General Interest

Veterinary Ophthalmology Services

posted October 15th, 2010 by
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Margi Gilmour, DVM, associate professor at Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) Center for Veterinary Health Sciences is more than a veterinarian. A Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, Gilmour is a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist. Board certification requires an additional four years beyond veterinary school. Currently the only ophthalmologist at the center’s Boren Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, Gilmour and Carey McCully, a registered veterinary technician (RVT), provide ophthalmology services for the more than 900 patients they treat a year.

“We treat all species,” says Gilmour. “We see mostly dogs with horses being the second highest. The more uncommon animals we treat are at the zoo—penguins, sea lions, polar bears and ostriches to name a few.”

According to Gilmour, animals suffer from many similar eye problems as humans.

“We treat trauma cases, eyelid, corneal and retinal diseases, glaucoma, dry eye, and cataracts. Cataract surgery is the most common ophthalmic surgery performed. We also serve as a diagnostic tool for our veterinary internal medicine service. If they are seeing a patient that is ill, we often examine the eyes to look for a systemic disease such as high blood pressure, cancer, or a fungal disease.”

One of the most memorable cases the ophthalmology service treated during Gilmour’s nearly ten years at the veterinary hospital was a trauma case involving a dog.

“A golden retriever was running at Boomer Lake and ran into a branch. The stick had pierced the dog’s head just on the inner side of its eyeball. The owner had the calm nerve to remove the stick and bring her to the hospital’s 24/7 emergency room.”

Gilmour goes on to say that the dog was obviously in pain. They anesthetized her and began removing the splinters left behind from the stick.

“Under our microscope, each splinter looked like a tree,” recalls Gilmour. “We removed splinters from beside and behind the eye for at least 45 minutes. It was amazing to see how far behind the eye the stick traveled without penetrating the eye. It was a most rewarding case because the dog never lost its eyesight and healed well.”

While owners may not have a lot of control in protecting their animals’ eyes, there are few precautions they can take.

“If you own a horse with white around its eye, use a mask with specific ultraviolet protection,” says Gilmour. “Like in humans, ultraviolet light can lead to cancer. These horses are susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma cancer and can lose their eye. It is important to protect them from the UV rays.” “For dog owners, don’t let your dogs ride with their heads out the car window,” adds McCully.

While general practitioner veterinarians are equipped to measure tear production and stain for ulcerations, the OSU veterinary hospital has equipment and faculty/staff expertise to handle that and much more due to specialization.

“We have an electroretinogram to determine retinal function and an ocular ultrasound to examine structures in the eye not visible on the exam such as the retina behind an opaque cataract,” explains Gilmour. “We can measure eye pressure and use magnifying instruments that allow us to look both in the front of and the back of the eye in much greater detail.”

The list of services available at the veterinary hospital includes ophthalmic surgery involving the eyelids and the globe (cornea, lens, laser treatment for glaucoma), diagnostics, slit lamp biomicroscopy and indirect ophthalmoscopy.

Vision testing can be a challenge but Gilmour often uses how an animal tracks falling cotton balls or how they maneuver through an obstacle course to determine the extent of vision.

“A dog can’t hear cotton balls land and can’t smell them so they have to watch them. Using an obstacle course and varying the lighting can help determine if a dog has poor night vision or has difficulty seeing low-contrast items or low objects. Determining the level of vision loss can alter therapy. If an animal has permanently lost vision it is important for owners to know the necessary precautions for keeping their pet safe.”

Gilmour earned her DVM from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed a one year Small Animal Medicine and Surgery Internship at the University of Georgia followed by a one year Residency in Ophthalmology at Veterinary Ophthalmology of New England. She then completed a three year Residency in Ophthalmology at The Ohio State University. After working in private practices in Florida, Kentucky and Washington, she came to OSU in 2001 to teach, treat patients and do research.

“I chose ophthalmology because it emcompasses both medicine and surgery and involves treating all species,” says Gilmour.

McCully earned her veterinary technician degree from OSU-OKC/ Murray State College followed by her certification exam to become a registered veterinary technician, which is similar to a registered nurse in human medicine. She came to OSU in 2004 and began working with the Ophthalmology Department in 2006. McCully is the ophthalmology RVT whenever Gilmour is on clinics.

