Entries in Veterinary (4)


Tiny Tim, Houston's Beloved Fat Cat, Has Cancer

Courtesy Southside Place Animal Hospital(HOUSTON) -- Tiny Tim, the hefty Houston feline that gained national attention for his overweight figure and subsequent strict diet and exercise plan, has been diagnosed with cancer in his leg that could prove fatal.

Dr. Alice Frei, who has been monitoring the 30-pound cat's progress at the Southside Place Animal Hospital, Thursday announced Tiny's "aggressive tumor" on his Facebook fan page, "Tiny Tim at Spah."

"Tiny Tim has cancer," Frei wrote. "There is no radiation or chemotherapy for such an aggressive tumor."

Frei said Tiny was rushed to Texas A&M University School of Veterinary Medicine for treatment on Wednesday after SPAH staff noticed his elbow was swollen and pathology results showed cancer. A&M veterinarians confirmed the pathologist's findings, and "said the cancer was so rapidly growing that they could not define the cell of origin," Frei wrote.

Tiny is scheduled to have a CAT scan on Friday to see how far the tumor has spread and assess a treatment plan, but options for the beloved cat seem dire.

"If Tiny Tim's CAT scan does not show [the] tumor has invaded his chest, we have decided that the only course of treatment is to have the leg amputated," Frei wrote. "If the tumor has spread to his chest his treatment options are basically zero."

They are now waiting to see if Tiny Tim will need surgery, but even that will be a difficult decision for the staff.

"Surgery for Tiny Tim is a huge risk because of his size, and if he makes it through the surgery he has a long road back," Frei wrote. "It will be rough. With it he may die. Without it he will die."

Tiny, who's about 9 years old, weighed in at a hefty 35.2 pounds when he arrived at the animal hospital around Christmas 2011, but testing showed that Tiny was otherwise healthy. When a search for his owner proved unsuccessful, the hospital took him in as a permanent resident -- provided he'd lose weight.

By New Year's, the "super sweet cat" had been placed on a strict diet for the year.

"He has been on a very, very regimented diet -- measured meal plans, the whole works, and he is at 28.6 pounds," SPAH manager Debbie Green told ABC News in a recent interview. "He weighs in twice a week, and he gets meals measured in little bags throughout the whole week, so we know exactly what he's eating."

Tiny is fed a precise 307 calories per day, and his team of doctors would be "really, really excited if he got closer to 20 pounds," Green said.

Earlier this year, Tiny seemed to plateau at 30 pounds. The cat, somewhat ironically, lives in a food pantry in the animal hospital because he is too big for the normal cat cages at Southside. A staff member figured out Tiny had clawed a small hole into a bag of food and had been having midnight snacks.

Tiny's doctors make sure Tiny exercises by making him work for his bed and board. He is carried to the front of the clinic at least three times a day, and he has to walk the 50 feet back to his room for meals.

"He doesn't voluntarily walk around the office," Green said. "He used to move 10 steps and then sit down. Now he can get from the front to the back, which is about 50 feet, without much trouble at all."

Tiny's cancer hasn't been the only health concern for the SPAH staff. He is also at risk for feline diabetes or thyroid problems in the future because of his weight, Green said. They believe arthritis could become a problem for him too.

Regardless, the popular feline is pretty quiet and prefers the peace of his pantry to the business of the hospital's waiting room, but he enjoys the attention and brushing he receives from friends and fans who often stop by to visit him.

On Thursday night, he remained at the A&M veterinary hospital, where "he is doing fine, has the entire cat ward to himself and is getting lots of attention," according to his Facebook fan page.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Max the Dog Survives Sandy's Wrath and Death of Owner

Jessie Streich-Kest was walking her dog when a tree fell and killed Jessie on Oct. 29, 2012. (Courtesy NYCCommunities)(NEW YORK) -- Max, a friendly pit-bull-pointer-shepherd mix, was saved by a good Samaritan Tuesday, after he was found trapped under a fallen tree with the bodies of his owner Jessie Streich-Kest, and her friend Jacob Vogelman.

Max, a shoo-in for the Target dog with a brown patch over his eye, was taken to Verg South, an emergency veterinary hospital in Brooklyn, where he is expected to recover from head injuries, a broken jaw and some lacerations to the mouth.

For him, it was a second rescue -- he was a shelter dog. And now, Verg South will take care of him pro-bono until he can go home to live with his owner's family.

"It's just a testament to Max's spirit that he pulled through this tragedy," said veterinarian Brett Levitzke, who is treating the dog.

"It's also a testament to his owner that she went to a local shelter and saved putting him to sleep," he said. "That's why the whole story is really heartbreaking, but hopefully it will have a happy ending for Max."

He, like hundreds of pets up and down the East Coast, were separated from their owners or killed as hurricane-force winds and flooding took down everything in their path.

NYCVert, which since 9/11 has worked with the city's Office of Emergency Management to develop disaster planning for pets, estimated about 100 animals pets have been rescued and taken to shelters in New York City during superstorm Sandy.

"And that's not counting those that ended up in hospitals or were stranded," said Levitzke, 41.

The hospital, with generators, has been operational 24/7 since the storm. One dog had salt water toxicity from being stuck in flood waters, causing his brain to swell. Others have suffered from stress that causes vomiting.

"It runs the gamut," he said of the injuries. The hospital also takes in abandoned pets.

Max was found alive Tuesday when a neighbor went outside in the Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn to take pictures of the fallen tree.

"He was mentally very dull because of head trauma," said Levitzke. The dog will likely need jaw surgery after his head injuries subside.

