Pet Health

PAWSitively “Collaring” Cancer in Pets to Find a Cure

posted February 16th, 2015 by
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You never forget the loss of a pet. For the Benbaset brothers, the death of their dog inspired them to try to find a cure for cancer in pets and the formation of their own non-profit, PAWSitively Curing Cancer, Inc.

The Benbasat boys have made a stand against the disease that brought suffering to the two-legged and four-legged members of their family. Brothers Josh and Bryce, now 15 and 12, decided that they’d had enough after the dreaded disease claimed the life of their dog, Sashi, five years ago. Having a grandmother who is a breast and lung cancer survivor made the brothers aware of the disease’s power to cause pain within a family. So the boys decided that it was time to think pink for pets.

The brothers did their research and what they learned about the prevalence of cancer among pets was an eye-opener: 50% of pets over the age of ten develop cancer. “Cancer is the number one disease-related killer of dogs and cats,” notes Josh Benbasat. With the memory of Sashi in mind, the brothers knew that other pet owners would want to do whatever they could to protect the pets they love. But they couldn’t find any organization whose mission focused on pets and cancer. That’s when they formed PAWSitively Curing Cancer, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for pet cancer research.

“The goal of PAWSitively Curing Cancer is to raise funds from caring businesses and families to find a cure for this deadly disease affecting the dogs and cats who add so much joy to our lives.”

But the boys recognized that finding a cure needs more than money. It needs partners. They first reached out to the president of Trimline Manufacturing. The company president—also known as Dad—Steve Benbasat became the founding corporate sponsor for PAWSitively Curing Cancer. Seeing how committed they were to this goal, he decided to teach his boys how to start a business. “Everything from filing the paperwork to dealing with the application to the IRS.”

The Benbaset picked the right mentor, from both a business and a veterinary perspective. The Trimline soft collar is designed with compassion in mind, effectively replacing annoying hard plastic collars so that pets recovering from surgery can recuperate in complete comfort.   The soft collars are machine washable, durable, water repellant, and affordable.  Made in the United States, the collars are available in six sizes to accommodate all dogs and cats. The newly designed collars are trimmed in pink to raise cancer awareness and include a special label encouraging donations to PAWSitively Curing Cancer. A portion of the profits from the sale of every collar is donated to benefit pet cancer research.

Once they had their dad on board, the search for partners continued. They enlisted the University Of Florida College Of Veterinary Medicine and pledged that every dollar donated goes directly to the College of Veterinary Medicine. Dean James W. Lloyd endorsed his school’s connection to PAWSitively Curing Cancer. “We are proud to partner with PAWSitively Curing Cancer as the recipient of this vital funding. It will be a valued asset to continuing our cancer research program.”

About PAWSitively Curing Cancer, Inc.

The 501(c) (3) non-profit organization is dedicated to raising funds for pet cancer research. One hundred percent of all donations and corporate sponsorships goes to the University Of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s pet cancer research programs. Started by the Benbaset brothers after losing their pet dog to cancer, the mission of the organization is to fund cancer research so that pet owners can be spared the pain of losing pets to the deadly disease. You can learn more at

About Trimline Manufacturing Co. Inc.

Trimline manufactures a soft and flexible collar for dogs and cats experiencing injury, surgery and trauma-restraint conditions. The collars are manufactured in the U.S. from a specially designed washable, non-toxic, non-allergenic and water-repellant fabric. A percentage of the money from each collar sold benefits pet cancer research. Learn more at



Steve Benbaset

[email protected]


Ask The Doc

posted February 15th, 2015 by
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Ask the Doc

Ask The Doc

Dr. Leonardo Baez / Midtown Vets / OKC


Q: You’ve always heard the expression, “walking in circles before lying down.”  Well, I rescued a mutt, and she walks in circles for about 10 minutes before she settles down. It drives me absolutely nuts. Is there anything I can do to stop this?


A: Pets can circle before they lie down as a ritual to get comfortable; however, excessive circling could be a sign of a bigger problem. The problems to consider are associated with the nervous system such as obsessive compulsive disorder, cognitive dysfunction or some types of growths in the nervous system.

At Midtown Vets, our clients are encouraged to make an appointment if any-thing is concerning, has changed or has slowly worsened. If they are just getting comfy you may consider some different types of bedding that encourage them to plop down and go to sleep.


Q: I’ve seen people shave their dogs due to the summer heat, and my dog   has a very thick coat. Is it really OK to shave them?


A: Controversy exists amongst veterinarians on the topic of shaving dogs in the heat. It seems pretty intuitive that if you shave the coat, the pet should stay cooler. However, there are no studies on this topic. If shaved, it is important to not cut too short because of the potential for sun burn.

