Pets and Vets: Grizzly with broken elbows treated at CSU veterinary hospital

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Rescued bear had been kept at roadside attraction in Georgia where it sustained bilateral injuries, veterinarians say.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo., has rescued Marley and 16 other bears from a foreclosed bear park in northern Georgia, where the animals were kept in small concrete pits and fed apples and bread by tourists as a roadside attraction, according to a release from Colorado State University (CSU). The rescued bears were released into 15-acre natural habitats northeast of Denver, but keepers noticed that a 7-year-old female would not put weight on one of her front legs.

The 300-pound grizzly made the trip to CSU's Veterinary Teaching Hospital crated and anesthetized. After examining radiographs, veterinarians determined that Marley had two forelimb fractures estimated to be more than a month old and one break was badly infected.

Marley, a 7-year-old grizzly bear, is treated at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital for injuries to her elbows. (PHOTO COURTESY OF COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY)

"Our main concern is the infected fracture on the left forearm," says Terry Campbell, DVM, PhD, a CSU veterinarian specializing in wildlife and exotic animals, in the February release. "A draining, open fracture on a bear is anything but ideal, and we will need to surgically treat it immediately."

Campbell knew the procedure would require an orthopedic surgeon but decided that the skills of both a small and large animal orthopedic surgeon would be of most benefit to Marley.

Felix Duerr, MS, MedVet, DECVS, DACVS, DACVSMR, small animal orthopedic surgeon, and Jeremiah Easley, DVM, DACVS, equine orthopedic surgeon, performed the surgery together. For the infected forelimb, the veterinarians cleaned the infection, looked for necrotic bone, cleared scar tissue and inserted antibiotic beads to promote full healing. Duerr then performed shockwave therapy to accelerate healing. Two veterinary anesthesiologists were also on the case.

Marley was recovering that same afternoon, and veterinarians hoped their patient would have an improved quality of life.

State ROUNDUP

A look at the world of animal health

ALASKA

Sarah Coburn, DVM, MS, has been named the 2013 grand prize winner of the nationwide My Vet's the Best contest held by Pets Best Insurance. Coburn practices at North Slope Borough Veterinary Clinic in Barrow, Alaska, which is the only veterinary practice in an 89,000-square-mile area.

Coburn, who was among 24 finalists from across the U.S., received a check for $1,000 to support her efforts to address animal health issues in her area. She said in a release that she plans to use the prize money to provide shelter and insulation for outdoor dogs that otherwise would not have protection from the arctic weather.

"The story of Dr. Coburn's efforts to care for animals in a remote area of Alaska was incredibly compelling," says Jack Stephens, DVM, founder and CEO of Pets Best. "We believe the entire nation should be aware of her selfless commitment to treating animals under extremely demanding circumstances."

Barrow, where Coburn's clinic is located, is the northernmost town in the United States and is accessible only by plane.

ALABAMA

Auburn University has opened the doors of its new 208,000-square-foot small animal hospital, according to a university release.

The Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital claims to be the largest hospital in the United States dedicated to the treatment of companion animals and the education of veterinary students.

The first phase of construction was projected to cost $48 million; and later phases, which are still being planned, are expected to raise the total project cost to $78 million.

Specialized services at the hospital include a community practice, critical care, oncology, neurology, ophthalmology, dermatology and orthopedics. There will also be a full physical rehabilitation program with indoor exercise pools.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

The snowy owl has had an unusually strong presence in the Washington, D.C., area this winter and one may have attempted to eat a family's Jack Russell terrier, according to the Washington Post. Jack, the 6-year-old dog, is recovering at home following the incident.

Is a snowy owl in Washington, D.C., to blame for a Jack Russell terrier’s unusual injuries? (GETTY IMAGES/MICHAEL CUMMINGS)

Tracy Sheppard, Jack's owner, says the attack occurred when Jack and the family's other dog, Lola, were out in the backyard around 9 p.m.—though only Lola returned inside. After 10 minutes of searching, Jack reappeared, limping and hiding behind trees. Jack's owners took him to an emergency clinic where the veterinarians were confused by his injuries. The dog had clean, knifelike lacerations along his back and his head, as well as bruising to his internal organs, as if he had been thrown or dropped.

A few days later, a neighbor told the Sheppards she'd seen a snowy owl pick up a large rabbit and then drop it. The rabbit had lacerations similar to Jack's, Sheppard told the Washington Post. She mentioned the owl to the veterinarians after noticing the bird around her property on nearby rooftops.

