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.”


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

Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Service Reunites Young Man With Beloved Pet Following Two-Week ICU Stay

Story by Dorian Martin

Tyland Lackey sitting on the floor with Dinger, who is wearing a maroon bandana
Tyland Lackey and Dinger

Tyland Lackey experienced love at first sight when a young mixed-breed dog showed up unexpectedly at his grandparents’ ranch near Caldwell in August 2017. After the teenager encouraged his grandparents to keep the dog, they named the canine Dinger.

Lackey and Dinger, who was about 2 years old at the time, quickly became best friends. The dog, which already would sit and shake with a paw on command, soon was dancing and cuddling.

“He’s sweet and lovable and just likes to play. He follows me around and sticks next to me,” Lackey said. “He’s just special.”

In September, Dinger was exploring the ranch and found himself on the adjoining county road, where he was hit by a truck pulling a trailer. The dog, whose leg was severely injured, scooted himself into the ditch and would have died there if a neighbor’s grandson hadn’t seen what happened.

Lackey’s grandparents drove Dinger to an area veterinarian, who found multiple breaks in the dog’s hind leg. The doctor said he didn’t have the capacity to treat the dog so Lackey’s mother, Alisa Hairston, rushed Dinger to Texas A&M University’s Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital (VMTH).

Dinger was quickly evaluated by the VMTH staff, who had difficulty stabilizing the dog.

“He had a fracture of his femur and was in severe shock,” said Dr. Dalton Hindmarsh, an emergency/critical care resident who handled Dinger’s case. “We quickly determined that he was essentially bleeding out of his leg because the veins and arteries were damaged by the fracture.”

Dinger was sent into emergency surgery, where the surgical team gave him blood products to stabilize his condition. They also found the dog had suffered significant physical damage.

“The leg developed compartment syndrome where there is so much pressure and swelling inside a closed space that it caused the tissue to die,” Hindmarsh said. “Unfortunately, we had to amputate and remove his leg to stop the bleeding and address the fracture.”

Because of the significant blood loss, Dinger required a massive blood transfusion.

“We essentially replaced his entire blood volume in a very, very short amount of time,” Hindmarsh said. “With that comes the possibility of a lot of complications. That’s why he was transferred to the critical care service, so we could care for him post-operatively.”

Dinger’s complications required him to remain in the intensive care unit for almost two weeks. He received several additional blood transfusions, pain management, concussion care, and rehabilitation.

At the end of Dinger’s stay, he suffered complications with the incision, which required a specialized surgical procedure with his wound.

The dog’s stay at VMTH was brightened by regular visits from Hairston (who works at Texas A&M), Lackey, and the rest of the family.

“His family was super dedicated,” Hindmarsh said. “They came to visit him twice a day like clockwork for 13 days. They were very involved the whole time. That was very helpful because he had a very good support system that kept cheering for him and helped him keep going through all of this.”

The entire family also is chipping in to pay for Dinger’s medical bills—including 16-year-old Lackey, who plans to tap into the savings that he earned from raising and selling livestock through 4-H and Future Farmers of America events.

“I felt a need to pay his bills since I’m basically the owner and I didn’t want to lose him,” the teenager said. “I also am setting up a GoFund Me page for his recovery.”

Dinger finally was discharged from VMTH last month, proudly wearing a 12th Man jersey given to patients as they discharge from the hospital.

“The hospital’s team was indescribably amazing,” Hairston said. “Within two and a half weeks of the procedure, Dinger was walking again. We are super grateful.


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 Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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

Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital Earns Gold-Level ‘Cat Friendly’ Designation

While dogs may have the reputation for being the friendliest of the companion animals, cats actually outnumber dogs in U.S. households.

According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), more than 86 million cats, compared to 78 million dogs, reside with families in America, yet dogs seem to receive more consistent and regular veterinary health care than their feline counterparts.

To make the Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital (SAH) more comfortable for all of our (sometimes) furriest friends, SAH staff members have worked over the past five years to implement changes to make the hospital more “cat friendly.”