Nordic breeds (Siberian Huskies, Malamutes, etc.) may not grow their coats back properly. The best way to protect your pet from heat-related illness is to provide fresh, cool water and shade. In breeds such as the English Bulldog or Pug (short-faced breeds), it is important to keep them indoors when the humidity and temperatures rise.

Keep in mind that humidity is just as important as temperature. If your pet does show signs of overheating (uncontrolled panting, extremely red mucous membranes, or collapse), you should find an open veterinary clinic, douse the pet with water and take them in. In some cases, the pets require sedation, oxygen and more extensive cooling measures such as intravenous fluids.


Q: I have a friend who only gives her pets heartworm prevention during the summer. Aren’t we supposed to give it year-round here in Oklahoma?


A: Heartworms are worms that live in a dog or cat’s heart and should not be mistaken for intestinal worms.  Heartworms are spread by mosquitos and can cause significant disease and, in some cases, can be fatal.  Dogs with heartworms can exhibit excess tiredness, sometimes coughing or a pot-bellied appearance. Cats will show signs of asthma such as coughing or wheezing.

If there are no mosquitos to spread the disease, then prevention is not necessary such as in locations like Arizona. However, in Oklahoma given the variability of our climate, it is recommended that heartworm prevention be given year-round. At Midtown Vets, in most canine cases we recommended a product that provides six months of heartworm protection with a single injection. For kitties we recommend a monthly topical year-round. Keep in mind that yearly heart-worm screening tests are recommended for all dogs, and if not on heartworm prevention, testing is recommended every six months.

For more information, please visit

Tick 411

posted February 1st, 2015 by
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Tick 411-2

Tick 411

Tick 411


Everything You Need To Know About Treatment, Symptoms And Prevention


By Christy VanCleave



Ticks, more than just a nuisance, can carry diseases dangerous to people and animals.

That’s why it’s important for Green Country folks to know about ticks most common to the area and the viral, bacterial diseases and toxins they carry, as well as tick bite symptoms in both humans and dogs and how to treat and prevent them.

Here is the tick low-down to keep you and your pets tick free and healthy this summer.

Tick-born illnesses are caused by infection from a variety of pathogens. Because ticks can carry more than one disease-causing agent, patients can be infected with more than one pathogen at the same time. Diagnosis can be difficult since symptoms overlap with many common illnesses.

Reactions to tick bites may not show up for two to six weeks after the tick has been removed. Patients could experience one of many symptoms of the disease, and symptoms could appear intermittently.

Common symptoms in humans include headache, flu-like symptoms, stiff neck, fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain, nerve problems, abdominal pain and vomiting. If left untreated, the diseases can become severe and lead to other complications, even death.

The two most common tick-related diseases are Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but they are also the easiest to diagnose due to the rash that usually accompanies them. Lyme has a very distinct bull’s eye rash and Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a wide-spread rash.

Doxycycline is the first line of treatment in both adults and children and is most effective if started right away—within five days of the first symptoms. (The disease can later be confirmed by specialized lab tests.)

Canine symptoms are a little different and may include recurrent lameness due to inflammation in the joints, lack of appetite, depression, kidney damage, a visible stiff walk with arched back, sensitivity to touch, difficulty breathing and fever.  A blood panel test and urinalysis can be performed for accurate diagnosis. Again, doxycycline is the first choice of treatment if caught early.

Should you find yourself or your dog with a tick, promptly remove it with tweezers and grip the tick as closely to the skin as possible. Never use a smoldering match, cigarette, nail polish or kerosene as they may irritate the tick and cause it to inject bodily fluids into the wound.

Do not squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick since fluids may contain infection-causing organisms. The “head” does not stay in the skin, but the mouth parts may break off under the skin. Leave the mouth parts alone; they will expel on their own.

After removal, tape the tick to a calendar in case treatment is needed.  You can show the doctor for identification should it be necessary. It is also helpful to know how long it was attached if it was engorged.

While flea prevention has come a long way over the past 10 years, tick prevention hasn’t. Topical applications of Front-line or Advantix help, but take 24 hours to kill the tick once attached to the host. Some flea and tick shampoos with a pyrethrin base have a residue that lasts up to four weeks after application.

With Oklahoma’s high tick population, sound advice is to look over yourself and your pets after each walk or run in wooded or tall grass areas. With prevention in mind, and some basic knowledge of treatment, your summer outings can be fun, safe and tick free.

American Dog Tick

The American Dog tick is the most commonly-identified species responsible for transmitting rickettsia, which causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) in humans. This tick can also transmit tularemia.

