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A wonderful example of how specialists contribute to the welfare of our canine companions involves a seven-year-old Labrador Retriever named Spanky. He was referred to the Veterinary Specialists of South Florida (VSSF) in Cooper City, Florida, when he began having trouble supporting weight on his back legs. Board Certified Specialist in Neurology, James Cook, DVM, decided after a thorough neurological exam that Spanky should have special contrast radiographs taken of his spinal canal. The results showed a mass was present in a lumbar disc space! Subsequently, a Veterinary Specialist in Pathology identified the surgically removed tumor as an unusual Plasmacytoma.
Dr. Cook then referred Spanky to another specialist at the VSSF group, Oncology (cancer) Specialist Stephanie Correa, DVM. She performed a bone marrow exam, chest radiographs, and plasma electrophoresis; and much to Spanky’s relief no evidence of metastasis was detected. However, since these types of tumors tend to reoccur at the original site, Spanky was sent to another specialist at the VSSF group, Ronald Burk, DVM, a Specialist in Veterinary Radiation Oncology.
Burke began radiation therapy consisting of a series of treatments over five weeks. Thanks to the specialized skills and advanced treatment options available today, such as at the VSSF group, Spanky is alive and well seven months after his surgery.
My own dog needed help from a specialist, too! A tiny Poodle we call Cissy had an unusual, progressively worsening case of head pain; she lacked interest in her environment and became withdrawn and disoriented. After my own rigorous workup including radiographs, blood, urine, and neurological tests I was still unsure of what was causing her very worrisome signs. So off we went to a Specialist in Veterinary Radiology who was equipped with a CT Scanner and a full complement of computer interfaced diagnostic instrumentation.
After assisting in a few hours of state-of-the-art veterinary medical diagnostic imaging we had our diagnosis. Cissy had abnormally formed bones near the base of her skull that was affecting the cerebrospinal fluid circulation and was causing a buildup of pressure deep within her brain. The specialist suggested a plan of therapy and within days we had our little princess back to normal.
Without the assistance of that Specialist in Veterinary Radiology no amount of effort on my part, or reliance on 32 years of experience dealing with hundreds of thousands of patients, would have enabled me to make the proper diagnosis.
I encourage every dog owner to take control of their dog’s health care by discussing fully with your veterinarian any questions you have about your dog’s health; you should expect, and deserve to get, understandable responses. Always be ready to seek the advice of a specialist if it seems that your veterinarian has reached an impasse in establishing a diagnosis for your dog’s condition.
Each day I practice veterinary medicine I feel comforted by the thought that if I am presented with another Cissy or Spanky, there are veterinary specialists able and willing to back me up and take on challenging and difficult cases. And all I have to do is make the call.
Image: Tony Alter / via Flickr