Cutting Edge Medicine Saves Life, The Latest Research


Louisville, KY. Sandra and James Beaven of La Grange, KY travel around the nation in their motor home with the entire family, consisting of two dogs and two cats.

     Nearly three years ago, Sandra noticed that one of those two dogs, a boxer named Kaiser, had a bloodshot eye. “At first we thought it was some allergy, and so did our vet,” explained Sandra at a press conference held at the Forum of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), which was May 31 through June 3 at the Kentucky International Convention Center. Nearly 3,000 veterinary professionals attended the conference. The newest, latest and greatest in veterinary specialty internal medicine – including oncology, cardiology and neurology – is presented annually at this conference.

When a veterinary ophthalmologist wasn’t able to help Kaiser, the Beaven’s private practitioner looked further and discovered a fungal illness residing in Kaser’s lungs, called Blastomycosis. He suggested they see an internal medicine specialist to deal with this potentially fatal disease.

    “I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an internal medicine specialist for pets,” Sandra says.

     The bad news is that Kaiser’s right eye needed to be removed, but the good news is that the fungal disease was successfully controlled with medication, and Kaiser was cured.

    In fact, he did so well that the family took off for a planned three month ride to Alaska. “Kaiser loved it,” says Sandra. “He either slept on the couch, or barked at the buffalo, caribou and the sheep.”

    On a more recent motor home trip, only a few months ago, Kaiser was diagnosed with diabetes. “He’s our little golden dog,” says Sandra. “We didn’t know how to deal with a diabetic dog – but we weren’t about to give up after having come so far. I know Kaiser wouldn’t give up on us. So we learned how to deal with it. And today Kaiser is doing just fine.”

    Despite routine tests turning up nothing, Sandy DeCavitch of Louisville was still concerned that her Himalayan cat, Ozzy, was continuing to lose weight and throwing up was pretty much an event that occurred after every meal. That’s when she was referred to a specialist in internal medicine.

    An endoscopic biopsy revealed inflammatory bowel disease. DeCavitch, a nursing student, was relieved. She knew this would be a life long issue for Ozzy, but not a life ending illness. “He was that sick, I mean I was so worried. With a diet change, medications, and vitamin B12 shots, Ozzy is thriving. He’s been so resilient.”

    DeCavitch concedes that she’s spent thousands of dollars. “I know for a fact that a financial concern can be deal breaker for some people. I also have other pets, so it’s a financial blow I’ve taken. I’ve seen cases where the doctor says, ‘here’s how much money it will cost.’ And then the owner says, ‘Well, I can’t do that.’ It doesn’t mean these people don’t love their pets, it might mean they just don’t have the money. For me, there’s been no turning back. Every penny spent has been worth it. Some say, ‘well he’s 13, what do you expect?’ I expect, for me, to do the right thing. As long as Ozzy’s quality of life is good, I get more from Ozzy than however much money I’ve spent. And it is very cool what veterinary medicine can now do to help our pets.”

    It’s what veterinary medicine can now do that was the subject of a second press conference held at the ACVIM Forum. Specialty medicine diplomates spoke about the latest cutting edge medicine.

    Veterinary neurologist Dr. Michael Podell of Northbrook, IL explained that recent research reveals that 80 per cent of dogs with sudden onset seizures over the age of 7 to 8-years are a result of an intracranial disease (most often a benign brain tumor).  “The most effective course of action, when possible, is surgery to remove the tumor,” he says.

    He also explained that since the early 1990’s, a dozen new drugs have been approved for people who suffer seizures, and many are now being used on dogs and cats. Some of these drugs have fewer longer term side effects and could be a lot more effective than the previous traditional drug therapies. Podell is most excited about Levetiracetam (trade name Keppra), one of the most well tolerated and one of the most effective new seizure medications, although the expense of this drug may be a limiting factor.

    There’s also good news for diabetic cats. Jacquie Rand, a specialist in small animal internal medicine and director for the Centre for Companion Animal Health, School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Queensland in Australia, explained that cats newly diagnosed with diabetes can achieve remission within a year to 14 months when treated with a new insulin analogue called glargine, fed a low carb diet and when required (which is most of the time) also lose a few pounds. The increase in diabetic remission jumped from about a quarter of all cats (using conventional insulin therapy) to over 90 per cent using glargine. Diabetic remission is important because insulin is no longer required, meaning the owner no longer has to worry about treatment and that the cat likely feels good all the time.  

    Cocker spaniel breeders have nightmares about hereditary nephropathy, a fatal kidney disease causing juvenile onset renal failure. Internal medicine specialist Dr. George Lees explained that his team of researchers at Texas A & M University College of Veterinary Medicine, College Station have identified the genetic mutation in the breed which causes the disease. Soon a genetic test will become available, which will help breeders to wean out dogs who are carriers, and ultimately eradicate the disease.