Giving Blood and Saving Lives

Written by: Dr. Jenny Hochstedler 


Hi!  My name is Ellie.  I usually spend my days perusing my yard and hay field, keeping it safe from vermin such as moles, birds, and squirrels.

My brother Gibbs is usually right by my side.  We like to chase each other and play keep away with sticks.  I want to tell you about the day my mom took me to work with her.  She’s a veterinarian.  I knew that it must be important because she was in a bit of a rush.  She petted us both when she got out of her big red vet truck.  She put Gibbs in the outdoor kennel, then got my harness and put it on me.  She only uses the harness when we are going for a ride somewhere.  Gibbs was pretty upset that I was in the truck and he was not.  I was pretty excited!

We went into the vet clinic.  On the way there, mom said that there was a really sick dog and the only way to save her was to give her a blood transfusion.  My friends at the clinic held me tight and told me I was a good girl while I got a shot in my leg.  I got really sleepy.  When I woke up from my nap, they said I had saved another dog’s life!


A note from Dr. Jenny:

Blood transfusions are where we take blood from one dog and give it to another.  Whole blood may be needed when there is severe blood loss, like in the case of blunt trauma, or the loss of red blood cells from a disease.  In this particular case, my patient was diagnosed with immune mediated hemolytic anemia.    The picture to the left is a normal blood smear.  The red blood cells are normal in size and shape.  In this disease, the dog is producing antibodies against their own red blood cells.  Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to all the tissues.  When the antibodies attach to the red blood cells, the red blood cells die.  The picture to the right is where the red blood cells are stuck together because of the antibodies that have attached to them.

Ellie was sedated so that we could collect a large amount of blood via her jugular vein.  It is very important that she not move during the procedure, hence the need for sedation.  The collection bag is rotated carefully to prevent any clotting from occurring.  Ellie’s blood was immediately given to the sick dog at a slow rate.  She was monitored carefully to make sure she did not have a reaction.  The donated blood provided enough red blood cells to fulfill the oxygen needs of the dog while we implemented the appropriate treatment to stop the immune system from killing the red blood cells.

 Ellie’s sedation was reversed.  She was a little tired that day but was back to her normal self in no time.  Gibbs was more than happy to see her come home!


Zoey’s Diagnosis of TWO Endocrine Disorders

Written by: Dr. Shelby Norris

Meet Zoey. She is an adorable little pittie mix that came to us when she was having trouble keeping her food and water down, as well as having some weight loss and a long-standing history of hair loss and suspected allergy issues. When I met with Zoey’s mom, the first distinction I had to make was – Is Zoey vomiting or regurgitating?

These may sound like the same thing, but they are actually very different and can signify different disease processes. Zoey’s mom explained that pretty much after every meal or every drink of water, she would bring all of the contents back up and she couldn’t hold anything down. Based on this information, I determined that Zoey was regurgitating, or immediately expelling her food back up. The food had no time to stay in her stomach and hadn’t even begun to digest at all. If it had, then this would have been called vomiting.

With Zoey having regurgitation along with her hair loss, I started talking to her mom about the possibility of some endocrine diseases (Addison’s disease, hypothyroidism) that can have a rare side effect called “megaesophagus” or an abnormally enlarged esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. When it enlarges, it can harbor food after an animal eats. When the animal’s body realizes the food bolus is unable to reach the stomach, it gets rid of it the only other way it can – regurgitation! We decided to run some baseline bloodwork to see if Zoey could be suffering from any of these endocrine diseases.

The next day, I checked Zoey’s bloodwork and sure enough, there was evidence supporting not one but TWO endocrine diseases! Zoey’s bloodwork showed that she might have Addison’s disease (also called hypoadrenocorticism; an underactive adrenal gland, not enough steroids and other hormones produced by the body which can result in inappetence and weight loss) as well as hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland, not enough thyroid hormone produced which can result in poor temperature control, hair loss, etc). The frustrating part for us was that if she did have both of these diseases, we would have to confirm and treat the Addison’s first as it can have an effect on thyroid levels. I called Zoey’s mom with the news, and she agreed to a confirmatory test for Addison’s. We performed the test, and she was confirmed to have Addison’s disease. We started her on treatment, which is a mineralocorticoid injection every 25 days and oral glucocorticoids. Once we stabilized her medication dosages, Zoey’s mom started seeing a little improvement, but we definitely felt like she still had room to improve. The regurgitation was a little better but was still happening pretty frequently and she still had a drastic amount of hair loss. At that time, we decided it was time to perform the confirmatory test for her thyroid.

We got the results a few days later and there it was – she was hypothyroid too! TWO endocrine diseases in the same dog! We added a thyroid supplement to her medications, and about a month later we started seeing dramatic improvement. Her hair that had been missing for so long was coming back! Even her tail was starting to show signs of a little fuzz growing in. What about her regurgitation? Her mom was happy to report that she was keeping all of her food and water down as well as gaining weight back. She also said she has been acting much brighter and happier at home.

Below are some pictures of Zoey before and after starting her treatments. We are SO happy for her! She looks great!









Cold Laser Therapy and Pets

West Central Veterinary Services

By Dr. Hilary Slaven

Cold Laser Therapy:  What is it?

A laser is a machine that produces energy in the form of light.  This light can be emitted in specific wavelengths and moved through an instrument.  This instrument is applied to the furry friend (horse, dog, cat) and the light affects the tissue underneath.

dr-laura-and-cold-laser-therapy-small Dr. Laura Couch, certified canine rehabilitator, WCVS Rockville

How does it work?

Low level lasers increase the blood supply and increases cell growth.  This allows for faster, less painful recoveries from injury and after surgery.  This also means that tissue heals with less scar tissue and fewer post-operative complications such as pain and swelling and prolonged discomfort.  Successful treatments can involve anywhere from one post-operative treatment to several treatments over several days or weeks, often in addition to physical therapy.

Which health problems could benefit from cold laser therapy?

  • Wounds (including surgical incisions)
  • Tendonitis
  • Edema
  • Osteoarthritis

Who do…

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Horses and Intestinal Worms: What you need to know!

West Central Veterinary Services

By Dr. Danielle Willenborg

“It’s spring, that means I deworm my horse, right?  Maybe not!”

Intestinal parasites are something that horse owners have been concerned about for years.  Many believe that they should deworm adult horses at least twice a year, once being in the spring of the year.  That may not be the case anymore, and if you are deworming when it is not needed then you may be causing more harm than good.

Strongyles.in_.mucosa-1 Large Strongyle larvae in the horse gut tissue.

bots-gasterophilus.jpg Bots in the stomach of a horse.

The most common intestinal parasites we worry about as veterinarians are:  large strongyles, small strongyles, and bots.  The two most concerning in the springtime are the strongyles.  Large and small strongyle larvae are picked up off the grass when horses are grazing, they are ingested and travel through the gut where they then reproduce and eggs are…

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Chronic diarrhea? We can help.

It happens a lot — we are looking at canine patients that need their yearly exam and it comes up in discussion.  Fluffy is doing well except that every once in a while she will have runny stool that lasts for a few days.  Then it might go away on its own and come back later on.

Sometimes its dogs that we see over and over again for the same problem; diarrhea that doesn’t go away on its own and after 3 or 4 days they come in to see us.  The dog may or may not feel crummy or stop eating or vomits too.

We often ask a lot of questions about these dogs because history is often half of the diagnosis.  We want to know the types of foods the dog is eating, how often, is it a new bag of food? does he get into the cat food?  does he find table scraps during the day?  does he run outside and find dead animals to chew on?  We also want to know if it is a dog that likes to eat non-food items, such as grandma’s socks or the kids’ Little People toys.  We will ask questions about temperament: is Buddy a nervous dog?  does he get worked up about changes in routine?  has something about the daily routine changed to cause Buddy to be uncomfortable?  We ask questions about Buddy’s history before the client owned him.  Was he a stray?  Did he come from a breeder?  was he dewormed, and how recently?  has he been treated for intestinal worms in the past?  Has he been around other dogs with diarrhea or worms?  How has Rover been feeling lately?  Does he have an appetite?  Has he lost weight?

And last but not least, we want to know what the diarrhea looks like, how often it is happening, how much diarrhea you see, and please please please if you can bring a fresh sample that would be wonderful.

The bottom line is, there’s a long list of potential problems that can cause diarrhea.  We are trying to whittle those down to the root cause.

Here’s a few things that we think about as vets when these patients come in to see us:

  1. Intestinal Parasites
  2. Stress/situational diarrhea
  3. Food sensitivities/allergies
  4. Infection/inflammatory bowel
  5. Toxins/drug reactions
  6. Foreign body
  7. Neoplasia
  8. Secondary diarrhea to other medical problems

Typically we need:

  1. A good history of the problem
  2. Fecal sample
  3. Physical exam
  4. +/- Baseline bloodwork
  5. +/- Radiographs

Sometimes we need more specialized tests beyond this, such as specific fecal tests or abdominal ultrasound.

Does your dog have loose stool?  We can help!  Give us a call.Golden Puppy.png


Deworming and your sheep/goat herd

In this article, we will do some basic talk about general deworming strategies for small ruminant herds (goats and sheep).  We are seeing a lot of babies on the ground already this spring and strategic deworming can help get these kids to thrive and survive.  Not all farms require all strategies.  We can help you to find the right method for your flock and your situation with a visit to the farm and conversation.

Remember:  The number one cause of diarrhea in adult goats is parasites!

We see a lot of Haemonchus worm diarrhea, especially in recently weaned kids.  This worm lives in the gut and sheds eggs in the stool that are picked up again by mouth strongyle-40xduring grazing.  When sick, kids will not grow well and may become anemic or develop bottle jaw and will eventually die if uncontrolled.

Kids and lambs that are confined to a small pen are more likely to pick up the worm eggs, vs. large pen or pasture where they are less crowded.  Dry lots make a difference, too.  When conditions are dry, the eggs tend to stay trapped in the fecal pellets and are less likely to be eaten by the goat kids. However, when the environment is wet (on rainy days or in flooded areas), the eggs are released and goats pick them up easily as they eat.

Strategies for preventing Haemonchus worms:

  1.  Feed lambs or kids indoors or in dry pens.
  2.  Deworm dams before kidding and repeat monthly through kidding season.
  3.  Do not overcrowd lambs in pasture (dilution effect).
  4.  Check normal appearing stool for worms regularly (at least twice a year) at your veterinarian’s office and deworm as necessary.  Your veterinarian can quantify the number of eggs and advise you on strategic deworming.
  5. Check all diarrhea for parasites at your veterinarian’s office as soon as possible.
  6. Deworm before sending out into pasture in the spring.
  7. Deworm before moving to dry lot in the winter.
  8. Rotate pastures, ideally leaving a pasture vacant for 3-6 months before moving goats onto it.
  9. Use one product for a year, and then switch products the next year to help prevent resistance to dewormer.
  10. New flock additions should be kept in a dry lot for 3 weeks and dewormed at least twice with two different dewormers during this period before allowing contact with the rest of the flock.

Coccidia is another parasite that we see cause diarrhea and death in young kids or sheep.  Older animals will shed these but do not act or look sick, but babies will pick up the parasite and get diarrhea, get weak and stop eating, typically at 1-4 months of age.  This parasite is another one that can be picked up easily on a fresh stool sample under the microscope and can be treated if caught early enough.

Please give us a call, we can help you strategize a system for parasite control on your farm!