg count analysis to determine what level of parasitism exists in your horse before you administer the treatment.

9. Vaccinations:  Properly administered vaccinations are simply the safest, easiest, and most economical tools available to help prevent infectious diseases. Illness can take an enormous toll on you horse’s well-being and performance, and may even jeopardize its life. Vaccinating your horse at the right time, well before exposure to viral and bacterial disease, is extremely important. The core vaccinations that are recommended are Equine Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis, influenza, Rhinopneumonitis, West Nile Virus, tetanus and rabies. Some of the risk-based vaccines including Strangles and Potomac Horse Fever should be considered if the horses are exposed to new horses frequently or high risk environments.

10. Dental Care:  Teeth are a unique concern to horses. An oral examination should be an essential part of the annual wellness examination. Their teeth continue to grow unless worn down by opposing teeth. The horse’s top row of teeth naturally sit wider than the bottom so floating needs to be done to eliminate the points that develop. Occlusal equilibration (floating) refers to the routine maintenance of a horse’s mouth. This includes smoothing enamel points, correcting malocclusion (faulty meeting of the upper and lower teeth), balancing the dental arcades, and correcting other dental problems that can interfere with your horse’s ability to chew and subsequently digest his food. Your equine veterinarian will check for abnormalities in the mouth such as oral infections, masses, gum disease, tooth abscesses, etc., that can also affect the overall health and performance of the horse. Without treatment, dental and oral issues can lead to more serious conditions like gastrointestinal disturbances such as choke and colic.  Your equine veterinarian has the knowledge to understand and treat a dental condition that may affect your horse’s overall health.

At her practice, Dr. Pugh offers veterinary services for all patients large and small, with the focus being on large animals. She primarily cares for horses with a focus on equine dentistry, alpacas and llamas, goats and a few beef cows, sheep and pigsAppointments can be made for an ambulatory farm call or for the haul-in clinic. There is also a  haul-in large animal clinic which offers a clean facility, safe handling equipment such as horse stocks and a full working cattle runway and chute, a temperature-regulated setting, a comfortable waiting area, grass and dry lots for animals, a convenient location and a very large parking area for trailer maneuvering.Dr. Pugh was born into an active animal loving and raising family in Stark County. Dr. Trish (as she is often called) showed cattle, sheep and hogs in both 4-H and open shows and trail-rode horses during her childhood. She attended The Ohio State University, where she completed her bachelor of agricultural science degree in animal sciences. For her, it was an essential and logical step to obtain a veterinary education as a Buckeye at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Pittsburgh Zoo marks historic black rhino birth

Thursday, September 13th, 2012
After 15 months of waiting, Pittsburgh Zoo officials said the facility’s female black rhinoceros, Azizi, gave birth to a female baby, marking the zoo’s first black rhino birth in 47 years. With only 4,800 animals left in the wild, every captive black rhino birth is a landmark occasion. Zoo veterinarians monitored the birth and say the calf appears to be healthy. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (9/12)
Paul A. Selvaggio
The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium has a new  baby rhinoceros.

 By Taryn Luna / Pittsburgh  Post-Gazette

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s animal family grew by one on Saturday  with a female baby black rhinoceros, the zoo announced today.

For more than a year zookeepers tried to introduce its female black rhino  Azizi with Jomo, the zoo’s male black rhino, with the hope that the two would  mate and produce the first black rhino born in Pittsburgh in 47 years.

The black rhino is an endangered species. The birth is significant, too,  because many remaining black rhinos in captivity are male.

Rhinos are solitary animals and although successful, the introductory process  was long.

Fifteen months ago, zookeepers learned Azizi was pregnant and last week they  noticed her behavior was changing.

She paced and appeared uncomfortable, at one point putting her feet in a  water trough and stretching, zoo officials said.

The 50-minute labor was closely monitored by zoo veterinarians, who remained  out of sight to not interfere in or alter the delivery.

Baby rhinos have a mortality rate of about 25 percent in zoos and the first  three months are critical to their health, according to the zoo.

Thus far, the baby appears to be doing well after being born at 70.4 pounds,  compared to the 4,500 to 5,000 pound weight of an adult.

Veterinarians said she was nursing within the first two hours of her birth,  which is the first step in bonding with the mother.

Calves gain about 30 pounds each week on a milk diet and zookeepers plan to begin feeding her  solid foods, such as alfalfa and sweet potatoes, when she reaches about one  month old.

Zoo officials said the baby is very active, moving around and trotting in her  room until her mother is out of sight, and then wailing until she returns. They  plan to continue  to monitor her to ensure that she’s nursing.

In order to preserve the black rhino species, which is down to 4,800 animals  in the wild, zoo officials said earlier this year that the calf will likely be  placed in another zoo once it is old enough to breed with other black rhinos  since it cannot be bred with its father.

Populations of black rhinos, which were depleted by 96

percent from 1970 to 1972, are recovering slowly in the wild.

According to a written statement from the zoo, Azizi and the baby will not be  on exhibit until they can bond and weather and temperatures are ideal.

Taryn Luna:  or 412-263-1985. First Published September 12, 2012 3:44 pm

Pets experience pain like we do — they just don’t show it

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Veterinarian Lee Pickett writes that dogs and cats have the same kind of central nervous system that humans have and feel pain in the same way we do but are programmed to hide it. Any condition that would cause pain in a human should be evaluated by a veterinarian when it occurs in a pet, even if the animal is not showing obvious signs of pain, she adds. Dr. Pickett also addresses colitis symptoms, causes and treatment in this article. Reading Eagle Press (Pa.) (8/31)

Dear Christopher Cat: During Misty’s recent exam, her veterinarian showed me that her teeth are covered with tartar and her gums are swollen and red. They look painful, but she doesn’t rub her mouth, drop food or cry while she’s chewing. Do cats not feel pain the way we humans do?
Christopher responds:
Research has shown that cats and dogs have the same type of nervous system humans have and feel pain the same way.
The difference is that we pets don’t show pain the way you humans do.
Humans learn early that if they cry, a loving parent will sooth the hurt.
In contrast, our feline brains are programmed to hide distress, lest a predator see us as weak and therefore easy to kill.
Not only do we hide our pain, but we continue eating, because if we don’t, we know we’ll die of starvation.
So if Misty develops a condition that would cause you pain, assume it’s hurting her. If it would prompt you to see your doctor, take her to her veterinarian.
In this case, a professional dental cleaning and treatment will not only help Misty feel better but also improve her health.


Vets and physicians find research parallels

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Dr. Jonathan M. Levine at Texas A&M studies spinal cord injuries in pets like Dexter, a dachschund.

Published: September 10, 2012

Three times in the last two months, researchers from St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan headed across town to the Animal Medical Center to look at dogs.

Doctors at the hospital’s Vascular Birthmark Institute were enticed by the chance to study anomalies of the arteries and veins that are rare in humans but common in dogs. And the traffic between human and animal hospitals flows in the other direction, too: Late last month, veterinarians from the Animal Medical Center began meeting with their counterparts at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to set up trials of a noninvasive device for removing tumors of the urinary tract with electrical impulses.

Exchanges of this sort are becoming increasingly common. Once a narrow trail traveled by a few hardy pioneers, the road connecting veterinary colleges and human medical institutions has become a busy thoroughfare over the last five years or so, with a steady flow of researchers representing a wide variety of medical disciplines on both sides.

One reason is a growing frustration with the inefficiency of using the rodent model in lab research, which often fails to translate to human subjects. So researchers are turning their attention to the naturally occurring diseases in dogs, horses, sheep and pigs, whose physiology and anatomy more closely resemble those of humans.

“The drugs cure the mice and keep failing when we try them on humans,” said Dr. John Ohlfest, an immunotherapist at the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center, who began working with the university’s veterinary school in 2005 to study canine brain cancers. “The whole system is broken.”

Dr. Laurence J. N. Cooper, who develops immune-based therapies at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and recently started making canine T cells for lymphoma research at Texas A&M’s veterinary school, said: “There’s got to be a better way. Canine biologies look like ours, and the treatments look like ours.”

The growing realization that vets and medical doctors may have very good reasons to talk to one another has led to a host of collaborative research projects aimed at speeding the journey from lab to human clinical trials and, in the end, producing a result that can be applied to human and animal patients alike.