He described Max as a large "Brooklyn garden variety mutt," with a "sweet face and a sweet disposition."

Max had been adopted by Streich-Kest, a special education teacher at the Buschwick High School for Social Justice, from the ASPCA. She was an activist who championed the homeless and even the carriage horses in Central Park.

"Jessie was a wonderful, amazing human being and they were a perfect match, so I am happy he is surviving," Barbara Gross, a friend of the family, said of Max. "They were inseparable."

Her parents, Jon Kest and Fran Streich, both community organizers, were devasted by their daughter's death and plan to keep the dog, according to Gross, 54.

Streich-Kest got Max from the ASPCA when she moved into her first apartment about two years ago, according to Gross.

"He was a real comfort and anchor for her," she said. "Everyone said the dog thought he was human."

At Verg South, Max has been "definitely critical for the past few days, but over the past 24 hours, he has taken quite a turn for the better in terms of his neurological status," said Levitzke.

As of Friday, Max was out of his cage and eating. "He's a ton better," he said. "The fact is, Max is a real trooper."

Levitzke said the city had done a "good job" of looking after pets, informing them how to make preparations for evacuations and even providing accommodation for family pets at evacuation shelters.

"For all those reasons, the numbers aren't going to be as staggering as Katrina," he said, where an estimated 600,000 animals were lost or perished.

For future weather emergency preparedness, Levitzke advises families to pack "go bags" for animals, with food, blankets, carriers and leashes, and most importantly ID for your pet and even a photo taken with you in case you are separated.

"Everyone is dealing with the aftereffects of Sandy," said Levitzke. "Max is welcome to stay with us as long as he needs. And while they get their feet on the ground. We will take care of his injuries."

"The family has lost everything," he said. "But pets are family and now they have one less thing to worry about."

For questions and to help reunite pets and their owners, call the city's Pet Hotline at (347) 573-1561.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Canine Cancer Studies Yield Human Insights

Texas Veterinary Cancer Registry(BETHESDA, Md.) -- Some of the most promising insights into cancer are coming from pet dogs, thanks to emerging studies exploring remarkable biological similarities between man and his best friend.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs. Every year, millions of dogs develop lymphomas and malignancies of the bones, blood vessels, skin and breast. An increasing group of researchers recognize cancer-stricken canines as a natural study population, especially given owners' storied devotion to their canine companions' well-being.

Because dogs age many times more rapidly than humans and their cancers progress more quickly, canine cancer studies produce quicker results. Veterinary oncologists talk in terms of "one- to two-year survival times" for their pet patients, compared to survival times of five to 10 years that oncologists discuss for their human patients, said Dr. Melissa Paoloni, a veterinary oncologist with the National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research in Bethesda, Md.

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A consortium of 20 veterinary centers created by the NCI and overseen by Paoloni aims to speed the development of better therapies and new strategies for treating and preventing human cancers. At the same time, some institutions, such as the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, are independently teaming up on their own to share human and animal findings.

One beneficiary of that collaboration has been Rowdy, an 8-year-old Great Pyrenees dog diagnosed in August with bone cancer.

Rowdy might have undergone chemotherapy and amputation of his front leg had his owner opted for conventional therapy. But Kate Cordts of San Antonio lost another dog to the same disease and assiduously researched experimental treatments for canine osteosarcoma.

She enrolled Rowdy in a clinical trial at Texas A&M, where veterinary cancer specialists delivered experimental radiation therapy directly into his diseased leg, followed by chemotherapy.

Six months later, Rowdy is living up to his name, thanks to a regimen that not only saved the leg, but also might one day help children diagnosed with the same malignancy.

The specialist who treated Rowdy supports more such studies.

"One of the great advantages of doing clinical trials in dogs is that owners can elect to do experimental therapy instead of conventional from the very beginning," Dr. Terry Fossum, the Texas A&M veterinarian who administered Rowdy's limb-sparing, potentially life-saving treatment, told ABC News.

People, in contrast, typically undergo experimental treatments only after conventional treatments have failed.

Paoloni said the Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium has so far conducted 11 clinical trials. Its pilot study of just 31 dogs demonstrated that scientists could conduct sophisticated molecular profiling of tumors and, within five days, use it to create a personalized treatment plan based on an individual dog's profile, Paoloni told ABC News. The study stands at the cutting edge of personalized medicine, she said.

Investigators currently are designing three early-stage trials of this approach for larger numbers of dogs with melanoma, osteosarcoma and angiosarcoma. She expects those to begin late this year or early in 2013.

Canine clinical trials have the potential to accelerate progress in the fight against cancer, helping "patients with and without fur," Paoloni told ABC News Tuesday. "All of our interests are geared to learning something from the dog that's applied to human patients."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Elephant Calf Dies Just Short of Groundbreaking Surgery

At just 25 days old, baby elephant called Lola plays in her enclosure at Munich Zoo Hellabrunn on Nov. 22, 2011 in Munich, Germany. Nadine Rupp/Getty Images(MUNICH) -- A baby elephant at a German zoo who suffered from heart problems has passed away.  Lola would’ve been the world’s first elephant to have heart surgery to remove a blood clot, but died during preparations for the operation.  At just three months, during a CTA scan, the calf suffered from a pulmonary embolism and could not be revived.

Zoo director and veterinarian Dr. Andreas Knieriem commented on Lola’s tragic death to the UK’s Daily Mail: "Considering the pathology, it has to be said it’s a miracle that she lived as long as she did. Her arteries were so blocked that blood couldn’t flow through her lungs anymore.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio