Texas A&M, MD Anderson Clinical Trial Helps Dogs, People


Kristin Patrick drops off Sadie for her appointment at the Small Animal Hospital.

Look at Sadie Watson and you may not guess she has much in common with anyone at MD Anderson. After all, Sadie is a 9-year-old French bulldog and beloved family pet. But she’s also facing the same diagnosis as many patients in MD Anderson’s Brain and Spine Center: a brain tumor called a glioma.

Sadie’s owner Kristin Patrick and her husband, Robert Watson, also have two young sons, but Sadie was their “first baby.”

“When you love a pet so much, they become part of your family,” Patrick said.

But in July 2016, while Patrick and Watson were on vacation in Paris, Sadie had multiple seizures and eventually was diagnosed with the glioma.

When it came time for Patrick and Watson to decide how to treat their beloved pet, their perspective as both parents and researchers in the Texas A&M’s Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology shaped their treatment decision-Sadie would undergo brain surgery to remove the tumor, donate the tissue for analysis, and enroll in an innovative clinical trial being conducted at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

“Participating in science is essential to move these therapies forward for families,” Patrick said. “If our actual baby had a brain tumor-I can’t even fathom that.”

The clinical trial, it turns out, will have implications not only on Sadie; the same brain tumors that affect dogs are found in humans, too.

Using data from this clinical trial, physician-scientists from MD Anderson and the CVM are teaming up to help man and man’s best friend.

A Common Bond

“We have the same struggles in that these gliomas in dogs are really hard to treat,” said Dr. Jonathan Levine, professor, Helen McWhorter Chair and department head of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the CVM, where Sadie is a patient.

Current therapies simply aren’t very effective at treating high-grade gliomas, such as grade IV glioblastoma, and survival is poor in both humans and dogs. Scientists know that tumors from both species look almost identical on MRI scans and under the microscope. In 2015, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) created a comparative brain tumor consortium to evaluate canine brain cancer as a model for human disease.

“The big question is: Are human and canine high-grade gliomas genetically the same?” said Dr. Amy Heimberger, professor of neurosurgery at MD Anderson and co-leader of the Glioblastoma Moon Shot.

To find the answer, she’s leading a P30 grant funded by the NCI. Fittingly, Heimberger is also a dog-lover, with a pet collie named Duke, a west highland terrier named Winston, and a long-haired dachshund named Millie.

Levine and brain tumor genomics expert Roeland Verhaak, Ph.D., professor and associate director of Computational Biology at The Jackson Laboratory in Connecticut, are co-investigators on the grant. (Levine has a border terrier named Lucy. Verhaak has a Chihuahua named Lola.)

The P30 grant is the first large-scale, advanced-sequencing project to characterize genetic alterations in canine glioma and the first screening project to identify immune responses in these tumors. Verhaak is currently analyzing data from whole-genome and RNA sequencing of 90 tissue samples from dogs with brain tumors. The grant’s long-term goal is to develop a safe and effective immunotherapy for both dogs and people with high-grade gliomas.

“These dogs, not only do they stand to benefit, but they represent an amazing opportunity to understand the biology of brain tumors, to understand how tumors evade drugs, and to understand the immune response,” Levine said.

A Better Model & A Shared Hope

All new cancer drugs are tested for safety and effectiveness in the lab-often in engineered mouse models-before they are approved for clinical trials in humans or dogs.

“Pre-clinical studies can look fantastic in mice, but fall apart in humans,” Heimberger said.

For a cancer like glioblastoma, which less than 10 percent of patients survive for five years, this is exceedingly frustrating.

“I want to reduce the cost and futility of clinical trials,” she said. “When you have a patient facing something this dire, you want to offer them something with a good chance of success.”

The current model system is imperfect: mice do not grow brain tumors on their own. Their tumors are small, sometimes microscopic. They live in a sterile environment. And their immune response is biased, making it difficult to accurately assess immunotherapies.

Pet dogs, on the other hand, spontaneously develop large brain tumors. They have a natural immune response to cancer, and they live in the homes of their human families.

As the grant team analyzes the tumor tissue samples from Sadie and other dogs, they will look for genetic mutations and immune responses known to occur in human brain tumors. If the results show that canine brain tumors are indeed a good model for human brain tumors, then clinical trials in man’s best friend could reveal which new immunotherapies have the best chance of success in mankind.