Gilmour and McCully offer pet owners this advice: If you have a concern about your pet’s eyes, call and make an appointment. While 75 percent of their cases come as referrals from veterinarians, a referral appointment is not always necessary since the OSU’s veterinary hospital is open to the public.

“For some diseases, early intervention is key,” adds McCully. “If the disease goes on too long, the damage can’t be reversed. However, if seen early on, vision may be preserved.”

The Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences is one of 28 veterinary colleges in the United States and is fully accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The center’s Boren Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital is open to the public and provides routine and specialized care for small and large animals. It also offers 24-hour emergency care and is certified by the American Animal Hospital Association. For more information, visit or call (405) 744-7000.

So You Want to Own a Horse

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Legacy Equine Medical and Surgical Centre

So you want to own a horse… horses are one of the most magnificent of God’s creatures, in my opinion. Their strength and elegance and versatility to do so many different types of work are amazing. 1200 pounds of muscle and bone that would rather be in a herd environment and not alone make them attractive to us humans because they enjoy our company. They like attention and enjoy being around us, which always makes us feel good. They will respond to something as little as a touch of a hand or leg pressure to move quickly but with purpose. So it is not surprising that many people would like to own a horse. The rewards are indeed great, but there is a lot of responsibility that goes with the ownership as well.

A horse needs the same essentials as most animals; food, water, shelter and health maintenance, but remember you must multiply that by 1200 pounds of care. Food usually means 15-20 pounds of hay per day and 5-9 pounds of grain per day. This is assuming that you have a young and healthy horse. Furthermore, what goes in must come out…so put your doggie scooper away and get out your snow shovel!

Now, what about their living environment? You usually need 5-7 acres unless you want to feed hay all year round or keep them in a stall. If you decide to keep them in stall confinement, this may lead to other issues such as more frequent colic and behavioral issues unless they are ridden often. So, do you have the room for a horse?

Very important factors are food, water and shelter. So what about shelter? An area that provides shelter from the sun in the summer and a shelter that provides protection from the wind in the winter will suffice.

If you expect a show-quality hair coat then you will need artificial lighting. Horses grow and shed their hair according to the number of hours of daylight, not just temperature. So if you want them slick and shiny in the winter like they look in the summer, then you need to trick parts of their brain to cause them to think it is summer. In the winter they would need 16 hours of light per day, 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM. This makes their brain receptors think it is that time of the year to shed and keep their hair coat short. If you are not showing, then let their hair grow that longer, protective hair coat. Also, if you are showing your horse then you will need blankets and a more enclosed shelter to protect them from the weather and colder temperatures.

Moving along, what about fencing? Horses only stay where we want them too because they don’t realize how big they are, and just when you think you have them penned in well they will test the fence, so your fencing should be able to keep them contained without causing them injury. Barbed wire and several other types of wire will keep them in but if they are not used to being confined with that type of fencing, injuries are in your future.

So food, water, shelter and fencing…are you ready? What about healthcare? Horses need the same thing as your other animals: vaccinations, deworming and dental care. There are vaccines and deworming programs that are equine-specific. How about their hooves? They require their hooves to be trimmed or shod (putting shoes on) about every six weeks. The shoes will protect their hooves from the type of work or events that we are asking them to perform or participate in. I am also sure you will get to know your veterinarian and ferrier (horse-shoe specialist) very well throughout your horse’s life. Hopefully you will find that their services will provide lots of preventative health care and education on keeping your horse healthy and functioning to the peek of his potential! They will save you money in the long run, and will many times, when necessary, perform lifesaving procedures. So it is a team effort, you, your horse and your equine health team.

Now you have the basics of ownership. What type of horse do you want? The horse is so versatile. Do you just want a pet? Do you want a horse to trail ride on the farm? A performance horse such as a reiner, hunter jumper or a barrel horse? Do you want to learn to rope? The choices are more varied than the colors of the rainbow.

