Texas A&M VMTH Earns High-Ranking Emergency Hospital Designation

Front entrance of the Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital
The Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital

Story by Megan Myers

The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) has been recertified as a level II emergency and critical care facility by the Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Society (VECCS) for its dedication to providing the best care possible for emergency patients.

By recognizing hospitals that meet and exceed the minimum standards and guidelines published, the VECCS hopes to raise the standard of care while also increasing public and professional awareness in the area of veterinary emergency and critical patient care.

The VMTH’s Emergency & Critical Care (ECC) Service was designated as level II for exceeding the minimum requirements for certification under VECCS and being open to patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“This is a nice way to display the dedication and level of training that we provide through the emergency service here at TAMU,” said Dr. Christine Rutter, a CVM clinical assistant professor and head of the Small Animal Hospital (SAH) Intensive Care Unit (ICU). “It acknowledges that our team is in a category with some of the best hospitals in the country.”

Level II facilities are required to have a dedicated surgical preparation area and keep in stock items such as canine and feline packed red blood cells, central venous catheters, and several medications used in emergency situations.

In addition, the facility must be able to provide nutritional support, both directly to the gut and through the blood stream, and consult with a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Radiology for the review of diagnostic images when necessary.

By meeting all these requirements, the VMTH ensures that the Emergency Service and ICU have all supplies and staff necessary to give patients every chance at recovery. The certification also represents the VMTH’s commitment to a positive environment and team approach.

“I think the best part about bringing your pet to the Texas A&M Emergency & Critical Care Service is that we use a team approach to health care,” Rutter said. “You aren’t just getting the experience and care of the doctor you see; you are getting the care and expertise of a huge technician team and access to a wide variety of specialists who provide the most complete care possible for your pet.”

The VECCS certified facility logo
The VECCS certified facility logo

The VMTH will display the VECCS certified facility logo for the next two years, after which recertification will be necessary to remain a level II facility.

“I think it’s great that VECCS has found a way to identify practices based on the service and care they are able to provide,” Rutter said. “Our ECC team worked very hard to get the application and certification materials together. It’s a huge effort, but it’s worth it to be able to show people who we are.”

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216

CVM Student Organization Hosts Unique CPR Training for Students, Faculty

A group of students and faculty hold a Texas A&M flag
Students and faculty who attended the RECOVER CPR training in January

Story by Megan Myers

The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) has become one of the first colleges in the country to provide students and faculty with both basic and advanced CPR training under the Reassessment Campaign on Veterinary Resuscitation (RECOVER) initiative.

The RECOVER initiative, the first standardized CPR training to offer certification through the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC), was created in 2010 with the goal of developing and disseminating the first true evidence-based veterinary cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) guidelines.

The CVM chapter of the Student Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (SVECCS) hosted a RECOVER CPR certification training on Jan. 18 to provide an opportunity for veterinarians and veterinary students to further their training on CPR techniques.

“Here at A&M, we offer both CPR certification levels, which is a really unique opportunity,” said Dr. Christine Rutter, a clinical assistant professor and SVECCS faculty adviser. “We’re one of only a few places in the country that are able to use interactive simulators for the advanced class.”

The RECOVER CPR training consists of online modules, videos, and quizzes, followed by a six-hour day of hands-on practice with CPR simulators known as “Jerry” dogs.

“You really learn the physiology behind CPR, as well as how you can use that physiology to better adapt your technique or your strategies (for resuscitating an animal),” said Katie Freeman, a second-year veterinary student and SVECCS treasurer. “It was very one-on-one. The instructors were always there giving critiques or feedback.”

Besides the physical motions of CPR, the training also focused on the communication skills that are necessary to help maintain order in emergency situations.

“As a student, being able to lead a team and learn how to actually walk through the steps and come across as appropriate and professional, but also get done what needs to get done, was one of the coolest things that I learned and why I think this course was so vital,” Freeman said.

Students and faculty pose with CPR simulators known as "Jerry" dogs
Students and faculty pose with CPR simulators known as “Jerry” dogs

Two veterinarians from the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) and 22 veterinary students attended the training, which will be offered again at multiple conferences at the CVM this year.

While the RECOVER CPR training is not yet offered to the general public, Rutter hopes that it will become an option in the future.

“The hospital members who learn can teach everybody at the Small Animal Hospital, and then when we go off as veterinarians, we can teach our technicians,” said Alyssa Gentry, a third-year veterinary student and SVECCS president. “It really spreads all the knowledge and raises the standard of care, as far as CPR goes.”