“Cancer is horrible for anyone affected by it, whether that’s a dog or a person,” Levine said. “There’s a huge opportunity here to develop something that helps dogs and also helps people.”

This story, by Meagan Raeke, first appeared in MD Anderson’s Conquest magazine. The original article can be viewed here.

Dr. Stacy Eckman: Primary Care, Emergency Care, and All-around Care

Dr. Stacy Eckman

From people to animals, clients to patients, and colleagues to students, Dr. Stacy Eckman touches the lives of many through her work at the Texas A&M; College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). To many she is a doctor, a teacher, and a mentor. She currently works as a clinical assistant professor in both small animal primary care and emergency services at the Small Animal Hospital. There, Eckman splits her time between routine care and emergency medicine, depending on where she is needed.

“In primary care, we try to make it as close to a regular, general practice as would be found outside of the university. We do a lot of routine wellness and healthcare, as well as acute injury and illness,” she said. “In the ER, it’s whatever comes in the door.”

In addition to balancing her attention between the distinctive worlds of primary care and the ER, Eckman also teaches veterinary students and interns in clinical and classroom settings. This level of multitasking can be a challenge, but it is something in which Eckman excels. In fact, she flourishes at this level of multitasking. Her versatility makes her an asset as both a veterinarian and a professor.

Life Before the CVM

Before Eckman plunged into the world of veterinary academia, she was no different than many aspiring veterinarians. She loved animals and dreamt of one day being able to help them by becoming a veterinarian. “I have a similar story to everybody else,” she said. “When I was a little kid, I loved cats and dogs. In particular, I loved cows.”

Growing up, Eckman wanted to be a large animal veterinarian specializing in cattle. Sadly, she was discouraged from pursuing her dream. She said, “I thought I always wanted to be a veterinarian, and I went to career day in high school and the veterinarian there said, ‘It’s terrible. It’s all this work, and it’s math and science. It’s a terrible profession,'” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow, maybe I should do something else.'”

Eckman took that conversation to heart. Dissuaded from her dream of becoming a veterinarian, she eventually attended Texas A&M; University as a civil engineering major. However, her dreams would not die so easily.

During a trip to her hometown, Eckman was helping a friend with her show steer when she realized that working with animals was what she really loved. “I just thought, ‘This is what I want to do,'” she said.

When she got back to Texas A&M;, Eckman headed to the CVM and met with Dr. William “Bill” Banks to discuss changing majors to biomedical sciences. “He sat me down and talked to me about what my goals were, and he said, ‘I think we can help you.'”

An Aggie through and through, Eckman ended up attending veterinary school at the CVM. “I drink the Kool-Aid for sure,” she joked, while wearing Aggie maroon scrubs.

“Since I was growing up and going through veterinary school, I was going to own my own practice in small-town America, and that’s what I was going to do the rest of my life,” Eckman said. “The reality of it is, the more time that I spend teaching, the more I really enjoy the other side of medicine, or the other side of what academia has to offer. So, it’s definitely been a trajectory that I never envisioned, but it has evolved into the plan.”

From Private Practice to the CVM

After graduating, Eckman began practicing small animal medicine in Corpus Christi, Texas. Although she wasn’t working on cattle as she had intended, she discovered her love of small animal medicine.

For four years, Eckman and Daniel, her husband and a fellow veterinarian, worked at competing practices in Corpus Christi. The two later joined together and purchased a small animal practice, where they worked for six years. Although working in private practice was rewarding for the couple, it was also difficult.

“Not a day went by that I didn’t enjoy private practice,” Eckman said. “People always ask me why I came back to the CVM if I enjoyed private practice so much. For us it was a quality-of-life issue. Because we were co-owners, we were the only two veterinarians there, we had a young family, so one of us was always at work.”

Initially, Eckman was hesitant to leave private practice. She loved the personal relationship that she developed with her clients, but she found that working at the CVM still allowed her to develop such relationships with her pupils and clients. Not only does she get to see her patients grow up from being puppies and kittens, but she also gets to see her students grow.

As she began to explore professional options, Eckman remembered how much she enjoyed teaching anatomy in veterinary school. So, she applied for a position at the CVM in the ER. From there, her career flourished.

