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posted May 27th, 2013 by
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by Lauren Cavagnolo


It was a typical day in September last year for Felicia Russell and her dog Deacon. Russell was getting ready for work and Deacon, a 9-yearold German Shorthaired Pointer, was outside.

When it was time for her to leave, he came right into the house and settled into his crate.

“He didn’t act unusual, and I had no reason to inspect him for anything,” Russell said. She left for work and returned about six hours later.

“When I opened the crate, he staggered out drooling, and his head was the size of a football,” Russell said. “His left eye was swollen shut, and I saw blood on his legs and face. I knew immediately what had happened because I have had a dog bitten by a copperhead previously. For some odd reason, I checked the crate for a snake!”

She quickly loaded Deacon into the car and took him to Oklahoma Veterinary Specialists, an all-hours emergency facility, and called from the road to let them know they were on the way.

“They were ready when we came in the door,” Russell said. “Since he had been in his crate for over six hours immediately after the bite, his blood was seriously affected, and they determined antivenin therapy was the best option.”

Inspection showed he had at least a half dozen bites and three envenomated bites, one of which was only a quarter of an inch from his eye. Left untreated, serious damage could have been done to his internal organs, Russell said.

Deacon stayed at OVS for four days until he was stable enough to go home. Overall, the cost of his treatment exceeded $4,500.

He was just one of 21 dogs with snake bites that required antivenin therapy treated by OVS veterinarians last year, according to Shad Wilkerson, DVM, at OVS.

Though Deacon was able to go home just several days after being treated, he also had some longterm effects from the attack.

For the most part, he made a swift recovery, Russell says, “with the exception of the necrotic tissue on his face. That took a few weeks to slough off. He still lacks hair in the directly affected areas.”

Deacon also suffered from clotting issues and red blood cell restriction.

“I can’t do rabies on him anymore because of the effect on his blood,” Russell said. “There have been a couple of cases of snake bitten dogs that had brain seizures and swelling following rabies vaccination. If I ever have a question about his immunity to rabies, I will have a titer done.”

Elena Shirley, DVM, of Hunters Glen Veterinary Hospital, explains that depending on the type of snake and the type of poison, it can interfere in different ways with the animal’s clotting factors.

“Some animals can experience bleeding disorders or coagulopathies, those are the kind of things, even once we get the immediate symptoms under control, that can linger, and we have to monitor that as you go forward,” Shirley said.

Shirley, a general practitioner who has treated her share of dogs with snake bites, says it can take up to two weeks for other symptoms to kick in.

Rarely, some animals will experience what is called “serum sickness” or an unusual reaction to any foreign substance in the body, she said. Symptoms include hives, joint pain, fever and general malaise.

Where we seem to get a lot of snakebites is late summer when it’s really hot outside, Wilkerson said. “The rattlesnakes and the copperheads, in particular, tend to become more crepuscular or active at dusk and dawn because it is really hot in the middle of the day.”

People also tend to keep their pets inside at the hottest part of the day.

“It’s too hot in the daytime for all the different creatures to be out so everybody congregates in the cooler hours of the day,” Wilkerson said.

Even though late summer is when a lot of snake bites occur, venomous snakes start to come out as early as April, he said.

Typical spring cleaning behaviors, such as taking pool covers off and clearing leaves and underbrush can unintentionally disturb venomous snakes, Shirley said.

“They are not lying in wait to kill people, but they are protecting themselves,” Shirley said. “They are conserving energy at certain times of the year, and they are also protecting nests, and if you see them out during the day, it’s pretty unusual.”

Wilkerson and Shirley both say that the most common venomous snakes in the area are the copperhead, rattlesnake and the occasional water moccasin.

“We really don’t see water moccasins in our area so much,” Wilkerson said. “People are always talking about it, and it really is mostly a misconception.”

There are some varieties of water snakes that look similar to the cottonmouth or water moccasin but are not poisonous, which is what most people are seeing, Wilkerson said.

“We see copperhead bites the most, and luckily they are the least dangerous of the ones we have here,” Wilkerson said.

Pet owners who don’t actually see their animal get bitten by a snake may not immediately put all of the symptoms together and think “snakebite,” Shirley said. Bites are not always the first sign pet owners will notice, especially if the animal has longer hair.

“Either the pet is lying around, has lowered energy, possibly some nausea, some throwing up. Possibly some trembling, and very possibly some problems in the area of the skin where the bite took place. The point is when you see any of that, it’s not that owners aren’t responsible, good people,” Shirley said. “But they may not put it together what is happening. They may think ‘Oh, he’s got an abscess on his foot, or he’s hurt his toe.’”

A pet owner who does see his or her animal attacked by a snake should immediately bring the animal to an emergency vet center, Wilkerson said.

“The best thing to do is just to keep them calm and get them somewhere where they can receive antivenin,” Wilkerson said. “A dog that gets bit by a venomous snake, you’ll see the fang marks, and the tissue starts to swell. It’s very painful, and the swelling is dramatic.”

Wilkerson also advises against using a tourniquet on the animal or administering Benadryl or any other antihistamine.

“I usually do not use Benadryl or any other type of antihistamine with them because the antivenin does a better job, and the two are not to be used together,” Wilkerson said.

Shirley agrees that a tourniquet should not be used on an animal with a snakebite, but says there are instances where the use of an antihistamine like Benadryl is appropriate, depending on the type of antivenin. It can also be used to prevent and treat allergic reactions to antivenin.

Pet owners should call their veterinarians to find out what the proper protocol is.

All 21 dogs treated with antivenin last year at OVS lived, according to their records.

“[Antivenin] is the gold standard, so that’s what’s recommended. It really does a good job,” Wilkerson said.