Though CPR is often portrayed in movies and TV shows as being successful nearly every time, it is typically only effective 50 percent of the time for animal patients under anesthesia and 5 percent or less for patients not under anesthesia.

“With these techniques we’ve been learning, our hope is to raise those numbers,” Freeman said. “Across the board, everybody is going to experience an emergency case and should be equipped to perform CPR. Emergencies can happen at any time of the day, at any point in your career. It’s better to be prepared.”

“There’s so much of veterinary medicine that’s hard for practitioners, for owners, and for the animals,” said Lauren Minner, a second-year veterinary student and SVECCS education coordinator. “CPR really is a thing where you can perform a miracle if you have your stuff together.”

The RECOVER training also gives veterinary students the opportunity to build upon and practice the CPR training they receive as part of the CVM’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) curriculum before they enter the VMTH for their fourth-year clinical rotations.

“The training these students have had is going to really help them when they come to clinics because the biggest thing I see whenever students see their first code (when a patient enters cardiac arrest) is that it’s a traumatic place to be,” Rutter said. “Rather than having a group of students who kind of stand against the wall and watch, these students have already been in these simulated environments.

“If you do a good job in the right situation, there’s a chance you can get that pet home, which is a miracle for that pet and that owner,” Rutter said. “That’s really what we’re all looking for. For the ones you can save, it means everything to that pet and that family.”

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216

Resolutions for a Paw-some New Year

The new year is an exciting milestone during which we often check in on our wellbeing and set goals for self-improvement. This year, consider using the holiday as an opportunity to evaluate and improve the health of your furry friend, as well, by including them in your new year’s resolutions.

Black dog looking up at falling confettiDr. Christine Rutter, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, offers some resolutions owners can set to improve their pet’s wellness in 2020.

Just as owners may reflect on their physical health every January, the start of the new year is a wonderful time to take stock of your pet’s health. For example, how are their activity levels and weight? If you are unsure, Rutter advises that owners ask their veterinarian those questions.

“I think a resolution to spend more time with your pet is a great one.  If your dog can tolerate walking, this is a great way to improve your own mental and physical health, as well as strengthen the bond between pet and owner,” Rutter said. “For cats, enrichment such as a laser pointer, feather wands, and crinkle toys can really get them moving—and they are delightful to watch!”

On a similar note, Rutter recommends that pet owners establish a dental care routine for their pet in the new year. A great way to begin this is to bring your pet in for an evaluation and cleaning. Because February is Pet Dental Health Month, Rutter advises that pet owners schedule an appointment early to take advantage of discounts that many veterinarians may offer on their dentistry services.

This can also be a time to check up on your pet’s check-ups.

Make sure your pet has an annual wellness visit scheduled for routine vaccinations. Knowing which immunizations will be expiring allows owners time to schedule appointments for them to be renewed. Owners should also consider updating their pet’s heartworm testing and medication, as well as parasite prevention plans with your veterinarian.

“There are a lot of new parasite and heartworm prevention products out there, and it’s a great time to check and see what is right for your pet(s),” Rutter said.

Owners may also want to take a second look at the snacks they feed their pets. Many dog treats and rawhides are high in calories, sodium, and fat. Dogs, especially smaller breeds, require far fewer calories than humans do and are easy to overfeed.

Because the little snacks owners feed their pets really add up, Rutter suggests owners consider healthier options.

“Dogs typically love baby carrots, apples, green beans, cauliflower, and melon. Just stay away from onions, peppers, grapes, raisins, and garlic,” Rutter said. “Each dog is different, and if you’ve been giving them delicious stinky dog treats (or even worse, table food), they may turn their nose at these offerings initially. They will come around once the table food and tasty treats decrease in frequency.”

The new year marks the beginning of many commitments to health and personal improvement. In 2020, why not extend your goals to improve the lives of the furry friends who love you the most? 

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Tricky Treats: Protecting Your Pet from a Halloween Scare

Halloween is an exciting holiday marked by costumes, decorations, and treats that set the spooky scene. While these festivities may ensure a fun evening, they can also pose additional threats to your household pet.

Dr. Christine Rutter, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), speaks to the dangers of pet poisoning on this holiday and how to react if intoxication does occur.

“The clinical signs for intoxication are extremely varied,” Rutter said. “Most intoxications will cause a sudden onset of signs, but these signs can range from subtle to severe. Altered behavior, clumsiness, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and seizure are the most common signs that I see in relation to pet poisonings.”

Halloween celebrations may introduce toxic foods and objects into your home that your pet would not be exposed to normally.