These projects often emanate from partnerships like the National Cancer Center’s comparative oncology program, created in 2006 to coordinate canine cancer trials among 20 oncology centers across the United States, or the Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research at North Carolina State University’s veterinary college, which recently signed a partnership agreement with the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to do research on regenerating organs in humans and pets.

“In the past I might have gone over to the medical school with a specific problem and ask advice,” said Dr. Larry D. Galuppo, an equine surgeon at the University of California, Davis, who has been experimenting with the latest stem-cell therapies to repair tendon injuries in horses. “But it wasn’t programmatic the way it is now.”

It is not unusual, these days, for veterinary surgeons to call in their human-medicine counterparts for consultations or even to take part in tricky operations. Vets go on rounds at hospitals for people, and vice versa. Both sides attend each other’s conferences. “It’s still grass roots, it’s still early days, but it’s very exciting,” Dr. Ohlfest said.

In part, the proliferation of partnerships reflects a philosophical movement known as “one health,” or “one medicine,” the recognition that about 60 percent of all diseases move across species and that environmental pollution, animal diseases and human diseases constitute a single interlocking problem.

This was the subject of a joint declaration by the American Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2006 aimed at encouraging information sharing and joint projects among the far-flung branches of veterinary and human medicine.

More concretely, the completion of the canine genome map, in 2005, set off an explosion in basic research. Although less celebrated than the Human Genome Project, the canine map gave researchers a blueprint with clear potential for human use, since the gene codes for canines could be matched, one for one, with their human counterparts.

Cooperation can take the form of advanced research into new forms of diagnostic imaging, or gene manipulation. Or it can be as humble as fitting a dog with a shoe.

Dr. Robert Hardie, a surgeon at the University of Wisconsin’s school of veterinary medicine, turned to the orthotics lab at the university’s medical school in 2005 when he could not heal a post-surgery foot wound in Sam, a 200-pound Irish wolfhound.

As many other large dogs with footpad injuries do, Sam kept putting weight on the wound, caused when a toe had to be amputated. The orthotics team took a cast of Sam’s foot and made a foam-lined plastic boot with Velcro straps. Dr. Hardie later worked with the team to develop specialized braces for tendon injuries.

Often, partnerships embrace multiple institutions and, within institutions, fields as diverse as biomechanics and textiles.

Dr. Jonathan M. Levine, a veterinary neurologist at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, joined forces with the medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, to test a promising new drug that blocks a particular enzyme that inflicts secondary damage, like the aftershock to an earthquake, on injured spinal nerves.

Working with dachshunds and other dwarf canine breeds, which often suffer from spinal cord injuries because of their propensity to develop herniated discs, he recently won a grant from the Department of Defense, which is interested in the application of his research to battlefield injuries.

At the same time, one of Dr. Levine’s colleagues, Dr. Jay Griffin, has collaborated with specialists at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston to develop a new technique, called diffusion tensor imaging, whose sensitivity allows them to see precisely how spinal cord cells die.

The big bet is that veterinary science and human medical science can combine to achieve efficiencies that translate across species. In some instances, this has already happened.

Dr. Hollis G. Potter, head of magnetic resonance imaging at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, has been working with Dr. Lisa A. Fortier of Cornell University’s college of veterinary medicine to analyze meniscus injuries using sheep.

Quantitative M.R.I. techniques like ultrashort echo-time imaging makes it possible to see how knee tissue heals, and how much stress it can stand after surgical repair, information that has immediate application for the human knee. “In just a couple of years, we’ve taken this process from sheep to humans,” Dr. Potter said.

The reverse route is even quicker. “Traditionally there has been a 10-to-20-year lag between animal and human medicine,” said Dr. Chick Weisse of the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan, who for the last two years has been treating hard-to-reach canine tumors with a frozen-nitrogen technique he learned at Sloan-Kettering.

“That gap has narrowed,” he said. “Now you see renal transplants, hip replacements — things they said would never be done on animals. Things are happening so fast right now that it’s almost simultaneous.”

Helping dogs with storm anxiety

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012
Better behavior with Steve Dale
Thunder booms, and some dogs panic. Here’s how to help your pets cope.

Some dogs are better at forecasting the weather than the National Weather Service. They know a storm is approaching before we do. These dogs pace, salivate, tremble, whine, and become Velcro dogs (stick to you like glue) even when the storm is an hour away or more. And it might get worse when the storm actually arrives. Some dogs may forget their house training and even self-mutilate. Other dogs don’t do any of these things. They just want to hide, perhaps under a bed, in a corner, in a closet, or in the bathtub.

