The hospital’s more than 120 board-certified faculty and staff veterinarians, along with a team of 350 highly-trained staff members, saw more than 60,000 patient visits for the year. The 133 members of the Class of 2018 were trained in each of these patient visits, and our 115 house officer veterinarians (residents, fellows, interns) gained experience in 34 specialty disciplines. Our clinicians are innovators of some of the most cutting-edge procedures in veterinary medicine. Our hospital has more specialty services than any teaching hospital in the country. Many services saw caseload increases to capacity-serving levels.
Highlights of the year include:
Top-10 Services by Caseload
The hospital’s caseload remains consistently high, and ranks as the largest caseload of any veterinary teaching hospital in the country. Oncology continues to be our busiest service, with new therapies being discovered by UC Davis researchers using a One Health approach to cross-species cancer initiatives working with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Our Emergency Room, which is open 24/7/365, again saw a record number of patients for the year, increasing their caseload by a massive 30 percent. Across the board, each service continues to grow, as UC Davis leads the way in veterinary care.
Heartworm Removed through Femoral Artery of a Cat
Drs. Catherine Gunther-Harrington and Maureen Oldach of the Cardiology Service and Dr. Ingrid Balsa of the Soft Tissue Surgery Service performed a unique heartworm removal through a cat’s femoral artery. An echocardiogram on Stormie, a 4-year-old female Siamese cat, revealed a heartworm in the pulmonary artery, and an abdominal ultrasound confirmed that the heartworm extended into her abdominal aorta and down her leg into the right femoral artery. The worm was cutting off the blood supply to the right leg and needed to be surgically addressed immediately in order to avoid amputation. A paper on the procedure, “Aberrant migration and surgical removal of a heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) from the femoral artery of a cat,” was published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, and a video of the surgery was viewed more than 1 million times on social media. This was the first known procedure of its kind in a cat.
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Cares for Sick Foals
Members of the Equine Medical Emergency, Critical Care and Neonatology Service work around the clock to help newborns beat the odds. Sick foals brought to UC Davis are admitted to the veterinary hospital’s Lucy G. Whittier Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The team there, led by Dr. Gary Magdesian (chief of service and holder of the Roberta A. and Carla Henry Endowed Chair in emergency medicine and critical care), handles the most complicated cases, providing coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Resident veterinarians, technicians, veterinary students, and undergraduate members of the UC Davis foal team are also part of the cooperative effort involved in managing these patients. This dedication is needed to see mares and foals through a lengthy stay in the NICU. A foal named Brave spent 43 days in the NICU after he was born five weeks early. Few equine hospitals have the capability to care for a critically sick foal around the clock for more than a month.
Blister Beetle Toxicity Discovered in a Goat
The Livestock Medicine Service discovered and treated cantharidin intoxication in Pedro, a 6-year-old male Nubian goat. Cantharidin is a defensive secretion of the blister beetle, which is common in other parts of the United States, but not as prevalent on the West Coast. Blister beetles feed on alfalfa bloom and can be found in some livestock feed. Alfalfa harvesting can crush the stalk, but also crush any beetles that may be present, causing them to release cantharidin. Just a few beetles in a typical feed amount can be lethal to livestock, with a fatality rate estimated at greater than 50 percent – this includes horses. Blister beetle toxicity is commonly diagnosed in horses after consumption of contaminated alfalfa hay, but reports in ruminants are rare.
Livestock Field Visits Benefit Students
Nearly every day, students accompany faculty and residents to local farms, ranches, and production facilities to examine livestock. Whether veterinary students plan to enter a career in livestock medicine or not, fourth-year clinical rotations through the livestock services are an opportunity for future livestock clinicians to hone their skills in some of the newest techniques being offered. Students become skilled in artificial insemination, embryo transfers and other advanced reproductive technologies, as well as gaining better understandings of basic herd health concepts like preventive medicine, vaccinations, disease outbreak investigations and interventions during a crisis, improving their critical thinking skills.