Brown Dog Tick

The Brown Dog tick has recently been identified as a reservoir of Rickettsia, causing Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Ehrlichia canis. It is also responsible for Hepatozoon canis and Babesiosis (zoonotic). Dogs are primarily the host for this type of tick.

Black-Legged Tick (Deer Tick)

Commonly-known as the deer tick, the black-legged tick can transmit the organisms responsible for anaplasmosis, babesiosis and Lyme disease.

Lone Star Tick

The Lone Star tick transmits Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii, causing human ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), as well as Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Gulf Coast Tick

The Gulf Coast tick can transmit Rickettsia Parkeri rickettsiosis, a form of spotted fever. Adult ticks have been associated with transmission of R. parkeri to humans. It is also responsible for hepatozoonosis infection that comes in two forms, but this tick is only responsible for Hepatozoon Americanum.

On The Go

posted January 25th, 2015 by
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On the Go

On The Go


Dr. Sharon Marshall’s Riverbend Mobile Vet Service brings medical services to pets in the comfort of their homes.


By Kayte Spillman



It all started out of necessity.

When Dr. Sharon Marshall finished veterinary school, she opened a mobile vet business. She drove to clients’ homes to care for their dogs, cats and horses to save on the overhead cost associated with opening a vet clinic of her own. But it was more than that.

“I didn’t want to look at the same four walls every day,” Marshall says. “I wanted to be out where the animals and my clients were.”

Twenty-one years later, Marshall’s frugal business savvy has grown into a successful veterinary practice. Her mobile vet business, Riverbend Mobile Vet Service, drives directly to the clients in a 40-mile or more radius around Lexington, Okla., while clients can also come to her five days a week at the brick-and-mortar office she’s operated for the last 10 years.

“It’s really for the pet’s comfort and the client’s ease,” Marshall says. “You know, we have many clients who are elderly or homebound, and for them a mobile vet is really a necessity.

“But we also have so many clients who have multiple pets and multiple children, and it is just so much easier for everyone to have me come to them. We’ve had the family with the two toddlers and the dog and the cat trying to get down our hallway, and the kids are crying, and the dog’s peeing all the way down the hall, and the cat’s stressed out. It’s not a good situation for anyone!”

Marshall says the animals are significantly more relaxed and less stressed when she can see them in their home environment than when they come into the office.

“It removes the fear factor that often comes with bringing a pet into a vet’s office,” she says. “I can go where they feel safe and at ease, and a lot of times help them before they even know I’m there. They don’t have time to ramp up.”

She also says visiting in the home allows her to spend more quality time with both the clients and the animals. In a typical vet office visit, a vet may be able to stay with the client for about 15 minutes, Marshall says. However, when Marshall is in a client’s home, she says she gets to know each client and each animal so much better.

“It’s a much more close and personal experience for the client,” Marshall says. “I’m not on that tight schedule that you have to be on if you are in the office. I enjoy slowing down and talking to my clients.”

Sky Lindsay has been a mobile client of Dr. Marshall’s for almost 15 years. She says with six animals roaming around her house, it is very helpful to have a house call to avoid the hassle of getting her four cats and two dogs out of the house and to the vet.

“I love having Dr. Marshall come to us,” Lindsay says. “Cats don’t travel well… well, at least mine don’t! And our dogs absolutely love when she comes to visit.”

Lindsay says Dr. Marshall usually comes out once a year for a checkup on all her animals, she takes her time letting everyone get settled and used to her before she treats them. She said she doesn’t even think her cats realize they are having a checkup from a vet, and it takes a lot of the stress of the typical visit away from her pets.

“She comes in and sits and talks, and then once everyone calms down, she’ll just grab whichever one is walking by,” Lindsay says. “She’s a straight shooter, and I love working with her. The animals love her too.”

Marshall makes about six to seven home visits every day, making sure her office is staffed with a vet tech in her absence to care for anyone stopping in for basic needs. She travels about a 40-mile radius from her base in Lexington to see patients. On a mobile visit, she performs basic veterinary services, but has a full lab and radiology capabilities at her physical office in Lexington.

“We are a full-service vet office, which many people don’t know,” Marshall says. “We do boarding; we do internal medicine, ultrasounds, radiology—whatever is needed. We literally do everything.”

Well, not literally everything… Staying true to her roots, she’s strictly a dog, cat or equine veterinarian.

“If you eat it,” Marshall says. “I don’t do it!”

Ask the Doc

posted January 4th, 2015 by
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Ask the Doc

Ask The Doc

Gary Kubat, DVM / Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Hospital


Q: My 13-year-old dog is showing signs of cataracts. Can they be removed in dogs, and if so, how do I know when it’s time to remove them? I just went through cataract removal, and I sure hate to think that my dog has them.