Some clients feel that a storm-frightened dog will learn over time that the storm really won’t hurt her and she’ll get better on her own. That’s not usually how it works, unfortunately. When low-level anxiety is left alone, dogs actually seem to worsen—and that reasonably low level of anxiety is exactly when intervention is most likely to help before the anxiety becomes more severe. Early treatment is better. Of course, what can be done to help these suffering pets depends on the severity of the behaviors.

For milder anxiety Dogs’ behavior may take a turn for the worse even as a storm approaches. They can learn to associate the oncoming storm with changes in barometric pressure, maybe sensing an approaching storm front in other ways we don’t understand. You know sometimes how you can “smell” an oncoming storm? Of course, anything we can smell—a dog can. When the storms are near, dogs are not only affected by the sound of thunder, but also the sight of lightning, perhaps even the electricity in the air, and of course the sound of the rain itself.

For dogs with mild anxiety—who respond by hiding and don’t seem panicked, just anxious—veterinary team members may suggest proactively helping the dog to get over its fear. Sometimes the simplest solution can help, which is positive reinforcement during the thunderstorm. Here’s how it works: Take the dog into a basement, close the window shades (so hopefully the dog can’t see the lightning), pump up the music (to drown out storm sounds) and distract the pup with a jolly game. Kids are great at this, and moms and dads may appreciate the kids being entertained too. The dog can play whatever (safe) games the dog and children enjoy. This method also serves as desensitization and counter-conditioning for dogs who play along. When the next few storms come along, the dog starts to associate fearful weather with fun.

One problem with this approach is that many dogs are too fearful to even think about play. And what if the client isn’t always home as storms approach? Say, the jollying approach worked and after two more storms the dog is more easily distracted each time and seems a tad less anxious. But if no one’s home during the next thunderstorm, the client and the pet may be back to square one.

Your thunderstorm anxiety toolbox For many dogs, a combination of the following storm anxiety tools may be useful. These are not miracle cures, but they lessen the level of anxiety in dogs whose level of anxiety is so high that any one won’t work. Note that what works for one dog may or may not help another.

  • Adaptil.This is an analog of a calming pheromone found in lactating dogs and the intent is to calm anxious dogs. It’s available in diffuser or collar.
  • Anxiety Wrap.A vest-like “suit” that fits around the dog and uses acupressure to calm. The Anxiety Wrap can also be used for separation anxiety, anxiety in the car, and other anxiety-related issues.
  • Anxitane.L-Theanine in a chewable tab can help counter anxiety in dogs and cats. The idea is to offer the chewable before the dog becomes anxious.
  • Storm Defender.A red cape for dogs to wear to reduce anxiety. The cape has a special metallic lining that discharges a dog’s fur and protects from the static charge buildup that can bother dogs.
  • Thundershirt. Uses gentle, constant pressure to calm a dog. Could be used for anxiety, general fearfulness, barking, and more.

For dogs with more intense anxiety, veterinarians can consider anti-anxiety medication. Sleepiness can be a side effect, but what’s better—being a little drowsy or absolutely terrified? And with the right dose, a dog should not appear doped up. For more on appropriate anxiety pharmacological choices, resources include:

In this exclusive monthly column, Steve Dale, CABC, radio host, syndicated newspaper columnist, and contributing editor at USA Weekend, will give veterinary team members tips on helping patients with behavior issues and talking to clients about these sometimes tough topics. Steve Dale, CABC, writes a twice-weekly syndicated newspaper column for Tribune Media services and is a contributing editor at USA Weekend. He is also host of two nationally syndicated radio shows, “Steve Dale’s Pet World” and “The Pet Minute,” and is heard on WGN Radio. Catch him live at CVC San Diego Dec. 5-9.