“To me, it’s the best of both worlds,” she said. “I still have the patients and clients, but then I also get to teach students.”

Mentoring Students and Involvement in the CVM



As a mentor and teacher to first- through fourth-year veterinary students, Eckman now has the perspective of seeing students transform from starting veterinary school to entering the veterinary profession. She teaches a correlates course to the first- and third-year students, as well as a preventative care and wellness elective and communications to third-year students. Then, she guides the fourth-year students during clinical rotations. Both ER and primary care are required rotations for veterinary students, allowing Eckman to help mentor all the fourth-year students.

“Mentoring is one of the reasons why I came back-to see that light-bulb moment when it all comes together in the students’ mind,” Eckman said. “It’s really fun to see them come in as first-year students, when they don’t have a lot of confidence or opportunities to talk to clients. But I love to see how they evolve in their fourth year, and even as their fourth year progresses, they gain so much confidence in themselves and in their ability to communicate. It’s fun to watch.”

Through her role as veterinarian in the primary care service, Eckman mentors fourth-year veterinary students who are practicing their clinical skills and preparing to enter the profession. “We’re there for support, but we want them to truly be the doctors,” she said. “They can spread their wings and make a decision about something but still have the luxury of referring back to us and asking, ‘Is that OK? Should I do that?'”

The cases students see in primary care are a learning experience. “We try to make it the best example possible for the students, to show them that this is what it’s going to be like when they get out,” Eckman said. “We start seeing appointments at 8 a.m., then we take a break in the middle of the day for rounds to discuss the cases and specific topics. We continue to see appointments until about 5:30 or 6:00, and that’s kind of our typical day in primary care.”

On the other hand, the ER rotation can be much higher stakes, and students are watched closely by supervisors, such as Eckman, so that the patients receive the best possible care.

“We are highly invested in the students’ education, and I think that’s really, really important,” she said. “I think we, as faculty, take great pride in the fact that they’re getting a degree from Texas A&M;, and there’s a lot of weight that goes behind that. It’s more of a family atmosphere. We’re all in this together, and we can all move forward together.”

Beyond Teaching

To further ensure that students receive a quality education, Eckman is involved in administration. Currently, Eckman is involved in the selections committee and the committee on expanding class size. “The administrative piece is interesting. There’s different aspects of it that I find just as interesting as the teaching and practicing,” she said.

For Eckman, the future is now, and that means continuing to do what she is doing.  The descriptors she’s earned-teacher, mentor, doctor-are ones that she hopes will stick with her for a long time.

The CVM’s Primary Care Service provides routine medical care, including regular evaluations, sick care, treatment of minor emergencies, and senior care. It is a core service of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) and focuses on providing the best and most well-rounded care for pets along with practical experience for our fourth-year veterinary students.

The Emergency and Critical Care Service is a fully functional service with the capabilities of the entire hospital and has a veterinarian and support staff in the hospital to receive patients 24 hours a day. The service provides ongoing care for critically ill or injured pets, as well as those recovering from surgery. The emergency service also provides immediate initial evaluation, stabilization, and treatment for ill or injured pets.

The Texas A&M CVM receives visit from the Director General of the World Organisation for Animal Health

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – On March 2, the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, a unit of Texas A&M; AgriLife Research, co-hosted Dr. Monique Eloit, director general of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Eloit’s visit facilitated the exchange of ideas for how the University and OIE can work together on global animal health challenges and built on Texas A&M; University and AgriLife’s numerous international collaborations. Joining Eloit at the meeting were Sujiro Seam, consul general of France at Houston and his scientific attaché, Robin Faideau. The meeting was facilitated by Dr. Jim Butler, an international livestock consultant.

Dr. Monique Eloit with CVM

The visit began with an overview of OIE and Eloit’s work, including opportunities for scientific partnership between the OIE and universities. Eloit was then briefed on IIAD by Dr. Gerald Parker, interim director; Dr. Melissa Berquist, associate director; and Dr. Elizabeth Parker, chief veterinarian. The Institute was established in 2004 as a Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence and, in 2014, was recognized by the OIE as a Collaborating Centre in the specialty of biological threat reduction.

