College of Veterinary Medicine

From the Dean

Those Darn Cats

by Bryan 26. July 2010 11:37

I came across this story in the NY Times yesterday and it made me think of Barkley, about the sweetest old tom cat you ever ran across (unless you were another tom).  Barkley (who our son named for the dog on Sesame Street) started out life as a feral cat living in the draw along side our house when we lived in Vermont.  After spending a couple of weeks in the attic over the garage (a long story...perhaps for another post) he lived under the chair in the den for the next couple of months of domesticated life.  He would hiss and spit upon any approach.  To this day, I doubt if we would have tamed him except that he got deathly ill (one of those cat things that you never really figure out, provide support, and they get better or they don't; if they get better, they've used up one of their nine lives).  He was so ill he couldn't effectively fend us off and so we were able to begin handling him.  After about four months of this uneasy co-existence, in the late winter, he was at least tolerating our presence and so we decided we had to test whether he had adopted us or not.  We put him out and left the door open.  Several hours later he came back.  A few months later he was on a plane to his new life in Pullman.

One of the things in the NY Times story that struck a chord with me was the end-of-life decision for Scuzzi that paralleled our experience with Barkley.  The author's description encapsulates well the issues surrounding euthanasia for which veterinarians must be ready to engage their clients.  However, it specifically resonated because of Barkley.  He used up a couple more of his nine lives in the 13 years he lived in Pullman, but there came that time when he was about 15 years old that a lymphoma reared up, and spread rapidly.  Our kids had grown up with him and so the decision was tough, but in the end he stayed home with us, getting general supportive care and fluids, until we agreed his quality of life was no longer there and if we kept him alive longer it would be for us and not him.  And, like Scuzzi, he got the shoebox burial in the back yard so we all could say goodbye and keep him around close.

He'll always be a great cat.

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More Vet Student Art

by Bryan 29. April 2010 13:24

In follow on to my last post about our many talented veterinary students and faculty, I wanted to point out to you that the third "Art in the Library" exhibit is ongoing in the Animal Health Library in Wegner Hall.  This time Heather Brurud of the Class of 2011 has put together an exhibit drawn from her many photographs.  You can find out more about Heather and her photography here.  For those of you in the area, there is an open house to meet Heather tomorrow (Friday April 30) from 4:30 to 6:00 pm.  Here's one of my favorites from Heather's exhibit.

Our intent is to make this an ongoing series.  The CVM Art in the Library series opened with Gudrun Gunther's exhibit of oil paintings last spring, and continued in the fall with an exhibit of oil paintings by Norma Duppler, the late mother of Lynne Duppler, another member of the Class of 2011.  I am so pleased that Steve and Vicki were able to work with Heather to continue this new tradition in our college.  Many thanks to those who generously contribute their time and talents to enriching our work and study place.

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Ground Control to Yogi Bear

by Bryan 3. February 2010 06:08

Apparently as I age I cannot eat the prodigious quantities of spicy Mexican food that I could in my youth.  Thus, I am awake and at it earlier than usual today -- so what better time to get back into the habit of blogging periodically?  The last few months have been crazy-busy, but it is time to get back at this.

And what better way to do so than to point you to this story, which explains the title of this post.  This story about research to better understand hibernation in bears features WSU's Bear Center, including the work of Heiko Jansen and Lynne Nelson from our college (the VCAPP Department/Neuroscience Program and Veterinary Clinical Sciences, respectively).  Being a fan of Alien and Aliens (the rest of the series, not so much...) I found this story's tie-in to futuristic space travel amusing; given the history of science fiction's imaginings coming to pass eventually, on occasion, who is to say this might not come to pass as well?

Given the timing of this story, Avatar would have been a better sci-fi reference (it too features hibernation for extended space travel).  By the way, if you haven't seen Avatar, get out to see it in 3D on the big screen ASAP (IMAX if possible).  Way cool...

(Thanks Darin for pointing me to the bear story)

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I Knew There Was A Reason I Liked Cats

by Bryan 21. October 2009 06:43

The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) has the most interesting statistics.  In this issue from about 6 months ago (which I just uncovered in a fit of office cleaning over the weekend) is an analysis of "Nonfatal Fall-Related Injuries Associated with Dogs and Cats -- United States, 2001-2006."  Note that these are injuries do to a fall, not due to bite or clawing wounds.

First I knew that such statistics were tracked.

There are many nuggets in here and so the whole report is worth a look.  Table 2 has the bottom line for estimates of rate of injury.  Some of the notable findings (notable to me at least) are that people are injured by pet-caused falls at a rate of 26 per 100,000 population.  The estimated total of injuries is more than 76,000 annually.  Women are more than twice as likely to be injured (or report injuries?) than men.  Although the absolute number of injuries is smaller, the highest rate of injury is in people greater than 75 years of age (more than twice the total average rate of injury).  The most common injury is a fracture, with an estimated annual total of more than 26,500 pet-induced fractures due to falls (31% of total).

Most of these injuries were dog-induced.  As you might guess, most injuries were caused by tripping over the pet, but a significant number reported being pulled or pushed by their pet.  Only 20 people are estimated to be injured each year in an attack by a cat, whereas nearly 15 times that number are injured by dog attack.  Almost 1,000 people are estimated to be injured while "running from" a dog, but only 43 "running from" a cat.

Finally, a significant number of injuries are estimated in the category of "fell over pet item".

As a cat owner this gives me comfort, but tongue-in-cheekness aside, this is the first published thorough analysis of injuries due to pet-induced falls and is worthy of your attention.