For their work, the SAH was recently recognized with a gold standard designation as a Cat Friendly Practice by the AAFP.

“Whether it’s a routine checkup or special visit, the staff at the Small Animal Hospital is committed to ensuring that cats get the best care. To further its dedication, the hospital recently implemented the Cat Friendly Practice (CFP) program to offer pet owners more at every phase of the cat’s health care process,” said Dr. Jonathan Levine, professor and Helen McWhorter Chair in Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS). “Through their work, the hospital staff has distinguished themselves as one of only a few teaching hospitals in the United States to earn the gold level designation.”

The Cat Friendly Practice (CFP) program was pioneered by the AAFP to provide a framework for creating a positive practice environment for cats, including medical care that supports the cat’s unique needs and knowledgeable staff members who understand feline-friendly handling.

The Gold Standard status is awarded to practices that have incorporated the optimum level of Cat Friendly Criteria.

Practices that aspire to achieve “cat friendly” status create a “cat friendly” environment by completing a CFP checklist outlining required guidelines and submitting an online application for review by the AAFP.

The SAH has worked to achieve the designation by creating separate waiting areas for cats and dogs, as well as separate ward areas and cat housing, all of which reduces feline stress.

At a CFP-designated clinic, the veterinary staff incorporates cat-friendly features into the physical environment of the practice including special waiting rooms or waiting accommodations, feline-sensitive examination rooms and ward facilities, and equipment appropriate specifically for cats.

Staff members also approach cat care in a different manner. The staff learns how to understand the needs of the cat such as how to interpret a cat’s facial expression and body language.

Furthermore, the staff is well-trained in alternate techniques to calm an anxious cat and ensure that exams and procedures do not escalate anxiety.

“Texas A&M has a long-standing history of focusing on feline issues,” said Dr. Audrey Cook, associate professor and internist at the SAH. “Achieving AAFP Gold Standard recognition just builds on our commitment to providing excellent care to cats.”


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 Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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

Don’t Horse Around When it Comes to Hoof Care

Jason Maki, Farrier Shoeing a HorseProper hoof care is essential for a horse to be comfortable and active. Comprising a large part of horse veterinary care, the maintenance of horses’ feet is performed by a farrier, a skilled tradesman who specializes in equine shoeing and other hoof-related issues.

Jason Maki, the farrier at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, regularly trims and maintains horses’ hooves. He said that improper hoof care can have serious consequences, so it is important that horses see experienced farriers.

“The symbiotic relationship between horses and humans is thousands of years old,” Maki said. “Farriers have been trimming and shoeing horses the entire time.”

Farriers should be experienced at trimming hoof growth, as well as creating, modifying, and applying any braces or supports a horse may need. Some horses may only need simple horse shoes, while others require surgical shoes with removable plates or braces.

“What might be needed for the horse’s comfort, usefulness, or recovery varies from horse to horse and situation to situation,” Maki said. “The ability to ascertain these needs and meet them is the hallmark of a skilled farrier.”

How often a horse needs to see a farrier varies from animal to animal. He said that cold weather slows hoof growth rates, so horses may not need hoof care as often during the winter.

There are also normal variations between different horses. For example, athletic horses tend to grow their feet faster than sedentary horses.

“Some animals require an every-four-weeks schedule, while others may be well into the seventh or eighth week before attention is needed,” Maki said. “An important point to remember is that excessive growth will cause the hoof to deteriorate; therefore, more frequent work is better than allowing hooves to grow long.”

Hoof trimming also is necessary to prevent other foot distortion problems; poor hoof care can make horses more prone to injuries and can cause fungal infections, sole bruises, or abscesses of the hoof.

“Untrimmed or poorly trimmed feet are prone to flaring, chipping, and hoof defects,” Maki said. “These all reduce the effectiveness of the hoof in bearing the weight of the horse.”

Farriers also work to provide horses with shoes for protection, traction, comfort, or other special needs. Maki said that farriers must be able to select and fit the perfect shoe for each horse, as an improper shoe will be less effective and may even harm a horse’s overall health.

“The role of the farrier in the human-equine relationship is to provide the best hoof a horse can have and then provide that animal whatever is required to perform its job comfortably,” he said.

Although shoeing horses is a large part of a farrier’s job, Maki said shoes are not necessary for every horse and that he evaluates each individual horse’s need on a case-by-case basis.

“If an animal can work and live well without horse shoes, then he should be barefoot,” Maki said. “The horse should be provided with what is needed for his comfort and usefulness. That is our obligation to the animals we are partnered with.”

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

A Better Life for Bubbles

Dr. Arturo Otamendi holds Bubbles before her operation.
Dr. Arturo Otamendi holds Bubbles before her operation.


With a charming personality, Bubbles—a 3-month-old black, brown, and white Shih Tzu—lives up to her name.

But it wasn’t her sparkling disposition that led to the moniker; Bubbles received her name because she was born with meningoencephalocele—a rare, abnormal sac of fluid, brain tissue, and meninges (the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord) that protrudes from the top of her head.

When Darci Davenport, the co-owner of peacelovedogs/PLD Dog Rescue Project in Missouri City, learned from a friend that the 5-week-old puppy was dropped off at a Montgomery County animal shelter, Davenport, whose rescue is known for taking in high-risk animals, went to visit Bubbles and fell in love.

“She has so much spunk,” Davenport said. “She’s just a regular puppy; she has no idea there is anything wrong with her. Once she bit my nose, it was over with.”

Davenport had Bubbles examined by a veterinarian in Houston, and the puppy was referred to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH), in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), where she was cared for by a team from the Small Animal Hospital’s neurology service, including Dr. Beth Boudreau, third-year neurology resident Dr. Arturo Otamendi, and first-year neurology resident Dr. Maya Krasnow.

“Meningoencephalocele can happen either because of congenital abnormalities—the skull just didn’t form properly—or sometimes toxins or nutritional deficiencies can cause that in utero, as well; sometimes it can be acquired because of trauma,” Otamendi said. “In Bubbles’s case, it was congenital; she’s had it since she was born. This happens actually very rarely in dogs and cats, more commonly in people.”

The abnormality can cause seizures, and, if at any point the “bubble” ruptured, the puppy could suffer from meningitis, encephalitis, bleeding, and even death.

“We were worried about the pouch covering the outside potentially getting injured, because she’s a puppy and she’s pretty active,” Krasnow said. “She wants to be able to play with other dogs, but if the bubble were to become damaged, we would worry about her potentially getting encephalitis. Additionally, there is an opening in her skull—there’s nothing really there covering her brain—so we were worried about her experiencing trauma to her brain, as well.”

Otamendi, Krasnow, and other Texas A&M surgeons explored their treatment options and decided surgery was the best approach. As they waited for the 2- to 3-pound puppy to get a little bigger in order to perform the surgery, they explored various surgical treatments, including working with a pharmaceutical/bioengineering company to produce a bio-compatible implant that could be placed over the defect in her skull.

A couple of weeks later, the doctors were presented a second option—one that involved technology being used by a surgeon in another of the hospital’s services; Dr. Brian Saunders, an associate professor of orthopedics, works in his laboratory with a memory foam implant that will become malleable at warmer temperatures and then hardens as it cools.

“We called him and asked if he knew anyone who did 3-D printing, which was our initial idea, and he volunteered that he and a chemist he works with might have something that could interest us,” Boudreau said.

With a surgical plan now in place, the doctors were ready to remove the meningoencephalocele from the top of Bubbles’s skull and implant the centimeter-and-a-half circle made from Saunders’s memory foam technology that would protect her brain. The two-and-a-half-hour surgery went off without a hitch.

“I think the biggest challenge was that we didn’t know quite what to expect during surgery; it’s not something that many of us have done before, and we weren’t sure what kind of complications we would run into,” Krasnow said. “But everything went extremely well. Our memory foam from Dr. Saunders’s lab actually fit in very well, and we didn’t have any problems. She woke right away after surgery and was eating, so we were really happy.”

The doctors emphasized the huge team effort that went into the surgery, including veterinary specialists from the Small Animal Hospital’s neurology, orthopedic, surgery, anesthesia, and radiology services, as well as through the hospital’s fundraising mechanisms, which helped offset the cost of Bubbles’s surgery.

“We were able to combine funds for the surgery through the Laughing Labs, Robbie Vanderpool Save the Animals, and Starr Funds accounts,” Otamendi said. “We definitely thank everybody at Texas A&M and the Texas A&M Foundation for helping to provide these funds so we could perform the surgery that will allow Bubbles to hopefully live a better life.”

Theresa Cline and Darci Davenport play with Bubbles.
Theresa Cline and Darci Davenport play with Bubbles.


Through her rescue project, Davenport had raised some money before Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area, but afterward, because there were so many others in need, Davenport said she felt guilty about asking for more for one dog when so many other people and animals were in need.

“She’s just so cute; she’s so sweet and has such a will to live that I want to do whatever I can to get her better,” Davenport said. “She has such a spunk and so much will to live that how do you deny that a puppyhood?”

Davenport said it means a lot to her that Texas A&M worked to help financially.

“To me, this is the most amazing university ever; it’s the best of the best. We don’t hesitate, any time we have something that’s complicated, to just drop everything and drive the two-and-a-half hours to Texas A&M, because you’re not going to get any better care,” Davenport said. “They are so caring, and for them to help the way they have and go out of their way to accommodate Bubbles and my rescue is…I’m just so grateful.”

Throughout this process, Davenport worked to find a good home for Bubbles to return to after her surgery. She found that in Houston resident Theresa Cline, who learned about Bubbles through a friend.

“I lost my dog to breast cancer three months before I saw Bubbles, and I was just so distraught; I didn’t know if I was going to have another dog anytime soon,” Cline said. “When I saw Bubbles, it was about at that three-month mark (following her dog’s death) and Bubbles was almost 3 months old; as soon as I saw her, I was like, ‘That’s my dog!’ I just kind of felt like my dog’s soul was in this dog; she just kept pulling me in. I knew I was done, that this was my dog.”

While Bubbles no longer has the meningoencephalocele that earned her her name, she does have a sister with whom she can play now that she’s fully recovered and officially a “normal” puppy. As she waited for Bubbles, Cline adopted Mai—a puppy she said looks so similar to Bubbles that they could have come from the same litter—so that Bubbles wouldn’t be alone.

For Davenport, knowing that she found a home for her little “Unicorn Puppy”—a puppy that, under normal circumstances, may not have survived to make it to a shelter, much less through surgery—is bitter sweet.

“Everybody said, ‘You’re not going to be able to let her go,’” Davenport said. “But this is what I like—to be able to send a dog home with someone like Theresa; that’s my job.”


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: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of CVM Today magazine.

Veterinary Hospital Team Saves Dog Bitten by Coral Snake

Coral snakes are among the Texas reptiles you may encounter in your back yard.

While they are shy, non-confrontational creatures—which makes human encounters uncommon—when a coral snake’s “hand” is pushed, they may choose to strike, and although those bites are rare, they are also extremely deadly.


Dr. Stanley Sowy and Coco
Dr. Stanley Sowy and Coco

That’s why doctors at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) consider Renee and Angela Nino’s 1-year-old French bulldog, Coco Chanel, to be a very lucky girl.

The Ninos heard Coco and her playmate, an English Mastiff named Xena, barking as they prepared for a party outside at their Austin home on Feb. 17. When they found the two entangled with a coral snake, the Ninos knew they needed to take action, and quickly.

“They saw their Mastiff holding in his mouth a coral snake and their other dog, the Frenchie, pawing at her face,” said Dr. Stanley Sowy, a second-year resident in the VMTH’s Emergency and Critical Care service. “They put two and two together and realized that the Frenchie was bitten by the coral snake and rushed her to their closest emergency veterinarian in Austin.”

“It was traumatizing for everybody,” Renee said. “It was terrifying because at that point, we’ve taken our dog to the hospital and they say there’s nothing they can do.”