Dr. Allen Roussel, professor and department head of large animal clinical sciences, provided an overview of the CVM and summarized the CVM’s various opportunities for collaboration. Additionally, Dr. Linda Logan, director of International Programs, informed Eliot of the CVM’s programs outside of the United States.

Eloit’s visit concluded with a walking tour of the CVM’s facilities, such as the CVM Small and Large Animal Hospitals and the Diagnostic Imaging & Cancer Treatment Center.

“It was an honor and a pleasure to have the director general visit our college and discuss ways in which the Texas A&M; University System can participate in global animal health,” Roussel said. “It was also wonderful to be able to show our facilities and capabilities to French diplomats from the consulate. This meeting opened doors for IIAD, the CVM, and the entire university to increase our participation in the global society and global one health.”

“Dr. Eloit’s visit was a fantastic opportunity to build a partnership between the CVM and OIE,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King dean of veterinary medicine. “It was a pleasure for our team to hear about the OIE’s efforts to protect animal health, and to share how the CVM is serving every Texan every day.”

OIE was established in 1924 based on an international agreement between 28 countries to work collaboratively to stop zoonotic diseases that were devastating their livestock. The OIE was initially founded to stop infectious diseases of livestock, such as Rinderpest, also known as cattle plague. The organization promotes sharing scientific knowledge and best sanitation practices to combat animal and zoonotic diseases. In 1994, the World Trade Organization adopted the OIE’s guidelines on sanitation management and OIE’s recommendations were designated as the international reference on animal and zoonotic diseases.

Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences to Host 22nd Annual Open House

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) will host its 22nd annual Open House on Saturday, April 25, 2015 from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Open House is an exciting, student-run event where the public can explore one of the nation’s top veterinary schools inside and out. The Texas A&M University veterinary medical students enjoy the opportunity to sponsor an event that provides the public an educational and entertaining experience that emphasizes the roles veterinarians and animals play in our society.

Open House features exciting indoor and outdoor exhibits, a variety of hands-on events, and tours of several areas in both the large and small animal hospitals that otherwise are inaccessible to the public.

Visitors to the Small Animal Hospital have the opportunity to observe live spay and neuter surgeries and explore specialty rooms such as cardiology, oncology, and zoological medicine. Veterinary students will answer questions about specimens in the pathology, parasitology, and anatomy rooms.

One of Open House’s most popular events is Teddy Bear Surgery, where children can experience veterinary medicine first-hand by entering a real operating room and performing surgery on their favorite stuffed animal.

Children will be interested to learn about various breeds of dogs at the dog exhibit and will experience exotic animals as part of this year’s “Zoomagination” animal encounters. Outdoor events include demonstrations in agility and search and rescue, and the whole family can visit the outdoor petting zoo and watch a farrier make horseshoes.

Indoor events include observing an ultrasound in the large animal hospital and learning how x-rays are made. You will also have the opportunity to “Picture Yourself a Vet,” and have your photograph taken with different animals. Informational events include exhibits by animal-related organizations from throughout the state and a variety of talks given by veterinarians. Previous topics have included “A Day in the Life of…” and “What should I feed my pet?” Prospective veterinary students will also have the opportunity to attend Q&A; sessions with both admissions committee members and current veterinary students.

Open House is FREE, welcomes people of all ages, and does not require registration. The veterinary students of Texas A&M University invite you to attend this fun and unique event. There is so much to do and something for everyone at Open House, so bring your family and friends. See the Open House website for schedules, maps, and more!

Vonn Shows Progress at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the CVM

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – With the recent name change from Vici to Vonn (meaning Viking warrior), Vonn has risen to the occasion and shown his warrior spirit during treatment at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH). Still covered in bandages from head to paw, the hopeful six-month-old pit bull is doing all he can to survive after last week’s horrific incident.

Vonn 2

Last week mother and son pit bulls, Esperanza and Vonn, were brought to the Aggieland Animal Health Center by a concerned citizen, Cristi Wuthrich, who found the dogs near her home with injuries indicative of severe abuse.

“This has been a huge eye opener for me,” Wuthrich says. “I have never spent time around pit bulls before. They had no reason to trust me, but they did. Their sweetness makes me cry every time I think about what must have happened in their lives.”

It is clear that both Esperanza’s and Vonn’s paths changed dramatically when Cristi Wuthrich intervened in their lives,” said Dr. Eleanor Green, Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “My heartfelt thanks go out to her, the veterinary teams who are providing the best of care for both dogs, and to members of the community whose generosity has supported their care. These personal donations have been essential.”