Surgeons at Forefront of Innovations in Minimally Invasive Surgery
An adrenal tumor removal is traditionally one of the most challenging procedures in small animal surgery, as the adrenal gland is located in a difficult position next the vena cava (the largest vein in the abdomen) as well as the renal arteries and veins (to the kidneys), the aorta, and other vital structures. Additionally, many adrenal tumors will release excessive amounts of hormones that can cause clinical problems in dogs. When tumors occur in the gland, they can invade surrounding structures including these blood vessels, making them challenging to resect. Soft tissue surgeons Drs. Philip Mayhew, Michele Steffey, Bill Culp, Michelle Giuffrida and Ingrid Balsa are making advancements in laparoscopic approaches to these surgeries. A laparoscopic adrenalectomy is a keyhole alternative to traditional open surgery and allows a minimally invasive approach that is less painful for the patient. Bilateral tumors are rare in dogs, and bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy is very rarely performed. UC Davis has performed more laparoscopic adrenalectomies than any veterinary hospital in the world, saving the lives of several animals, including Makana, a 7-year-old female yellow Labrador retriever.
Comparative Oncology Advance Cancer Treatments
Through a collaboration with the UC Davis Comparative Cancer Center, the Oncology Service is discovering new treatments for dogs with naturally occurring cancers while helping humans who may be inflicted with the similar disease. One such discovery is that enhancement of a type of immune cell population, natural killer (NK) cells, when combined with radiation therapy, can be effective against spontaneous osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in dogs. The research showed these NK cells were able to target cancer cells and reduce cancer metastasis, offering a potential immunotherapy against solid tumors. The study was published in the Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer.
Thousands of Images Taken
Our Diagnostic Imaging Service has increased their caseload by 5 percent, performing 17,594 imaging procedures this year. The addition of a full body volumetric PET scanner for small animals (the first of its kind in the world) is allowing radiologists and clinicians to explore new imaging therapies to improve animal health. An All Species Imaging Center will be a major focus of our new Veterinary Medical Center. The proportion of imaging procedures that relate to a particular type of imaging are shown in the illustration, with the total number of procedures shown in parentheses.
Large Animal Clinic Clinicians and Staff Complete Leadership Training
Twenty faculty and staff members of the Large Animal Clinic completed a leadership training program in order to improve workflow efficiency and morale among the team. The Zoetis PeopleFirst™ Leadership Certificate Program covered four 2-day sessions spread out over seven months for a total of 70 hours. Those who participated received continuing education credit for their achievement. The program covered learning points such as: employee engagement, learning styles, effective communication, active listening and time management. The lessons were enhanced by group discussions, brainstorming and newfound awareness of similar and different challenges. An overwhelming consensus taken away from the training was an eagerness to share this exercise with other members of the team and begin implementing the outcomes.
Stem Cell Treatment for Spina Bifida Helps Dogs and Children
A pair of English bulldog puppies born with spina bifida were the first patients to be successfully treated with a unique therapy—a combination of surgery and stem cells—developed at UC Davis by a team of veterinary and human medicine researchers and clinicians. In collaboration with the Veterinary Institute for Regenerative Cures and UC Davis Health, Dr. Bev Sturges dissected and replaced myelomeningocele sites in their spinal canals with stem cells being surgically placed over the defects. This “One Health” approach to medicine is exemplified at UC Davis, where physicians and veterinarians, along with their research counterparts, work side-by-side to develop cures and treatments to diseases and illnesses that affect humans and animals. The UC Davis team on this project included stem cell biologists and tissue engineers, along with the medical and veterinary clinicians – a group of forward-thinking minds that are not often found under the same roof.