Because an anti-venom does not exist in the United States for dogs, the couple was referred to the VMTH’s Small Animal Hospital (SAH), where they were met by veterinary intern Dr. Jennifer Gray.

“With coral snake envenomation, most of the bites are dry bites, which means they don’t really release any venom,” said Sowy, who was the overseeing resident on duty. “But if it’s a wet bite, where they release venom, most of these patients develop neurological signs; in the most severe cases, there’s paralysis, and the difficulty is that they can’t breathe on their own.

“When I first saw Coco, she was OK for a bit and then, slowly, she started to decline,” he said. “That’s when I knew this was serious and we had to intervene; we knew that in 20-30 minutes she wouldn’t be breathing on her own, and we had to put her on the ventilator.”


Coco, while recovering from her snake bite in the Small Animal Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit

Coco remained on the ventilator for 24 hours before showing signs of improvement; as the venom left her system, the medical team—including clinical assistant professor Dr. Justin Heinz, first-year resident Dr. Katrina Schmitz, and intern Dr. Alena Strelchik—were able to turn their attention to making her stronger.

“The venom basically prevents the signal from the nerves to act on the muscles, so there was no signal going through, and, as such, Coco couldn’t move her muscles; she was so weak,” Sowy said.

“Dogs bitten by venomous snakes regain their function in the order they lost it,” he said. “First, Coco lost her ability to move, her strength, and then, lastly, the ability to breathe; when they recover from it, first, they regain the ability to breathe, then regain the ability of their strength, and then the ability to move again.”

Within a few days of Coco undergoing rehabilitation with Dr. Daniel Eckman, a veterinarian in the SAH’s Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation service—who helped her regain her standing and walking strength—Coco was able to be discharged back to her family.

Renee said while they would drive over to College Station every day to see their pup, she is extremely grateful for the quality of care Coco received at Texas A&M.

“She had excellent care,” Renee said, emotionally. “I feel really good about it. She was in the best place she could have possibly been. In our family, (as Austin residents) we’re UT fans, but I joke around, saying that I’ll never again say a bad thing about A&M. I’ll wear maroon, that’s for sure. I’m really happy.”

For those on the Emergency and Critical Care service, Coco’s case was unusual, as the bulk of the snakebite cases they see involve pit vipers, which cause trauma to the patient, but are not usually fatal.

“A coral snake is very rare; we don’t see a lot of them, and, if we do, it’s usually something catastrophic, because if we don’t do anything about it, their breathing is going to fail,” Sowy said. “But if we get them on a ventilator and we breathe for them, their chances are pretty good. We just have to wait for the toxin to wear off and they will eventually recover.”

coco and xena


coco and xena
Coco and Xena at home

Sowy attributes Coco’s positive prognosis to her family’s quick-thinking in, first, being cognizant in identifying the coral snake— something Renee also attributes to Xena—and, second, in getting Coco to a doctor as quickly as possible.

“Xena was the mama in it all; she was the one who made us aware of it, and thank God, because without seeing the snake, we wouldn’t have known what she had gotten into because our house is on an acre of land,” Renee said.

While Coco can ultimately thank her parents and her playmate for her positive prognosis—Sowy said she may not have survived had she arrived 20-30 minutes later; many coral snakebite victims can die within minutes—others at the VMTH also attribute her survival to Sowy, saying he saved her life.

“I feel ecstatic about the case. It’s something that I’ve read a lot about in books—about coral snakes—but I’ve never dealt with it before,” Sowy said. “It’s a great case for us to learn from, and the mechanical ventilation is one of the things that we at Texas A&M can offer that not a lot of places can.

“But Coco’s case was a team effort,” Sowy said. “And, I’m just one member of the team.”

Dr. Ashley Saunders Adds New Dimension to Cardiology Prep, Training

Anyone who has ever seen an ultrasound knows how difficult the images can be to interpret. Many soon-to-be parents have squinted at an ultrasound of their unborn child, asking the doctor, “What is it? That there?”



Dr. Ashley Saunders and her student examine a 3D-printed heart
Dr. Ashley Saunders and her student examine a 3D-printed heart.

