When Our Dogs Get Sick

A greyhound named Holly, a retriever named Lucky and a mutt named Mogli don’t have much in common, appearance-wise. Holly, a retired racing dog, is tall, sleek and lean. Lucky is a wiry hunting dog with reddish-gold fur who loves to fetch tennis balls. Mogli is shorter, like a Border collie, with a friendly face and a glossy black coat. He’s always wagging his tail.

Lucky recovered from cancer to qualify for national competition. (Photo: Rod Krahmer)
Lucky recovered from cancer to qualify for national competition. (Photo: Rod Krahmer)

All three dogs came to Oregon State University’s animal hospital when they got sick. And all the dogs got well, thanks to powerful new tools and innovative treatments at OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Those new tools and treatments may someday lead to healing humans, too.

“There are ties between human and animal health, just as there is a bond between people and their pets,” says Dr. Stuart Helfand, a veterinarian at OSU.

Helfand is studying new ways to treat dogs who have cancer. In the operating room where OSU’s veterinarians perform surgery on dogs like Holly, Lucky and Mogli, the doctors often use a state-of-the-art operating microscope — a special instrument that magnifies body parts so they can see more clearly when they operate. To find the exact size and location of the cancer, they also use a high-speed CT scanner — a type of X-ray machine that takes 3-D pictures of bones and organs to detect injury or disease.

“We have the best CT scanner in veterinary medicine,” says Helfand. “It allows us to do things we never dreamed of.”

In the hallway outside the laboratory where Dr. Helfand does his research, there are snapshots of the dogs he has treated. Mogli looks like he’s winking, but he actually has just one eye. To help Mogli get well, the doctors had to remove his diseased eye. But this dog with the friendly face and glossy black coat doesn’t seem to mind too much. He still loves to chase squirrels and wag his tail. That’s why Dr. Helfand calls this display of snapshots the “Wall of Heroes.” These animals are heroes, he says, because they are bravely helping doctors learn more about healing sick pets — and sick people, too.