Crotalidae polyvalent antivenin is most commonly used in this part of the country and is what both OVS and the Animal Emergency Center keep on hand. A general practice veterinarian may or may not keep antivenin on the shelves.

Russell, Deacon’s owner, knows he is one lucky dog and has this message for pet owners who may be facing the same situation:

“If you have a dog bitten by a snake, and you are unsure if it is a venomous snake, don’t hesitate to seek veterinary care,” Russell said. “Don’t even waste time on first aid. Just stabilize and transport.”

Veterinary Dental Specialists Launch Program for Service Dogs

posted July 30th, 2012 by
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American Veterinary Dental College

The first annual American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) Service Dog Oral Healthcare Exam program will be held in August 2012. The event will honor the dogs who selflessly serve the public – guide dogs, service dogs, working and military dogs, and search and rescue dogs. Complimentary oral healthcare examinations will be provided by AVDC veterinary dental specialists.

These AVDC veterinary dental specialists will be looking for signs of periodontal disease, fractured teeth, discolored teeth, oral masses, and other oral and dental diseases that can cause pain or discomfort for service dogs.

Although no treatment will be offered as part of the Service Dog Oral Healthcare Exam program, if oral or dental abnormalities are found, a treatment plan will be laid out that the owner or handler can elect to pursue at a later date. In addition, the veterinary dental specialists will teach service dog owners and handlers about the benefits of preventative oral health care.

Many AVDC veterinary dental specialists have treated service dogs in the past and are well aware that oral pain can prevent these dogs from working effectively. This program will help ensure that America’s service dogs are able to do their important work at peak efficiency.

Owners and handlers of service animals who have been certified from a formal training program, or enrolled in a training program can register on-line between now and August 15 at the AVDC website: Once registered, owners or agents will receive a registration number and a list of participating veterinary dentists in their area whom they can contact to schedule an appointment during August. Times may vary, depending on the facility, and appointments are provided on a first-come, first-served basis.


For further information, contact:



Kenneth M. Capron, DVM


Capron Veterinary Hospital and Dental Clinic for Pets (Animal Dental Clinic of Tulsa)

6705 East 51st Street

Tulsa, OK 74145-7606

(918) 627-5188


David S. Russell, DVM


Veterinary Dental Center of Tulsa

4820 E. 33rd Street

Tulsa, OK 74135



Cancer in Pets Similar to Human Disease

posted March 15th, 2011 by
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KIMBERLY REEDS, DvM, recently joined Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences as an assistant professor of oncology. She works at the Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital treating dogs and cats with cancer.

“Dogs and cats get cancers comparable to the ones humans get,” explains Reeds. “The types of cancer are very similar to those diagnosed in humans and similar cancers appear in both small animal species such as lymphoma and skin tumors. The most common cancers we treat are lymphoma and mast cell tumors in dogs.”

While attending OSU’s veterinary college, Reeds’ interest in oncology was sparked one summer working on a research project.

Dr. Kimberly Reeds examines Sahara as registered veterinary technician, Lisa Gallery, holds the dog.

“I liked being able to offer help to people who didn’t think any help was available for their pet,” she says. “Cancer is a devastating diagnosis. I want people to understand that usually there is something we can do to extend the patient’s life or at least make it better. A cancer diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. In most cases there is still hope.”

She recommends a veterinary examination when pet owners notice sudden changes in behavior or appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, the presence of a mass or a swelling that doesn’t go away or persistent pain. However, not all of these symptoms lead to a cancer diagnosis.

In animals, the protocol for cancer treatment differs from humans.

“The first option in general for animals is surgery to remove the cancer followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation, except for lymphoma. There is usually no surgical option for lymphoma so it’s straight to chemotherapy treatment, which varies in length of time for treatment.”

Depending on the diagnosis, chemotherapy may last 3-6 months or some longer-term chemo treatments may be for an indefinite time, with the owner giving the pet a pill daily.

“The side effects vary depending on the drug itself, the drug dose and the intensity of the drug protocol. Some animals experience gastro intestinal upset, but in general, dogs and cats actually handle chemotherapy pretty well.

They don’t experience the expectation that it will cure them. Animals also do not lose their hair during treatment like most people do. It’s a rare occurrence when that happens.”

OSU’s veterinary hospital offers surgical and medical oncology services.

“We are approved to use the new melanoma vaccine, which is not available in many private practices. We maintain an inventory of most of the common chemotherapy drugs as well as the new anti-cancer drug, Palladia, which is used to treat mast cell tumors in dogs.”

She notes that access to a wide variety of specialists provides for consulting regarding “each other’s cases often as a team of doctors to try to come up with the best plan to obtain the best possible outcome for our patients.”

“Our focus is on extending the patient’s life while maintaining a good quality of life.” Reeds recalls a dog she treated during her oncology residency.

“I treated a chocolate female lab owned by the nicest older gentleman. The dog had a thyroid tumor in her neck. Whenever he brought her in for treatments as he would see me walk toward them, he would lean down and say to the dog, ‘Look, here comes your BFF (Best Friend Forever), Dr. Reeds.’ I smile whenever I think of that and know I made a difference in her life and her owner’s life. I gave them quality time and hope for one more good day and that is priceless.”

Following graduation from OSU’s veterinary college, she practiced for a year in Texas, then returned to OSU for advanced study of tumors. She completed a one-year Radiation Therapy Internship at Purdue University and a three-year Residency in Oncology at Kansas State University before joining OSU’s faculty. She is currently completing an M.S. degree in Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Kansas State University and the requirements for board certification as a veterinary oncologist.

For Information:
Dr. Kimberly Reeds – (405) 744-7000

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.

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.