Penn opens facility to train, study detection dogs

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012
The University of Pennsylvania has opened the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a facility where dogs will be trained to find humans in disaster situations, allowing researchers to help determine how the dogs are successful. “The detection area is so important because these dogs are better than any machine that we have — and they can save lives,” said veterinarian Cynthia Otto, an emergency, critical care and disaster medicine expert who founded the center. Dr. Otto worked with detection dogs at ground zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has consulted with the military on search-and-rescue dogs. National Public Radio (text and audio) (9/11)


A detection dog-training center opens Tuesday, on the anniversary of Sept. 11, at the University of Pennsylvania so scientists can train dogs for search-and-rescue missions — and study what helps them succeed.

Cynthia Otto, who served on a team that used working dogs to search for survivors in the rubble at ground zero, created the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. She’s a veterinarian who specializes in emergency, critical care and disaster medicine, and she has consulted with the military about the health of search-and-rescue dogs, including Cairo, the dog who worked on the Osama bin Laden mission. She tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that detection dogs are invaluable.

“There are so many jobs now that dogs are being used for,” Otto says. “Originally it was kind of looked at as that patrol dog or the bomb-detection dog, but now they’re being used to find the IEDs [improved explosive devices]. Some of them are actually being used for therapy in the field, which is really incredible. But they’re starting to look at all of the different potential components that these dogs can contribute to…and the detection area is so important because these dogs are better than any machine that we have — and they can save lives.”

Annemarie DeAngelo, the center’s training director, founded the New Jersey State Police Canine Unit and has worked with canines for more than 13 years. With her dog partners, she has searched for missing children, criminals and drugs — one drug seizure involved 1,200 kilos of cocaine.

With her canine companions, DeAngelo says she feels “very confident that I know my partner is doing his job, and that no harm is going to come to me, and we’re going to find what we’re looking for.”

Interview Highlights

Cynthia Otto, a veterinarian who tended to the health needs of working dogs at ground zero, created the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.

Penn CurrentCynthia Otto, a veterinarian who tended to the health needs of working dogs at ground zero, created the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.

A scientific approach to maintaining hydration for working dogs

Cynthia Otto: “One of the big concerns that we have not only with the military dogs but also the search-and-rescue dogs from Sept. 11 and Katrina is maintaining their hydration, and so that’s a project we’re very actively working on at this time because these dogs are so focused on what they’re doing. They’re really intent, and so they’re just gonna keep on doing it and they forget that they need to have a drink. And what happens is then they’re more likely to get overheated, they’re more likely to really get exhausted if they don’t take a break. …

“And so we’re looking at different approaches to keeping them hydrated so that they can stay safe, they can work well, and that’s a question that people have lots of ideas about, and no one’s taken that scientific approach. And that’s what we’re doing.”

On how dogs are trained to find the living

Otto: “With finding live people, it’s very important that they’re trained to very quickly identify a concealed person, and that allows them to work in an area where there are a lot of other people that are visible but aren’t concealed. And those dogs typically have what we call a very active alert — they bark. It may be used in the human remains also to have an active alert, but most of them are a more passive alert, which means that they would either sit or paw to alert that there is something there. The urgency with the live find is really what’s so important, because we have such limited time to be successful.”

Annemarie DeAngelo, the center's training director, founded the New Jersey State Police Canine Unit and has worked with canines for more than 13 years.

Sarah GriffithAnnemarie DeAngelo, the center’s training director, founded the New Jersey State Police Canine Unit and has worked with canines for more than 13 years.

On how training dogs to apprehend criminals is different from search and rescue

Annemarie DeAngelo: “When you’re sniffing, the dogs are using their olfactories to locate a substance, whether it’s explosives or narcotics. When you’re making a criminal apprehension, that is when the dog is assisting the officer and he bites and holds the person until the officer gets there, or if someone is assaulting the officer, dogs are automatically trained to protect that officer. …

“[The training] starts out as game of tug of war and it evolves. It’s a long process, but it evolves to a sleeve, and you just keep training every day until the dog will go out and make a clean apprehension.”

On whether dogs have a sense of service

Otto: “I would love to think that, but I think they think it’s a game. …

“They don’t care who they find. If they find somebody, they get their Frisbee; it’s a game and that’s what life is all about. I believe dogs have such an amazing connection with us, and I think that sometimes what it’s all about for them is what they’re feeling from their handler — that pride that we can give them — that feeling, just that connection, because that is important to them. But it’s about the game. I don’t think that they really do know that they’re being so amazing and so patriotic and so helpful. They’re doing what they do naturally.”