This situation is also a reality for many veterinary students. When students learn to interpret images of an ultrasound or X-ray, they are essentially learning to see a 3D object in only two dimensions. Even veterinarians who are trained to read these images are not getting the full picture in a single static image.

But with new technology at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and the work of Dr. Ashley Saunders, students, doctors, and clients can better visualize images of the heart using 3D imaging and 3D printing.

Saunders, an associate professor and cardiologist in the CVM’s Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, is focused on better understanding the heart using state-of-the-art Echopixel software that merges many images from a CT scan into a single 3D model. With this software and a pair of 3D glasses, the viewer can see the 3D heart projected in front of them. Unlike virtual reality goggles, the 3D glasses do not fully immerse the viewer or make them disoriented.

“It makes so much more sense when you’re looking at a heart that is a complex 3D structure,” Saunders said. “It is very exciting because we can repair things and see things that we couldn’t before.”

Creating 3D images of the heart also allows cardiologists to give patients unprecedented care because they are able to see and understand the heart in a novel way. The software has been used in human medicine, but Saunders’ work is the first time it’s being applied in veterinary medicine and education.

Other software exists that can translate these images into 3D, but Saunders said the programs are limited, allowing the heart to be viewed only at certain angles or restricting how the image can be rotated. In contrast, the software used by the CVM allows viewers to move the image any way they choose, providing an unprecedented view of the heart.

Another option is creating a 3D printed model of the heart, which can give clients and students a tangible way of examining the organ. However, 3D printing requires extra materials and can take hours to days to generate, whereas the software creates a 3D image of the heart in less than five minutes, according to Saunders.


Saunders Imaging
Saunders uses the 3D visualization system.

These 3D images and models have the potential to revolutionize how veterinary students are taught by addressing students’ learning styles and making veterinary medicine more open to individuals to learn more effectively with non-traditional methods.

“We’re trained in veterinary school in anatomy first, so you learn the body and you can see it and touch it,” Saunders said. “But after that, we spend our time teaching the students how to interpret the body in two dimensions on flattened images looking at X-rays and ultrasound images. But when we start teaching in flat 2D images, I think some things get lost. If we can put it back into 3D and let them see the layers and structures, it’s really beneficial.”

The 3D visualizations have proven wildly popular in the classroom.

“The students love the 3D. Everybody likes it because it helps you see and it has a ‘wow factor,'” said Saunders, adding that she takes the technology beyond the “wow factor” by highlighting how practical the technology can be. “Students can answer questions about different parts and see how they relate to each other, and point out challenging concepts.”

Veterinarians who’ve been trained to use X-rays and other 2D tools should not feel their skills are no longer valuable, since 3D and 2D tools can be used in tandem as complements to each other; a 3D understanding of the anatomy helps veterinarians interpret the 2D images better in practice, according to Saunders.

The technology is particularly useful for patients with congenital heart defects because surgeons are given a glimpse of the heart before the procedure.

“When we have a puppy or kitten born with a heart defect, we have to figure out how we can fix it, and visualizing it before you get in there is very, very helpful,” she said.

In preparing for a surgery, Saunders and her team can use 3D images and models to discuss specifics such as what the heart looks like compared to how the patient is positioned.

“Then we can identify the problem and map it out,” she said. “It brings the cardiologists together with the surgeons, so everybody’s on the same page.”

Saunders also makes use of 3D technology during an operation.

“We have a 3D ultrasound probe to build the heart in 3D and help us make decisions about how we are going to fix our patients right in the operating room, when we need it,” she said. “That’s been incredibly useful.

“The clients are really ecstatic,” Saunders said. “They’re mostly happy that we’re able to fix their pet, and I don’t believe we would have been able to be as successful as we have been without being able to see the heart the way that we do.”

Texas A&M Veterinary Hospital Implements New Client-Communication App

For many, pets are significant members of the family, so when our furry friends are in need of serious medical attention, the treatment process can be stressful.

Now, Texas A&M University’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) is working to make that process a bit “EASE-ier” with the introduction of a new mobile application that will allow families to track the progress of their pet.