"The surgeon seemed confident that was what happened," Sheppard says. "Obviously we can't say with 100 percent certainty that that's what happened, but the injuries are totally consistent."

Scott Weidensaul, an ornithologist and coordinator of Project SNOWstorm—a research effort focused on studying this winter's snowy owl irruption—says he is skeptical that an owl is to blame. The lacerations could be consistent with injuries inflicted by the bird's talons but he says it is unlikely that a bird picked up Jack and dropped him.

"A female snowy owl weighs about five and a half pounds, and a bird is physically incapable of lifting more than about a third to half of its weight," Weidensaul told the Post. "There is no way a snowy owl could lift a 15-pound dog off the ground."

FLORIDA

A 6-foot-long boa constrictor named Killer is recovering in a Tampa, Fla. emergency veterinary hospital after undergoing surgery to remove a towel he accidentally ate while ingesting a rat. Doctors from BluePearl Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital for Pets performed the surgery and Killer is expected to make a full recovery.

A 6-foot boa constrictor is recovering in a Tampa, Fla., emergency veterinary hospital after surgery to remove a towel he ate. (BLUEPEARL VETERINARY PARTNERS)

NEW YORK

When Cornell University veterinarians found half-foot-long worms living in their feline patients, they realized they had discovered something new. The Dracunculus insignis worms had never been seen in cats before, according to a university release.

"First Report of Dracunculus Insignis in Two Naturally Infected Cats from the Northeastern USA," published in the February issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, documents the first proof that this raccoon parasite can infect cats.

The worm can grow to almost a foot long and must emerge from its host to lay eggs that hatch into larvae. It forms a blister-like protrusion in an extremity, such as a leg, from which it slowly emerges over the course of days to deposit its young into the water.

Worms in the Dracunculus genus are well-known in human medicine. D. insignis' sister worm, the waterborne Guinea worm, infected millions of humans around the world until eradication efforts beginning in the 1980s removed it from all but four countries, with only 148 cases reported in 2013. Other Dracunculus worms infect a host of other mammals, but D. insignis mainly infects raccoons and other wild mammals and, in rare cases, dogs. But it does not infect humans.

The cats that contracted the Dranunculus insignis worms likely ingested the parasites by drinking unfiltered water or by hunting frogs, says Araceli Lucio-Forster, PhD, a Cornell veterinary researcher and the paper's lead author in the release.

It takes a year from the time a mammal ingests the worm until the females are ready to migrate to an extremity and start the cycle again. The worms do little direct harm beyond creating shallow ulcers in the skin, secondary infections and painful inflammatory responses that may result from the worm's emergence from the host.

OHIO

The office of career management at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine will become the first integrated career management office of any of the veterinary colleges in North America, according to a university release.

"This is the first office in a veterinary school designated to support students with a comprehensive approach to managing their careers," says Amanda Fark, assistant director in the Office of Student Affairs and director of the career management program.

The office helps Ohio State veterinary students and alumni in career management and development, including resumé and cover letter review, and helps students develop strategies for pursuing career goals. They also partner with Michelle Harcha, DVM, MA, director of professional development education, to offer a range of services that complement and expand on the professional development curriculum required of all veterinary students.

TEXAS

A stray dog that walked children to school for seven years in Eagle Pass, Texas, is going home after undergoing treatment for more than a month after being hit by a car.

Veterinarians from South Texas Veterinary Specialists have been working to repair the dog's injuries and trying to help the Labrador mix regain the ability to walk, according to a hospital release. The dog, named Debbie, suffered several broken bones, including a dislocated spine, the degloving of her skin on one of her legs and the loss of one of her toes.

The collision occurred outside of Benavidez Heights Elementary School in Eagle Pass. According to the release, Ronald Zawacki-Maldonado, a teacher who rescued the dog after the accident, took her to the nearest veterinarian for treatment. Students and faculty named the dog Debbie more than seven years ago when she made the school and surrounding area her home.

Until the collision, every day during the school year Debbie was there to walk children to and from school and to socialize with them during their scheduled breaks throughout the school day. In return, members of the faculty and students provided her with food, water and basic vaccinations.

When Debbie gets out of the hospital, things will change for her—mainly, she'll have to get used to living in a real home. In addition to taking on the financial responsibility for Debbie's treatment, Zawacki-Maldonado has also decided to adopt her.

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