“Most of the things we worry about at Halloween are things like candy (including chocolate), sugar-free gum, glow sticks, and items they get into at Halloween parties, like party foods, recreational drugs, and alcohol,” Rutter said. “Glow sticks aren’t actually toxic, but the fluid within them is irritating and pets (especially cats) will drool and be very upset if they open one.”

Rutter advises that pet owners who suspect their animal has ingested a toxic substance seek medical advice as soon as possible.

“I recommend that owners contact their veterinarian or the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center hotline for advice about how to handle a potentially poisoned pet,” Rutter said. “An additional benefit is that the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline provides owners with a case number that their veterinarian or a veterinary emergency doctor can use to call and speak directly to a toxicologist about the pet’s specific case, should the pet need to go to a hospital.”

Even if the potentially poisoned pet is not exhibiting symptoms, Rutter recommends seeking medical help. If you are unsure of whether your pet has ingested enough of a toxic substance for harm to be done, an expert should still be contacted as soon as possible.

“I wouldn’t recommend the ‘wait and see’ plan. With toxins, limiting the animal’s absorption of the toxin before the pet is symptomatic is very important,” Rutter said. “If we can prevent problems before they happen, that’s going to be a lot more effective than trying to reverse clinical signs that are already present. Part of toxin management is minimizing the impact of the toxin.”

It is imperative that pet owners remember that foods that are harmless to them—chocolate, sugar-free gum, party foods, and alcohol—pose a serious threat to the well-being of their furry friend.

“Families have to be very careful to limit exposure to hazards during the Halloween season. All candy and food items have to be kept out of an animal’s environment. Sometimes that means keeping candy in a refrigerator, microwave, or other closed space,” Rutter said.

“It’s also a good idea to keep pets confined during Halloween parties and trick-or-treating events.  All of the new people, strangers in costume at the door, and access to tempting treats can be a recipe for anxiety, increased scavenging behavior, and exposure to toxins.”

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Recognizing a Pet Emergency

Many pet owners have found themselves in difficult situations in which they know something is wrong with a pet, but the veterinary clinic is closed. How do you know when it’s a true emergency and how do you know when it can wait until the clinic opens the next day?

To answer this question, Dr. Christine Rutter, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, discusses some common situations that often cause pet owners concern.

If an animal is showing lameness, such as abnormal movements or the inability to use a limb, the severity will determine the degree of urgency. If lameness is severe, suddenly worse, associated with bleeding, or persists for more than 24 hours, it should be considered an emergency situation.

“Weight-bearing lameness, or limping, can typically be evaluated within one to two days by a primary care veterinarian, rather than on an emergency basis,” Rutter said.

Sources online may recommend giving non-steroidal, over-the-counter medications to pets for pain relief, but this can cause serious toxicity or drug interaction issues.

“If an owner feels that a pet needs pain medication, they should always contact their veterinarian prior to administering medications,” Rutter said. “I don’t recommend any over-the-counter human pain medications for use in animals. We have veterinary medications that are much safer, more effective, and interfere less with our ability to diagnose and treat more complicated causes of lameness.”

Bleeding cuts and injuries are also considered emergencies when severe, especially if accompanied by lethargy or weakness. In addition, pale pink or white mucous membranes, including the gums and tissues inside of eyelids, can indicate severe or rapid blood loss.

“Any bleeding that is excessive or doesn’t stop within 10 to 15 minutes should be evaluated by a veterinarian,” Rutter said. “Any wound that is ‘full-thickness,’ which means it goes all the way through the skin so that you can see underlying muscles and tissues, should be evaluated. This especially applies to bite wounds; all bite wounds are an emergency.”

Bite wounds not only cause physical damage, but can also lead to infection and spread diseases between animals, so they should be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

If a dog or cat swallows a foreign object or plant, the best option is to immediately call the ASPCA poison control hotline (888-426-4435) to determine if the ingested substance is toxic.

“The ASPCA hotline does cost money, but it could either save you a trip to the ER if the intoxication isn’t serious, or it can provide your ER veterinarian with important initial and follow-up information through the case number you receive during the consultation,” Rutter said.

Another common cause of concern for pet owners is when a dog or cat becomes lethargic or refuses to eat or drink.

The urgency in this situation often depends on the pet’s normal behavior. For example, if a dog that normally eats all its food in a minute suddenly refuses to eat, it should probably be seen by a veterinarian sooner rather than later.