Jaci Christensen
Veterinary technician Jaci Christensen scans the barcode on a dog’s collar, which links the patient to his/her owner so that the VMTH can communicate with the family throughout a pet’s procedure.

“EASE is a state-of-the-art mobile communication tool that allows the VMTH to stay connected with, provide timely updates to, and educate the families of patients who are being treated at the hospital,” said Bo Connell, assistant dean for hospital operations. “We are the first teaching hospital in the country to bring this innovative, digital-media platform to the practice of veterinary medicine. This is one more example of Texas A&M leading on every front.”

EASE has been widely, and successfully, implemented in human hospitals and healthcare systems for four years.

Through the application, VMTH doctors, surgeons, veterinary technicians, residents, and the hospital client liaison will be able to send customized updates-through texts, photos, and videos-to the families of patients as the animal undergoes treatment at the hospital.

“We are excited that for the first time, our doctors and nurses will have a direct connection to their patients’ family members before, during, and after procedures and treatments being done at the hospital,” Connell said. “It will allow our staff to give timely updates to our clients and to keep them informed about the care their loved ones are receiving during their stay.”

The VMTH’s oncology, cardiology, dermatology, and ophthalmology services are the first to utilize the app in its early adoption at the Small Animal Hospital, with the plan to expand to other services in both the Small and Large Animal Hospitals soon.

Jaci Christensen, licensed veterinary technician and oncology technician supervisor, said the oncology service currently has 20 families signed up to use the app, with the families of eight admitted patients actively receiving updates.

“A super important part of our job is keeping owners updated, but we are so busy that it becomes difficult to do that in a timely fashion, so EASE has really made our job easier by simplifying that process,” she said. “It’s a huge help.”

Christensen said the oncology team uses EASE to send pre- and post-operation picture and video messages to clients.

“We’ll send photo updates of patients, such as a photo of a dog that has awakened from anesthesia, so any general update that may make them feel better about their pet as they’re separated,” Christensen said.

“All of the owners really like it. Most of our patients have cancer and are going through a cancer treatment of some sort, so it’s a scary process,” she said. “I’ve always thought our clients are among the most dedicated to their pets because they’re going through a lot to gain some time, so I think it means the world to their owners that somebody is treating them as if it’s their own pet.


“The app also seems to bring the clients a lot of comfort,” Christensen continued. “It’s more personal to get photos of us loving on their pets as we perform our duties. It allows them to see that their pets are getting quality care.”

To use EASE, the pet owners download the app, which is compatible with both Apple and Android phones, and register the patient before his or her arrival to the VMTH. Families have the ability to select the types of updates they want to receive and also can invite other family members to receive updates.

Other features include messages that disappear after 60 seconds, which protects patient confidentiality; the ability to communicate in both English and Spanish; and following the pet’s treatment, owners can take a real-time, customized survey to offer feedback to the VMTH.

Montgomery, Texas, resident Peggy Raabe is among Texas A&M’s first EASE users. She brought her 7-year-old white Labrador retriever, Molly, to the VMTH on Tuesday to have a soft-tissue sarcoma removed from her hind leg.

While not familiar with similar applications, Raabe said she signed up for EASE with the help of the VMTH staff and found it extremely easy to use. She received pictures of Molly as she awaited getting her bloodwork done and in the morning before her surgery, which she was able to share with her husband, who is working in Kuwait; her daughter also signed up to receive the updates.

The hospital staff also called Raabe with updates throughout the process, but she said having EASE gave her something she couldn’t get by talking on the phone.

“It is wonderful to have something like this when you’re worried about your pet,” Raabe said. “It was wonderful to be able to see Molly; they took pictures and I had a video this morning, and it was good to know she wasn’t stressed and that everyone was taking good care of her.

“I actually called my vet as soon as they messaged me and told me that she came through surgery really well and it went better than they expected,” she said. “I told her how awesome the app is and that they should get it.”

You may find more information about EASE at easeapplications.com.

Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Names Bo Connell As Assistant Dean of Hospital Operations of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Mark Bomon “Bo” Connell has been selected as the assistant dean of hospital operations at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) at the Texas A&M; College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). In this role, he will serve on the CVM’s Executive Committee, chair the VMTH Hospital Board, and work closely with Departments of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Small Animal Clinical Sciences, and Veterinary Pathobiology.

In addition to supporting the CVM in continuing to deliver state-of-the-art healthcare to its veterinary patients, Connell will support an environment that values teaching, the hospital’s growing clinical trials, and the CVM’s One Health emphasis.

Currently, Connell oversees the teaching hospital at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, where he identifies areas for strategic investment across the school. He has also served as director of strategic initiatives at the Savannah College of Art and Design and director of planning & business development at Memorial Health University Medical Center, both in Savannah, GA.

“Bo Connell is an individual who is forward thinking, team-oriented, and understands the intersection of our expanding teaching, research, and patient care missions,” said Eleanor M. Green, the Carl. B. King dean of veterinary medicine. “He shares our aspirational goals for excellence in all aspects of hospital operations, including creating the hospital of the future. He is an outstanding leader and will make a great addition to the CVM’s innovative leadership team.”

Connell received his master of business administration in 2002 at the University of Florida, his master of health services administration in 1995 from the University of Central Florida, and his certificate in executive leadership in 2014 from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School.

“I am excited about the opportunity to join the outstanding team at Texas A&M; University, and I look forward to working together as we create the veterinary medical teaching hospital of the future,” said Connell.

The VMTH is a world-class animal healthcare facility that sees over 18,000 small animals and 9,000 large animals per year. An additional 30,000 to 40,000 state-owned animals are treated annually through external CVM and VMTH programs.

National Veterinary Technician Week

October 14-18 marks this year’s National Veterinary Technician Week (NVTW), a celebration the United States Congress declared 21 years ago to be celebrated during the third week of October. This year’s theme for NVTW is “Your Trusted Partner in Lifelong Care”.

Veterinary technicians often work behind the scenes, throughout animal clinics and hospitals, providing nursing care, patient assessment, and surgical assistance. Additionally, veterinary technicians work as radiography technicians, dental hygienists, client communicators, educators, medical laboratory technicians, and often as hospital and practice managers. Although many work in private veterinary practices, technicians may also find employment with universities, animal shelters, stables, reproductive facilities, zoos, wildlife facilities, pharmaceutical sales, the military, and homeland security.

“Technicians act as the patient’s advocate in much the same way as Registered Nurses do for humans,” said Melanie T. Landis, DVM, MBA, director of the Veterinary Technology Program at Blinn College.  “Not only do they ensure that treatments are performed, but also monitor responses and keep the veterinarian informed.”

The Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, in addition to employing many veterinary technicians, hosts second-year veterinary technology students from nearby Blinn College for up to seven weeks each spring semester.

After they graduate and have passed both the Veterinary Technician National Examination and a state jurisprudence exam, these students will become a credentialed veterinary technician. Blinn is one of only eight schools in Texas that offer a veterinary technology program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Recently, the Texas state legislature adopted a bill which will change this credential from “registered veterinary technician” (RVT) to “licensed veterinary technician” (LVT), beginning in September 2014.  This moves technicians from a voluntary registration overseen by the Texas Veterinary Medical Association to a licensed profession with legal standing that will be monitored by the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. Current RVTs will be able to make this transition fairly easily; all they will need to do is fill out an application and pay the annual licensing fee before next September.

“Working at Texas A&M is a dream come true for me,” said Liz Wood, a registered veterinary technician working in internal medicine at the VMTH. “I have the opportunity to utilize every aspect of my training. I help care for and treat some of the most baffling cases in the country. I work with some of the most renowned specialists in their fields. Most importantly, I have the pleasure of training and influencing future veterinarians. They leave us knowing the gold standard with which to care for their patients as well as the best ways to utilize their technicians. They know that their clinic and hospital staff are a part of the veterinary care team, and when used appropriately, can be very efficient and successful. I am very proud to be a part of the future of veterinary medicine.”