Dogs, cats, llamas, wallabies and tigers need not fret about receiving expert medical care, particularly if they live in Texas. Veterinarians at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences have treated them all, and then some.
Established in 1916, Texas’s only vet school is recognized as one of the world’s leading institutions in veterinary education, animal health care and research. People bring their pets from across the United States—and around the world—to the rolling hills of College Station to receive advanced treatment.
As an integral educational component of the college, the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) cared for 19,468 patients in fiscal year 2005. This number represents the number of animals seen and treated in the small animal hospital, large animal hospital, and zoological and wildlife medicine facility. The small animal hospital alone accounted for 12,197 of those cases; many of the patients were dogs.
Noted for its compassionate approach to veterinary medicine, VMTH employs over 200 faculty members specializing in a myriad of fields. Surgical heart treatment, nephrology research, small animal rehabilitation and the unique testing available at the gastrointestinal lab are just a few ways the vet school is helping beloved pets everywhere. The progressive health care options available at TX A&M offer hope to people who cherish their animals.
Surgical Heart Treatment
Until recently, veterinary open heart surgery for the treatment of congenital heart defects and acquired heart disease was largely unheard of, due to limited expertise and the costs associated with equipment. Fortunately, this is changing, albeit slowly.
In 2001, with the use of a heart/lung machine, the first successful open heart surgery at A&M’s vet school was performed in 92 minutes on a two-and-a-half-year-old Golden Retriever named Luke, who is feeling much better these days. Luke suffered from a congenital heart defect known as subaortic stenosis, which can lead to sudden death early in life.
According to Dr. Theresa Fossum, professor of surgery at the school’s small animal hospital and a pioneer in veterinary surgical heart treatment, the condition is a common one, although to date, only two other dogs have been treated surgically for the defect at A&M. This is primarily due to the cost, which ranges from $8,000 to $12,000, and the high mortality risk associated with operating on a diseased heart.
Because the school provides the tools required for the use of invasive surgical techniques (such as the heart/lung machine) as well as for non-invasive coil or catheter-based techniques, the treatment mode can be matched to the patient’s needs. Insertion of intravascular coils or balloons is appropriate treatment for some heart defects, and substantially decreases the expense as well as lowers the surgical risk. Intravascular coils for patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a common congenital defect in dogs, generally run between $2,500 and $3,000, approximately the same cost as a surgical correction, which, with this particular defect, does not require use of the heart/lung machine.
Robin Presnall, executive director of Small Paws Rescue, Inc., a Bichon Frise rescue and adoption organization in Tulsa, Okla., has traveled to the vet school 28 times in the past five years. “Small Paws just finished its 31st heart repair at A&M,” she said, pointing out that many were PDAs. “On the last trip, I took four puppies. One of them died on the way there, but the other three are feeling much better since the repairs.”