“Vonn is progressing very well,” Dr. James Barr, clinical assistant professor in emergency and critical care at the CVM, explains. “For his general overall health, he is very happy. His wounds do need a lot of care. With a positive attitude and appetite, Vonn is doing his part to ensure his progress continues. The critical care team and soft tissue team are administering surgery once a day to remove excess dead skin from Vonn’s body.”

Barr explains that Dr. Brooke Smith, veterinary resident instructor for critical care at the CVM, is the quarterback for Vonn’s case and Dr. Katy Fryer, veterinary resident instructor for surgery at the CVM, is in charge of Vonn’s care for the soft tissue department during surgery.

On Wednesday, August 24, Smith reported, “Vonn is swiftly becoming the mascot of the Small Animal Clinic. He knows his daily routine perfectly and leads us to the treatment room every morning for his daily wound care. We found out that his new favorite food is scrambled eggs. We think that is why he continues to be optimistic about his anesthesia, because he knows he will get a home cooked breakfast after he wakes up.”

Vonn 1

“Esperanza has been making progress every day,” Dr. Barbara Hannes, veterinarian and owner of the Aggieland Animal Health Center, explains. “As with any kind of trauma, there are ups and downs in the healing process. On Tuesday, August 23, we had a bump in the road, because her albumin levels dropped to a level where plasma was needed. However, she is doing well today.”

Hannes states, “Esperanza has been eating well for us, and that is exceptionally important for her healing process. There are currently no signs of infection, clinically or on her bloodwork, and that is the thing most feared in any burn patient. We had visiting hours for Esperanza on Monday and today. This will be a long road to healing, but she is traveling it well right now.”

Esperanza’s ailments were evident as she sustained extensive burns and bite marks across her body. Hannes and her team felt confident that they could treat Esperanza in-house.

Vonn sustained more concentrated and deeper burns on his body, possibly exposing him to deadly infections. To give him the best chance at survival, Hannes enlisted the help of Barr and his team to treat Vonn.

“Vonn’s burns were deeper than Esperanza’s and were going to require a full team of specialists and round the clock monitoring for his best chance at survival,” Hannes says.

Hannes adds, “I want to extend our most sincere and heartfelt thanks and appreciation to every person who was involved in the process that allowed Vonn to be admitted to the TAMU Small Animal Clinic as a Good Samaritan case.”

“I hope that Vonn and Esperanza can continue to recover,” Wuthrich expresses. “The Aggieland Animal Health Center and the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the CVM have all been amazing. I hope that the dogs can find very loving, appropriate homes and can continue to bring awareness to our community about this horrific ‘sport’.”

If you would like to help with Vonn’s recovery, please send your donations to the Capper & Chris Save the Animals Fund. Please visit Vonn’s donation site at vetmed.tamu.edu/giving/vonn-and-esperanza. The Capper & Chris Save the Animals Fund provides financial assistance to pet owners who could not otherwise afford a lifesaving procedure for their animal, especially those pets that might have to be euthanized due to prohibitive financial hardship to the family. The fund, created by Mrs. Capper Thompson, was established as a memorial to Chris Stehouwer, a Texas A&M University student and animal lover who was killed in a tragic accident. Any funds raised in excess of the amount required for Vonn’s treatment will remain in the Capper & Chris Save the Animals Fund to aid in treatment for other animals whose owners cannot afford proper treatments.

If you would like to help with Esperanza’s recovery, please visit the Aggieland Animal Health Center in-person at 13223 FM 2154 Road in College Station, Texas. You can also make a donation online at aggielandanimalhealthcenter.com by following the “rescue” tab to the “donate” link.

“Miracle Foal” Survives Traumatic Brain Injury

COLLEGE STATION, TX -After a month of surgeries and careful treatment, Reno, a three month old Quarter Horse/Welsh Pony colt, is going home. On June 19th, Reno was brought to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) after he sustained blunt force trauma to the head, with bone chips embedded in his brain. Today, Reno is finally going home thanks to the teamwork and dedication of multiple specialists at the CVM.

Miracle Foal

The owners, Jody Baton and her daughter Whittany of Kilgore, Texas, brought Reno to the CVM for treatment as quickly as possible after the referring veterinarian, Dr. Robert Thoni identified a skull fracture with an x-ray image. Baton is no stranger to the Large Animal Hospital, 11 of her horses have previously been brought here for specialty treatment or surgery.

“It’s like a family reunion when I come in. These veterinarians are angels,” Baton said.

When Reno arrived at the CVM, he was very depressed and had difficulty walking. Dr. Keith Chaffin, professor of equine internal medicine, was assigned to lead Reno’s case. After rapid stabilization therapy, Reno was immediately sent for MRI and CT scans.

“The magnitude of brain swelling was much worse than we predicted, and the CT scan showed more than 20 bone chips embedded in the brain,” Chaffin said. “We couldn’t have known the extent of Reno’s injuries if it weren’t for the new Diagnostic Imaging and Cancer Treatment Center. What we can now do with brain and head injuries is state-of-the-art and we can better diagnose and develop therapeutic treatments, and Reno is a great example of that.”

Reno’s only chance for survival was surgery. Baton did not hesitate in making the decision to proceed.

“He is an extraordinary colt, and we didn’t think twice about agreeing to surgery because we knew he would be in good hands,” Baton said. “Besides, how do you put a price tag on a family member?”

Dr. Joseph M. Mankin, clinical assistant professor of neurology and neurosurgery in the CVM Small Animal Hospital, performed the surgery.

“What sets the CVM apart is our access to other specialties, the team effort for Reno has been phenomenal,” Chaffin said. “This type of surgery was somewhat unchartered territory for the Large Animal Hospital, and Dr. Mankin did an excellent job.”

Mankin removed about 25 bone fragments, a piece of skin with hair, and most alarming for the team, a pus pocket. The pus pocket indicated infection was already present, and an increased possibility for more extensive infection post-operatively. But an infection in the brain wasn’t the team’s only concern after surgery, Reno reacted violently as he awoke from anesthesia. The team was forced to anesthetize him again. This scenario repeated itself twice more and on the third attempt Reno was able to wake calmly. However, Reno tore the top side of his urinary bladder during the process, and needed surgery to repair the tear. Dr. Carolyn Arnold, assistant professor of equine soft tissue surgery, led Reno’s second surgery that week.

Reno’s bladder surgery and recovery went well, and there were no violent episodes. But post-surgery, colic and a fungal infection of the tongue slowed his recovery. Gastric ulceration was the cause of colic and he responded to therapy with a proton pump inhibitor. The tongue infection was caused by candidiasis, and was successfully treated with antifungal agents.

“Reno just had crisis, after crisis, after crisis,” Chaffin said. “He was a challenging case, but a very special little foal.”

A month of careful monitoring and the teamwork of the specialists at the CVM Large and Small Animal Hospitals allowed Reno to make a full recovery. Baton, who stayed by Reno’s side almost the entire month, was joined by her two daughters and mother to take Reno home, as part of their family.

“We are just so very thankful for everything A&M has done for Reno and our family,” Baton said. “We call him our miracle foal.”

Nestle’ Purina Donates Veterinary Kitchen to the CVM Small Animal Hospital

COLLEGE STATION, TX – On October 18, 2010 Nestle’ PURINA PetCare and the Small Animal Hospital at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) came together to open the recently donated state of the art veterinary kitchen housed in the Small Animal Hospital. The program known as Nestle Purina Center for Nutrition Excellence donated $70,000 to make the small animal kitchen in the hospital more accessible and safer for the patients of the hospital.

New Purina Kitchen

Dana Heath, assistant hospital administrator, wanted to enlist the help of Purina to transform their kitchen. Heath worked with Dr. Nicholas M. Vaughan, Nestle Purina regional sales representative to CVM, to make this happen.

“Purina decided to award the kitchen to CVM due to the excellence of its clinical medicine department and the progressive nature of the CVM to partner with different companies and different programs,” explained Vaughan.

The purpose of the newly renovated kitchen is to provide easier access for veterinary students and veterinarians to acquire food for the animals in the hospital and to see all of the options available for a patient in need. The room provides easy access to all of the dry goods, canned goods, and special dietary items necessary for the animal’s well being. The kitchen will hold Purina products and other food brands to ensure that the patient’s nutritional needs are met. The expiration dates are also clearly coded on every food item.

“Prior to the renovation we had some of the dry foods in accessible containers, but a lot of the dry food was wasted by opening bags that could not be closed or stored properly afterward,” said Dr. Deb Zoran, associate professor at the CVM. “We also didn’t have an effective way of storing canned foods to make them accessible. Now, it is much cleaner and a much more effective use of the space. There will be much less food wasted and we are very grateful for that.”

Purina has given back to the CVM many times. They have funded several resident projects, worked with the clinicians to fund a medicine residency, and they were an early benefactor to the small animal dental suite.

“I am very pleased with the new food storage and preparation facilities that have been provided through the generosity of Nestle’ PURINA PetCare,” said Dr. Sandee Hartsfield, professor and department head of the Small Animal Hospital at the CVM. “The kitchen area of the Small Animal Hospital has become aesthetically pleasing, and has been redesigned for efficiency and practicality in the handling of food products.”

“Proper nutrition is a vital component of the management of veterinary patients with medical and surgical problems,” explained Hartsfield. “The new kitchen area provided by Nestle’ PURINA PetCare assures ready access to a variety of dietary products, allowing veterinary students and hospital staff members to efficiently procure and prepare the most appropriate meals for their patients.”

Dean Green and the Purina Student Representatives

Dr. Eleanor Green and Purina Student Representatives, Holly Mariott and Megan Ohlenforst

Reveille with her primary caretaker, Cody Gulley

Reveille examines the new kitchen while her primary caretaker, Cody Gulley, looks on

New Emergency Medicine Facility

Staffed by experts in veterinary critical care and emergency medicine, the newly renovated facility includes sophisticated equipment such as a human-health grade laboratory analyzer for blood, a new state-of-the-art ventilator with graphics, monitors for vital signs, defibrillators, syringe pumps, and other emergency room instruments that are currently supporting cutting-edge medicine and surgery in human hospitals.


“This new facility reflects the rapid advancement in veterinary medicine over the past ten years,” said Dr. Maureen McMichael, Director of the Emergency Medicine and Critical Care Program. “Now, veterinarians have access to some of the same technologies that human practitioners use.”

The new equipment and larger facility will help veterinarians at the Small Animal Hospital to better diagnosis and treat a variety of emergency conditions including massive trauma, neurological conditions, toxicities, renal failure, and emergency referral cases from veterinarians across the State.

Expanded areas include intensive and intermediate care, anesthesia preparation, and a much-needed endoscopic procedure room. “We hope that our growing critical care and emergency medicine service will support veterinarians not only in Texas, but throughout the Southwest,” added McMichael.

Texas A&M University’s Small Animal Hospital serves as one of the most sophisticated veterinary medical teaching laboratories in the nation where fourth-year students in the professional program can learn the art and science of veterinary medicine. The expansion in critical care and emergency medicine facilities and staff is anticipated to increase the skills of graduating veterinarians in this growing specialty.

In addition to McMichael, Dana Heath, Assistant Hospital Administrator and the newly-elected President of the National Organization of Critical Care Technicians, Lori Atkins, the Critical Care Coordinator, as well as other clinical specialists will staff the new critical care and emergency medicine facility. Veterinarians and members of the media got a “Sneak Preview” of the new state-of-the-art critical care and emergency medicine facility at Texas A&M University’s Small Animal Hospital on Monday, September 10, 2002. It was a rare opportunity to see the facility because once patients are admitted to the unit; only veterinarians, technicians, and fourth year medical students working in emergency medicine and critical care will be permitted to enter.

Hole In Dog’s Heart Repaired at Texas A&M

COLLEGE STATION, Dec. 6, 2005 – Thanks to a rare medical procedure, a pet standard poodle has had a hole in its heart repaired by a cardiac catheterization technique performed at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

Veterinary cardiologists and human cardiologists, who have done this non-invasive procedure more than 300 times on humans, performed the repair at Texas A&M on Peschi, who was born with a hole in her heart. Four more dogs – all of them related to Peschi – have similar heart defects. Owners were told by doctors at Texas A&M that their dogs’ quality of life would decline without the procedure.

The ground-breaking procedure – technically called non-invasive catheter based atrial septal defect occlusion – was performed Friday for the first time ever in Texas. A procedure using a similar device was believed to have been conducted at Purdue University within the past year.