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Weird Unintended Consequences of "Swine" Flu

by Bryan 24. September 2009 23:01

You may recall that when the AH1N1 flu strain (aka, unfortunately, "swine flu") emerged last spring, one of the more misguided moves was the government-ordered slaughter of all the pigs in Egypt.

Many of these pigs, it turns out, were the property of the zabaleen, a minority Christian sect on the fringe of Cairo.  Now, in a really weird unintended consequences, comes this story about the streets of Cairo being overrun with mounds of garbage.  It seems that the zabaleen collected garbage, and the organic material was used to feed their pigs.  No need for garbage.  No collection.

...and piles and piles of garbage clogging the streets.  Who would have thought that a flu virus could do that?


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Is Veterinary Care Too Costly?

by Bryan 20. September 2009 22:43

I guess the answer to that question depends on your point of view.

The author of this recent column in the Sydney Morning Herald sure seems to think it is.  But, as with most such arguments (see here for a similar recent post, which refers to this column), it largely misses the point.

There are a couple of issues here.  The first is a misunderstanding of the cost of care.  Any argument that veterinary care is more expensive than comparable human medical care totally ignores the true cost of human medical care.  Human medical care is vastly more expensive than veterinary medical care -- however, most humans in the developed world rarely pay anything close to the full cost of their medical care.  Rather, this cost is underwritten by the state (with government-run health care programs) and/or by private insurers (the cost of which is borne by employers, including the self employed).  The fact that the client bears the full cost of veterinary care only makes it seem like it is more expensive.

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Success in Comparative Medicine

by Bryan 8. September 2009 06:59

We recently held our 11th annual White Coat Ceremony, in which we formally "induct" our entering DVM students into our college at the start of their studies in their new profession.

This got me to thinking again about the tremendous array of possible careers opened up by the DVM education.  For the new students in the class of 2013, this was driven home by their speaker, Peter Anderson, from the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB).  Pete received his DVM from our college in 1981 and went off to a residency and Ph.D. in comparative pathology, at UAB.  He never left and has had an incredible career as a research pathologist and teacher of pathology to medical students.  For the latter he has received numerous awards, including last year from the AAMC (a national award) and most recently from UAB's national alumni association.

So, congratulations Pete on your achievements, and thanks for showing that there really is no limit on what a veterinarian can achieve in their career with their comparative medical education.

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Driving While Eating Hot, Greasy, and Gooey Food

by Bryan 3. September 2009 07:47

As a rube from southern Idaho (who moved to the big city of Pullman to go to vet school), I was fascinated by all the things to see when we moved to the Bay Area for my post-doc and Kathy's graduate school.  We lived in Berkeley so Kathy was close to school, and I commuted to U.C. San Francisco in the city.

Although I eventually spent most of my commuting time to downtown on BART, when I first moved there I took a surface express bus across the Bay Bridge (which is now undergoing major renewal).  From my elevated seating position on the bus I had views down into thousands of cars on the freeway.  I was thoroughly amazed by what people did in cars!

Shaving and applying make up -- usually involving gazing in the rear-view mirror while driving with one's knees -- and eating are some of the things I can mention in polite company.  Today, texting and talking using cell phones are also commonplace (in spite of laws forbidding their use).  This flashback came to mind the other day when Charlie pointed out to me the 10 most dangerous foods to eat while driving, extracted from this site.

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More Bragging

by Bryan 30. August 2009 11:08

When we gather in Seattle in two weeks for our annual event prior to the WSU-Hawaii football game at QWEST Field we'll be missing one of our usual cast of characters -- Rick DeBowes.

It's OK, though, he has a good excuse.  Rick's DVM alma mater, the University of Illinois, made the wise decision to honor him with the Erwin Small Distinguished Alumnus Award.  They, unfortunately, scheduled their celebratory event to coincide with our event in Seattle.  This award is especially meaningful to Rick this year, because Dr. Small -- who had a long and distinguished career at Illinois -- died on July 1, and so he made the (correct) decision to go to Illinois to personally receive his award.

So, please join me in congratulating Rick on this much-deserved award; I know you'll give him a pass for being in Urbana-Champaign instead of joining us this year in Seattle -- he'll have to settle for the matchup of Illinois-Illinois State.

Congratulations, Rick!

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Better to be a dog...?

by Bryan 10. August 2009 12:10

In his comment in response to my previous post, Roger points out an article that I think is worth a read, if only for the humor.  A physician in Britain has penned this article to provide commentary on human health care systems and health care reform from his vantage point in the UK.  As one means of doing so, he contrasts health care access of UK citizens to their national health care system with what he thinks are some better features of a dog accessing (through an intermediary, as he puts it) the veterinarian of their choice in the veterinary health care system. 

There are multiple levels on which this commentary works, aside from its main purpose to weigh in on human health care reform.  For starters, it touches on the different payment systems in human medicine vs. veterinary medicine, one of the issues I think is raised by the notion of a tax deduction for qualified pet care expenses.

It also touches strongly on the role of the value of veterinary services to the consumer of such services, ... the client must think the services are worth the charge, or go elsewhere (with or without complaint).  Every practicing veterinarian knows, or soon learns, of the struggle to ensure that the value of services -- usually paid directly at the time of service and not by some mostly invisible third party -- is perceived by the client.  With respect to this latter point, this small piece frames the latter issue nicely; so many misconceptions...where to start? (thanks Charlie for pointing this out)

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