The best advice I could give if contemplating a performance horse or a pleasure horse is to try one out. Contact someone who owns that type of horse and ask questions. Just like golf and tennis, find a trainer and take some lessons. If you find that you enjoy that type of activity, then ask that person to help you find a horse that best suits your level of experience. Always continue to learn more and seek advice on how to get better. Be smart and approach things with a plan and ask for help. Find someone you can trust to lead you in the right direction and above all, keep you and your horse safe. You will find that horse people are great people to be around. They are usually compassionate, gregarious, and eager to help. They will hopefully help you to not make the same mistakes that they have made.

Well, it should be obvious that a lot is involved in owning a horse, but there is no feeling like watching your horse performing what it was trained for years to do, or watching your new foal trying out its legs in full stride for the first time across the pasture with its mother following stride for stride. They are truly magnificent and worth all the effort, just be prepared and understand the responsibility and you will be rewarded many times over. I have watched many young people over the years gain confidence and a sense of responsibility by owning their own horse and learning what it takes to take care of such a great animal. They carry these lessons with them, throughout life, work and family. Enjoy and have a great ride!

Wade Spradley
Dr. Spradley is a founding co-owner of Legacy Equine Centre, a state-of-the-art equine hospital located on 23 acres south of Tulsa. Dr. Spradley was also awarded the 2010 Oklahoma Equine Veterinarian of the year award.

Cat Buddies

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I have heard from many cat owners that their cat is an “only child” because it simply doesn’t get along with other cats. Cats are solitary animals, the myth goes. I believe otherwise.

1. Feral Cat Colonies
It is true that cats are not “pack animals” like dogs. In the wild, they do not necessarily form a group with a distinct hierarchy and hunt together as dogs do. The lion is unique in the feline world in its formation of a pride which participates in group hunting activity. However, feral cats on the street do form groups who appear to enjoy each other’s company, but the group is loosely structured, more like a social club. When a new cat joins the group, there is no need to fight and establish a strict pecking order.

My focus here, however, is on the domestic cat: the cat who is pampered by her owner and thinks she is human. Through my catboarding business, I have had the unique opportunity to observe the interaction of these very special cats who are introduced as strangers to one another. They do socialize.

2. Cats “feel each other’s pain.”
When a new cat comes to board, the other cats are typically curious and go to its carrier to greet it. They follow me to its cage to check it out. If the newcomer is calm, they ignore it and go about their business. However, if the newcomer is upset, they all become disturbed. Similarly, if for any reason at any time, a cat becomes agitated, all cats respond in like manner. They clearly pick up on each other’s stress. Ever wonder why your cat is stressed at the vet’s office? I believe it senses the distress of sick cats in the area.

3. Cats Have Territories.
When a newcomer is released from its cage, there is no fighting, because the kennel is neutral territory. Visitors marvel at how all of these strange cats co-exist at my facility. In general, there is no confrontation. If there is a confrontation, it is usually between male cats (although they are neutered). There is no question that some cats, particularly male, are alpha personalities. Usually this alpha simply needs to be confined until he learns what is acceptable behavior. (Yes, cats do understand discipline.) Typically, the female cats are like women, they just complain and hiss at one another.

In its own home or yard, a cat is more likely to become defensive when a new cat enters the picture, for this is his territory. Cats have distinct territories. I cannot say the exact size of these territories. Anecdotally, I have observed that one of my cats did not do well on a small postage-stamp city lot, but did fine when he had 1/3 acre as his domain. The larger lot seemed to fit his sense of space, and other neighborhood cats were happy in their own similar spaces. No one had the urge to intrude on another. On the small lot, there were regular cat fights: not so on the larger lots. They could comfortably visit each other over the fence.

Cats who are strictly indoors will choose particular places as their own within the home. One may choose the highest spot, another a favorite chair, and someone else his own side of the bed. For this reason, when introducing a new cat to your home, it is important to keep it separate for a little while until it can gain self-confidence in its own space. Put it in a separate room and let the resident cats become curious about it. Then exchange spaces between the newcomer and the residents so that they can check out each other’s scents and then introduce them gradually. Very seldom is it love at first sight. Sometimes they become good buddies; sometimes they simply tolerate each other.