Peschi, a 5-year-old standard poodle, was born with a heart defect called an ASD – atrial septal defect. It means there’s an opening between the heart’s two upper chambers and if not repaired, the leak will likely result in the development of exercise intolerance, breathing difficulty and eventually premature death.

“We learned a lot from this experience and from here we can make a few equipment adjustments and move on,” said Dr. Sonya Gordon, a cardiologist in the Small Animal Hospital who assisted with the heart repair. She was aided by colleague Dr. Matthew Miller, also a cardiologist at the hospital.

“We’re all still learning and there’s a learning curve to this, but it has been a good day for us,” she said following the procedure.

Dr. Ronald Grifka, who has performed the same procedure hundreds of times at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, said that a dog’s heart is about the same size as that of a small child.

“The device is shaped sort of like an Oreo cookie with two discs at each end that serve as a wedge to block the hole in the atrial wall,” Grifka explained.

The entire procedure took about six hours to complete. Peschi went home the day after the repair and is doing well, Gordon said. “We may possibly try to schedule some of the other dogs for the procedure before Christmas,” she added.

Peschi belongs to Ronnie and Guinnette Peebles of Houston. “We believe this surgery is a stepping stone for other dogs with this type of defect,” Mrs. Peebles said. “We hope this will lead to more awareness of this rare defect.”

Small Animal Zoological Medicine Service at Texas A&M Offers Comprehensive Care for Exotic Pets

COLLEGE STATION – August 9, 2005- A new and improved Small Animal Zoological Medicine Service, under the direction of Dr. David Phalen and Dr. Jean Paré, is now available at the Small Animal Hospital, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University.

The service offers comprehensive care to a wide range of exotic animal species that are kept as pets. Pet owners who are seeking primary care for their exotic animal, and clients referred by their veterinarians are both welcome. “Animals treated will include pet and aviary birds, raptors kept by falconers, racing pigeons, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and small exotic mammals such as ferrets, rodents, rabbits, hedgehogs, prairie dogs and sugar gliders,” according to Phalen. “We will also treat less traditional species that may be privately owned or in zoo collections including fish, large cats, bears, coatimundis, lemurs and macropods (wallabies, wallaroos, and kangaroos). At this time, the service cannot accommodate venomous reptiles or privately owned monkeys.”

The service is also seeking veterinary referrals related to avian behavioral problems, avian and exotic pet surgeries, reptiles, neoplastic diseases and ornamental fish, said Phalen. “We are also providing an ambulatory service to accommodate the needs of aviaries, reptile collections, and other small exotic pet production facilities.”

Phalen has an international reputation as an avian veterinarian and for his research of infectious diseases of birds. A Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners – Avian Specialty, Phalen holds a PhD in avian infectious diseases from Texas A&M. He has been a member of the College’s Zoological Medicine Section for more than 12 years, and has also been in private practice.

Paré is a Diplomate of the American College of Zoo Medicine and has expertise in the medicine and surgery of a wide range of exotic animals including birds, reptiles and fish. He was in private practice before completing a 2-year Clinical Residency in Wildlife and Exotic Animal Medicine and Surgery at the Ontario Veterinary College of the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, and a 3-year DVSc in Zoo Animal Medicine and Pathology at the Toronto Zoo. He served as a clinician at the Calgary Zoo prior to being a clinician and professor of zoological medicine at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin for the last seven years.

A full-time registered veterinary technician experienced in handling avian and exotic species completes the staff.

The Small Animal Zoological Medicine Service will be working closely with other members of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, including behaviorists, radiologists, oncologists and surgeons to provide a comprehensive referral service. The service will have access to state-of-the-art imaging facilities at the college, including a new digital fluoroscopy unit and CT helical scanner.

Appointments may be scheduled Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., and a 24-hour, 365-day a year emergency service is also provided by the Section’s faculty members. “Our goal is to offer the finest care and quality service to our patients, clients and referring veterinarians,” said Phalen. “The service has its own exam room, surgery suite and separate treatment areas designed to provide optimum environmental quality and bio-security for the various species that may require hospitalization.”

For more information on the Small Animal Zoological Medicine Service or to schedule an appointment, call 979-845-4300.