“In general, a dog or cat that doesn’t eat or is lethargic for more than 24 hours should be evaluated,” Rutter said. “Cats are especially sensitive to prolonged anorexia, and they can have secondary illness solely from not eating. Vomiting or diarrhea that does not resolve within 12 to 24 hours should also be evaluated.”

When it comes to seizures, the pet’s medical history will determine whether a trip to the emergency room is necessary.

“A single, short seizure that is ‘typical’ for a known epileptic pet is probably not an emergency,” Rutter said. “Seizures than last more than three to four minutes, violent seizures, new seizures, more than one seizure in 24 hours, or severe after-effects of a seizure are emergencies.”

Overall, if you think a situation may be an emergency, take the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible. It is better to over-react and have to pay for an emergency room visit than to do nothing and lose a pet.

“I don’t recommend scouring the internet for information about how to treat your pet,” Rutter said. “Also, veterinarians and veterinary technicians cannot evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients over the phone—it’s illegal and can cost us our license.”

By knowing how to recognize a true emergency, pet owners can quickly make the best decisions for their animals and increase the likelihood of positive outcomes. Being prepared for emergencies can save money, time, and possibly even a pet’s life.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Keep Pets Cool in the Summer Heat

Summer brings with it an expectation of sweltering temperatures, sometimes to the point of danger.

As temperatures climb, remember that if you are hot, your pet is probably feeling even hotter. Dogs and cats generate more heat than people and usually also have a thick layer of fur to trap that heat inside.

Pug in a mini pool

Dr. Christine Rutter, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has some tips on identifying signs that your pet may be too hot and suggestions on ways to keep them safe and cool on hot summer days.

While people sweat all over to get rid of excess heat, dogs and cats are only able to sweat through their paw pads.

Most pets rely on panting to cool down, but animals with shorter noses, like Bulldogs and Persian cats, tend to be less heat tolerant, meaning they have a harder time getting rid of excess body heat.

“Very young and older animals, especially those with underlying conditions, are also less heat tolerant than healthy adult animals,” Rutter said. “If you hear snoring, coughing, or gurgling when your pet tries to pant or gets excited, it’s not going to be heat tolerant.”

Factors such as obesity, long hair, and medications can also make pets more sensitive to heat. If any of these apply to your pet, Rutter advises talking to a veterinarian about increased heat sensitivity.

Luckily, there are many things people can do to help their pets cool down on hot days. The simplest solution is to keep pets inside an air-conditioned building, but there are other options if the pet will be spending time outside.

“Shade, cool water to drink or play in, a fan, and a cool surface such as grass help pets cool down–just like how we seek out a glass of lemonade, a shady spot to rest, and a breeze when we are too hot,” Rutter said.

Cats usually limit their own activity and seek out shade if they get too hot but should still be provided a fresh source of water and should be not be put outside for the first time during the summer.

Working, agility, and motivated dogs, like retrievers or game dogs, however, may not slow down when they get too hot, so owners should be mindful to limit their activity as the temperature rises, according to Rutter.

“Any dog that wants to take a break, doesn’t want to walk, or is panting heavily should be given fresh, cool water and a shady spot to rest until their breathing normalizes and they want to return to activity,” Rutter said. “Avoid exercise during the heat of the day and take a 10- to 15-minute break to cool down every 15 to 20 minutes when the temperature is over 80 degrees.”

If an animal cannot get rid of excess heat, it may develop heat exhaustion or heat stroke; environmental temperature, humidity, and the pet’s activity level can all play a role in developing these conditions.

“Heat exhaustion is the feeling of lethargy, discomfort, or weakness that is experienced when the body gets too hot,” Rutter said. “It’s the body’s way of saying, ‘slow down!’”

In comparison, heat stroke is an illness caused by increased body temperature. According to Rutter, it is much more serious and can even be life-threatening if not caught early.

If a pet is showing signs of heat exhaustion, it should be wet down with cool (not cold) water and be put near a blowing fan in a shaded, air-conditioned area.

If the pet vomits, acts lethargic, has red gums, or seems to have small, red bruises on its mouth, eyes, or abdomen it should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you are unsure of whether it is an emergency situation, it is better to have the pet checked out just in case, because heat stroke can cause serious damage very quickly.

Rutter also reminds pet owners that it is dangerous to leave a pet inside a parked car during any time of the year, but especially during the summer; in as little as 15 minutes, the inside of a car can become lethally hot.

The best way to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke is to be aware of the amount of time a pet spends outside in the summer and to watch for any symptoms of these conditions. With these simple precautions, pet owners can ensure that their dogs and cats stay safe during the worst of summer.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.