Hospital Adds Two Orthopedic Surgeons
Drs. Denis Marcellin-Little and Barbro Filliquist joined the Orthopedic Surgery Service this year, further strengthening the service with a well-balanced team-to-caseload ratio. The addition of Dr. Filliquist allows the service to see more patients on a regular basis throughout the week, while Dr. Marcellin-Little brings a level of expertise to our team that will allow us to offer additional services, especially in joint replacement, and give our referral community an outlet for complicated cases. Dr. Marcellin-Little is one of the foremost authorities in the field of veterinary orthopedics and helped develop the system for total hip replacements. The service has been able to expand joint replacement offerings and provide more opportunities to help animals with unique or complicated growth deformities, limb sparing situations, complicated total joint replacements, and surgical revisions for failed joint replacements or limb deformities.
Champion Roping Horse Returns after Botulism Poisoning
John, an 11-year-old American Quarter Horse gelding and champion roping horse, developed botulism, a toxic poisoning that had already killed one of his stablemates. His owner was determined to save the gelding, and worked with the Equine Medicine Service to do everything he could for a positive outcome. John remained hospitalized at UC Davis for 26 days. During that time, he was treated with botulism anti-toxin plasma. He received other supportive care including intravenous fluid therapy, anti-inflammatories, and vitamin E. John was unable to stand without help, so faculty, staff and students in the Large Animal Clinic instituted the “Large Animal Lift” to assist him to stand. This pulley system can lift several thousand pounds and helped John to stand whenever necessary. Miraculously, after recovering, John qualified for the 2017 World Series of Team Roping, a rodeo event that challenges mounted riders to rope a running steer.
3D Printed Mask Helps Heal Dog’s Skull
Oral surgeons worked with biomedical engineering students to design an apparatus that could help the healing process of maxillofacial fractures, much like a traditional cast helps leg fractures heal. The result was the Exo-K9 Exoskeleton – a custom, 3D printed exoskeleton for dogs with maxillomandibular injuries. Loca, a 4-month-old female Staffordshire bull terrier, was the first patient to wear the mask. She recovered well from severe injuries to her head after being attacked by another dog.
Hospital Treats Wildfires Victims
This year, the hospital treated 77 animals—one dog, one goose, one chicken, two llamas, 14 horses, 25 cats, and 33 koi fish—injured in the 2017 Napa area wildfires. Many of the other animals received at the hospital were referred from veterinary centers closer to the fires. As those facilities became overwhelmed, animals were transported to UC Davis. Caring for those hospitalized animals were many faculty and resident veterinarians from various services who volunteered their time to be assigned as the permanent caretakers of specific animals. With this continuity of care, the animals received the individualized attention that smaller hospitals were not able to provide. Perhaps the true heroes for the hospitalized animals were the technicians and students who provided the everyday care duties. Burn victims are laborsome patients that require hours upon hours of hands-on care each day.
Healing Burns with Fish Skin
Following the lead of physicians in Brazil who are using fish skin bandages to help heal burns, Dr. Jamie Peyton of the Integrative Medicine Service worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to apply the process to the care of two bears and a mountain lion burned in the Southern California Thomas fire in 2017. Subsequently, veterinarians in England asked Peyton to travel to the UK to help them with a severely burned foal in 2018.
Community Surgery Gives Students Hands-On Training
Veterinary students spend their fourth and final year rotating through the many services of the hospital. Often stated as their favorite rotation is the Community Surgery Service. Unlike their time spent in the specialty surgery services (where student participation is limited to observation), a rotation through Community Surgery offers students a hands-on experience performing spays and neuters as well as mass removals and other basic surgical procedures. The capabilities of a veterinarian to perform these surgeries are determined by preparation in veterinary school, coupled with additional skills gained from experienced associates and continuing education programs. Students perform surgical procedures that an entry-level veterinarian should be able to perform in practice with supervision. Faculty veterinarians guide the students through the cases, but allow the students to take the lead on the case, from initial intake to discharge.