4. Cats Choose Their Own Friends.
Unfortunately, I am often called upon to bottle-feed an orphan kitten. Most of my resident cats say, “Oh, no, here comes another one!” and hiss and walk away. Usually, it is my female cats who are most accepting of the kittens, as their mothering instincts conquer all. In one case, however, one of my male cats adopted a little brother, as shown in the picture (Mister and Duncan). To this day, they are the best of friends, sleeping together and grooming each other. On the opposite side of the spectrum, one visitor, Miyagi, will never get along with PomPom, the Persian. He always seeks her out and chases her. Is it because he loves to tease her and hear her squeal?

In the kennel, cats from different households will frequently visit each other’s cages and play together. They will run and chase and even share toys. In fact, one of the best ways to introduce cats is to play with them with an interactive toy on a string. The cats become so focused on the toy that they forget their differences.

5. Cats Teach One Another.
We have all heard that mama cat teaches the kittens to hunt. On several occasions, one of my older cats has brought in a lizard or bug, presented it to a kitten, then backed off to watch it play. Often, several older cats will gather to watch and not compete. Similarly, I have seen one boarder introduce a newcomer to a toy.

6. Cats Respect Old Age.
Kittens will always play together, but what about old cats? I have observed that old cats actually seem to enjoy watching the younger ones. I remember one cat, Sultan, in particular. He would sleep in his cage most of the day, but then take a morning and evening stroll through the kennel, as if to review the troops. All of the old cats seem to gain new vigor from watching the young ones, like old folks sitting on the porch watching children at play. What is more interesting is that the younger cats respect old age. They let the old guys go at their own pace and never challenge them. The conclusion? I believe in the adage: “Cats are like potato chips. You cannot have just one.”

Camille Hulen
Camille Hulen is the owner of Camille’s Cathouse, a bed & breakfast exclusively for cats.

Publisher’s Letter

posted October 15th, 2010 by
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20101015 1

By Marilyn King

Happy FALL to all YOU pet lovers out there – and welcome to my fall 2010 issue. We think it’s packed with lots of good information and stories, and we do hope you enjoy it.

I’ve always wanted to include some horse information in the magazine, and I finally got the chance, thanks to the friendly folks at Legacy Equine Centre in Glenpool. Legacy Equine Centre is a state-of-the-art horse hospital with every imaginable bell & whistle geared to all things horse. We are lucky to have such a facility in our part of the state.

We had horses when I was little, and mine was named Tag, a shiny black gelding. I loved my Tag and could crawl all over and under him and he never once expressed any fear or objection. I do think he loved me back. I would ride him like the wind, and sometimes there would be two or three of us on him. We boarded our horses at a horse farm and I would sob when we had to leave. I could not understand why my dad would not let me stay all night with Tag in his stall. By the way, that horse farm was waaaayyy out in the middle of nowhere then, right where Southern Agriculture at 71st & Sheridan is now. If anyone remembers the name please let me know.

We have a new web contest: personalized pet plates. Do you have a car tag that expresses your “pet self?” (We saw FLEACAB going by the other day!) Those of you who have a pet car tag please snap a pic and enter it into our online contest. Please email your high-resolution photo to [email protected] They will all be featured on the web site, and we’ll pick the best three to put into the January 2011 issue. Stay tuned for some doozies!

We’re now featuring our Shelter Report on our web site, and it’s updated weekly with adoptable cats and dogs. Please check it often and encourage others to adopt from there. They need it the most, because if they don’t get adopted we all know the fate that awaits them.

Our Calendar of Pet Events is also now being posted online, to allow for more timely event postings. Entities also now have the capability to add their own event. Check it out at

Thank you to everyone who helps me make TulsaPets Magazine possible. I am grateful to each and every one of you. Have a safe holiday pet season!

Marilyn King

A VOICE for the underdogs

posted October 15th, 2010 by
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‘Fixing’ the Problem of Too Many Homeless, Euthanized Pets

If you’re involved with animal rescue and welfare and don’t know Ruth Steinberger by now, it’s inevitable that eventually your paths will cross.

That intersection may be in-person or a result of her work improving the lives of pets and people in Oklahoma.