Specialized Equipment Advances Care
Veterinarians at UC Davis are using cystoscopy to evaluate the lower urinary and genital tracts of animals. A cystoscope is a thin tube with an attached camera that is inserted through the urethra into the bladder that allows doctors to see areas of the bladder or urethra that may not be visible on x-rays or ultrasound. The procedure is performed while animals are under general anesthesia. Cystoscopy can be used to help identify many urinary health problems. Ectopic ureters (where the ureters, the tubes that connect the kidney to the bladder, open in an abnormal location), are a common reason why young dogs have urinary incontinence, and can be diagnosed via cystoscopy. Cystoscopy can also be used to less invasively obtain biopsies of the lower urinary tract if mass lesions such as polyps or tumors are suspected. This year, the Internal Medicine Service utilized cystoscopy to remove bladder stones from many dogs, including Callie, an 8-year-old female poodle/spaniel mix.
Ophthalmologists Help Save K-9 Officer’s Eye
K-9 Officer Blitz, a 5-year-old German shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix, was performing routine training exercises when he caught his eye socket on a car tailpipe, causing extensive damage to his eye. Our Ophthalmology Service performed an emergency evaluation of the eyelid damage that resulted. They found severe lacerations to both the upper and lower eyelids and surrounding tissue, which would need surgical intervention. Remarkably, the eye itself was preserved and healthy, with no signs of trauma. Blitz was hospitalized and his eyelids were repaired with sutures beneath and above the skin surface. His tear ducts were also flushed during the procedure, and no damage to these structures was noted. While Blitz had to curtail his activities and get some much-needed rest, he ultimately made a full recovery.
Hospital Installs World’s First Volumetric PET Scanner
Our hospital began imaging patients on a new PET/CT scanner this year known as the Mini Explorer II. This advanced imaging system, the first of its kind in the world, is designed to provide veterinarians with both anatomic and physiologic information about body parts being imaged. Typical scans require 30-45 minutes to obtain the information needed to make a diagnosis, although the increased sensitivity of the new scanner may ultimately allow radiologists to reduce this time to as little as 5-10 minutes for some types of studies. This is possible because the width of its PET detector is much wider than a conventional scanner, allowing a volumetric acquisition. As an example, the head, neck, and abdomen of a 30-pound dog can be scanned in just two acquisitions instead of the multitude of readings that would be required with a conventional scanner.
Neurosurgeons Continue to Innovate Brain Tumor Treatments
Dazzy, a 4-year-old male French bulldog, was diagnosed with a grade III oligodendroglioma, an extremely aggressive brain tumor that carried a poor prognosis. After realizing how severe the tumor was, his owners decided to enroll him in a clinical trial investigating whether small particles called nanoparticles can be used to better visualize tumors during removal surgery, and potentially to see if they will be a useful method to deliver drugs into brain tumors for treatment. While Dazzy’s immediate health was almost back to normal following surgery, his tumor is expected to return. His veterinarians estimate that the surgery and radiation treatments have given Dazzy 1-2 more years of normal life with his family. The information gained from the delivery of nanoparticles to Dazzy’s tumor will be used to develop new treatments for brain tumors in both humans and companion animals.
Hospital Launches Free Public Educational Series
This year, for the first time ever, the hospital launched an educational series of lectures on animal health topics. The series—entitled “An Evening with Vet Med”—features on-campus seminars once a month that are free and open to the public. The lecture series is geared toward both large and small animal owners interested in learning the latest in caring for their four-legged family members. Future lecture topics may include basic dog and cat first aid, dental health, biosecurity at farms and horse events, animal behavior, eye health, and much more.
Taking the World’s Best Veterinary Care to the Next Level
The school announced plans to raise $115 million in philanthropic support to update and improve three critical areas of the veterinary hospital: the Livestock and Field Service Center, the Equine Performance Center and the All-Species Imaging Center. This campaign, called “Leading the Way,” marks the first phase in a long-term plan to transform the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital into the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Center. UC Davis’ veterinary medicine program is already ranked No. 1 in the world. However, the university’s veterinary teaching hospital is overdue for an update. Opened in 1970 to serve 3,000 patients per year, the hospital now sees more than 60,000 annually, causing the hospital to face significant constraints in space, layout and capacity, and impacting the speed at which clients receive care.