She’s the “go to” authority on Oklahoma’s growing spay and neuter services network, efforts to pass animal welfare legislation, and the sad state of animal cruelty and neglect, puppy mills, animal hoarders.

In Tulsa Pets Magazine, she has written about state legislation to improve living conditions in puppy mills; the growth of illegal street sales of puppies out of vehicles; the shocking sickness of animal hoarding, and new, affordable spay and neuter services.

She’s petite and soft-spoken, but is the “speak up” voice of positive change for the underdogs. For the past 20-plus years, Ruth has worked on behalf of homeless, helpless, abused, dumped, abandoned, caged and frightened animals to make their world a better place.

Speaking Out
Her messages are loud and clear:

• There are too many homeless animals and too few homes. Rescue organizations can help one at a time, but affordable spay and neuter networks are the real answer to “fixing” the problem of homelessness, suffering, overflowing shelters, and euthanasia of thousands.

• Preventing too many pets from being born into a world where they are not wanted costs less and brings the biggest bang for the buck.

And, she gently reminds, none of this is complicated. “No culture likes starving or abused animals. It’s just something people live with. But we can change it. And we are.”

This woman thinks big and works for practical solutions – spay and neuter your own pet before “just one litter” and, if you are outraged by animal cruelty, neglect, and homelessness, let your legislators and law enforcement officials know that you expect change.

“If you are committed to responsible, compassionate behavior and you vote, then you hold a huge card in your hands. By using it, you can trump the bad guys,” she says.

She’s more at home in jeans and a tee than “dressed up” at workshops educating professionals and volunteers. And her home is a haven for about a dozen dogs, four cats and horses, too, all rescued from the meanest of streets or not adoptable because they were too old or not cute enough. It’s probably a fact that of the thousands of critters she has met, each instinctively knows Ruth as “friend.”

Pet Dog and Pony Show
Ruth’s passion for animal welfare was born many years ago with a little dog and a pony ride.

A dog named Farfel was her first pet when she was 9 years old. The pup was spayed and lived 17 years, but only one of her several littermates, a puppy named Lollypop got a home – the mother dog was not spayed and Farfel “really should have been prevented,” as an older and wiser Ruth now knows.

Her first awareness of animal neglect was at age 7 at a pony ride. It was summer and there was no water for the ponies where they stood all day in the heat. Little Ruth “bugged” her father about it until he finally reported the situation to the ASPCA in New York City.

In later years, living on the East Coast, she volunteered in animal rescue, but soon realized that if pets were spayed and neutered “it just made more sense – IF the animals were fixed and stayed in their own homes instead of coming to mine. In spay and neuter programs, I was only briefly handling one pet instead of six or eight that needed someplace to go.”

Spay/Neuter Roots
Next she volunteered with a rural spay and neuter program in the Appalachian Mountains, that was associated with Virginia Tech’s veterinary medicine college. In 1998, she set out on a camping trip, hoping to connect with other spay and neuter groups, traveling with one horse, two dogs, notebooks and art supplies. In southern Arkansas during cotton-picking time, she saw a level of poverty even worse than in Appalachia, many neglected dogs, and no spay and neuter services.

The turning point was in rural, poor southeast Oklahoma when she stopped for gas and was greeted by a stray dog, soon joined by a dozen more. When Ruth asked a young girl nearby whose dogs they were, the answer was, “They’re yours now, ain’t they?” For a girl from the East, it was pretty odd. Then she learned that there was no spay or veterinary help for the dogs in the area.

“I knew there and then that I was selling my place in Virginia and moving to Oklahoma – it was the combination of the poverty and neglected dogs in Arkansas and this place. I knew I had something to share.

“Honestly, I never re-thought the decision from that moment on and never reconsidered.”

She moved to Pushmataha County, one of Oklahoma’s poorest, learned how to ask for funds and apply for grants, connected with a humane group, and thus was born Oklahoma’s first rural spay and neuter program, which continues to benefit thousands of pets in that corner of the state.

Dream to Reality
Now residing in Creek County, Ruth is director of outreach for Spay Oklahoma and continues building a statewide network bringing together legislators, law enforcement, veterinarians, other animal professionals, volunteers, non-profit rescue and service groups – all with a commitment to making a difference for the animals. She has received local, state and national recognition for her work.

And after a dozen years as a transplanted Okie, Ruth Steinberger’s name is synonymous with her dream for the animals.

“My dream is that we have programs to prevent animal suffering that are county-by-county, state-by-state, and ultimately worldwide, on a scope we can’t even imagine today.

“We may not be able to stop each psycho who harms an animal, but the greatest cause of death of pets in the U.S. is that there are too many cats and dogs born every day.

“Animal suffering can be viewed as a disease and we already have the cure. It’s prevention. And we can also stop practices that are cruel to animals, such as bull fighting.

“Working together, we can get it done.” This dream is “simple” and can become reality, Ruth says.

This, too, is certain. Ruth Steinberger is creating millions of paw prints to tomorrow’s safer, kinder, and more compassionate world for animals.

Pat Atkinson
Professional journalist Pat Atkinson is also associated with area rescue and spay/neuter programs.

The Importance of Giving Heartworm Prevention All Year in Oklahoma

posted October 15th, 2010 by
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Mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease, which affects both dogs and cats. Due to our temperate climate in Oklahoma, mosquitoes can be seen at various times all year long. I have swatted mosquitoes in my home in January and February, which shows how resilient these insects can be. We can have one or two days of above freezing temperatures that will cause otherwise dormant mosquito eggs and pupae to hatch and become active.

When a mosquito bites an animal, the larva, or immature form of the heartworm is deposited on the skin, and from there makes a journey to the bloodstream, which takes 30 days, eventually taking it to the heart, where it will mature to an adult heartworm. This is the reason that heartworm preventatives can be given once per month…they kill the immature heartworm that is migrating through the skin. But, once the larva reaches the bloodstream, the preventative is ineffective. Therefore, it is very important to give the heartworm medication on a strict monthly schedule.

Heartworm disease can be hidden for a long time, sometimes taking years before symptoms appear. One of the first things that dog owners will notice is a decrease in exercise tolerance, which means there is a shorter period before the dog gets tired and stops playing or running. As the disease progresses, a chronic cough may be heard and an even greater exercise intolerance may be noticed. Other symptoms may include weight loss, lethargy due to pneumonia, and signs associated with congestive heart disease. Cats will have episodes of sneezing and coughing, and may eat less and become more isolated from their owners.

Annual heartworm testing for dogs is very important, even if you are giving heartworm preventative every month of the year. Sometimes the preventative will be given late or incorrectly applied to the skin, as in the case of topical products. This is why a heartworm test should be performed yearly in conjunction with a check up and vaccinations.

Treatment for active heartworm infection in dogs consists of a series of injections given in the muscle of the back. This is usually a painful procedure but the pain can be controlled with analgesics and other medications that are given at the time of treatment and at home for several days afterwards. In our hospital, we will pre-treat with an antibiotic for a month and will have the client start pain medication 2-3 days before the injections start. We will give injections on one day, then wait one month and give injections for 2 days in a row. This makes a total treatment time of 2 months, which is uncomfortable for the dog and can be expensive for the owner. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for heartworms for the cat, simply because the drugs are too toxic.

There are many types of heartworm preventatives available for both the dog and the cat. When I first started practicing veterinary medicine, the only available heartworm preventatives were pills that were given on a daily basis. Now we have medications that are given or applied monthly, and even an injection that is administered every six months. We have monthly oral heartworm preventatives in combination with intestinal wormers, and we have oral preventatives in combination with intestinal wormers that also can inhibit the hatching of flea eggs. There are also products available, that, when applied to the skin, will prevent heartworms, intestinal worms, and will kill fleas, their larvae, and their eggs. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on what is the best product for your pet.

Giving heartworm preventative all year is very important for the health of your pet due to the prevalence of mosquitoes and other parasites in Oklahoma. Yearly testing for dogs is also necessary to ensure that treatment will never have to be a necessity for these important companions and family members.

Mark Shackelford
Mark Shackelford is a co-owner and veterinarian at the 15th Street Vet Group, Tulsa.