A: Yes, cataracts can certainly be removed from your pet’s eyes; the procedure will be similar to the surgery performed on your eyes. When you notice functional deficits in your pet’s behavior, mobility, orientation and awareness of surroundings, then it is time to consider removal.

You have been through this so you can empathize well with how your dog is coping with the visual deficits, as well as what improvements can be expected after removal. However, before considering a referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist specialist for cataract removal, you should have an exam performed by your general practice veterinarian.

Sometimes cataracts can be related to diabetes, and you will also want to know that all the other organs are functioning well before anesthesia. The age of the dog is not a risk factor if any preexisting underlying problems are identified beforehand.


Q: I have an opossum in my yard, and I’m not exactly sure if it’s just one. I have fountains around with water, and they probably drink out of them. I also have two dogs. Is it safe to have opossums in the same yard as dogs? I called the City, and they said they could trap and relocate them. Any advice is appreciated, and of course, my dogs are vaccinated for rabies.


A: Is it safe to have opossums in the same yard as dogs? Generally, not for the opossum, especially if you have a larger breed dog. Otherwise, the opossum is usually going to adopt a live and let live approach to your pet’s presence. Rabies transmission (as well as many other transmissible diseases) is highly unlikely. As a marsupial, the opossum normally has a lower body temperature than other mammals. This prevents most common viruses from replicating.

In addition, rabies transmission is through the saliva/fluids of an infected animal. As a general rule, any rabid animal that attacks and bites an opossum is going to kill it and possibly eat the opossum. This precludes transmission of the rabies virus. (The same rule would apply to any mammalian prey species such as rodents, rabbits, squirrels, etc.) Nevertheless, keep-ing your pet’s vaccinations current is always good preventative medicine.

Opossums may defecate in your fountain and could contaminate the water with E. coli, salmonella, and other bacteria. But the same could be said of the birds, squirrels and other critters in your yard. My advice? Do not fret. Enjoy the urban wildlife that your yard is attracting—someday it may be gone.  If your yard is attracting opossums presently, then removal by trapping will probably only result in another opossum moving into your attractive area.


Q: My 11-year-old cat has started drinking tons of water, and it seems like all of a sudden. It’s hard to keep the bowl full. Do I need a visit to the vet?


A: Yes, especially since this is a recent change from normal intake. Consider a general rule:  if it would seem abnormal or unusual if happening to you, then it is likely abnormal or unusual in your pet. In this case, the possible causes are numerous. Diabetes and kidney dysfunction are top on the list. Some medications can result in polydipsia (excessive water intake), as well as hyperthyroidism.

Your veterinarian will probably start diagnostics with a complete blood profile and urinalysis. You can be of great assistance before your appointment by also noting the volume and frequency of urination by the cat (separate from other cats in the house, if necessary), specifically measuring the volume of water taken in over an average 24-hour period.

Another Avenue

posted December 28th, 2014 by
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Another Avenue

Another Avenue

Ovary-sparing spay provides alternative to traditional spay surgery


By Bria Bolton Moore


Purchase vs. rescue. Purina vs. Science Diet. Tennis ball vs. Kong. This vet vs. that one. Boarding vs. dog sitter. When it comes to their canine companions, owners are used to choices.

However, until recently, there wasn’t an option when it came to spaying female dogs. Dr. Brad Roach, DVM and owner of Best Friends Animal Clinic in Oklahoma City and Shawnee, Okla., is one of about 20 veterinarians in the nation performing the ovary-sparing spay. During a traditional spay procedure, known as an ovariohysterectomy, a dog’s ovaries and uterus are removed.

However, in an ovary-sparing spay, sometimes called a hysterectomy or partial spay, the ovaries are left while the entire uterus is removed. In essence, this alternative spay is a way to curb population concerns while guarding the dog from the negative effects of hormone loss.

“We’re trying to redefine what a spay is and what a spay should be,” Dr. Roach said. “We’re trying to render them unable to reproduce without having the problems and infections of a uterus, so this procedure allows us to do that. We are trying to be responsible with reproduction, and yet spare them the potential negative effects of hormone loss.”

In recent years, experts have taken a second look at the common spay surgery. In 2007, Veterinarian Margaret Root Kustritz published a review of the pros and cons of spaying and neutering of different breeds at different ages. The report indicated that the traditional spay procedure has many benefits, including a decrease in mammary and ovarian tumors as well as infection of the uterus.

However, there are a number of disadvantages including aggression, obesity, urinary incontinence (lack of bladder control), urinary tract tumors, diabetes, and more. The study spurred more research and conversation. Additional breed-specific research indicates that especially for large-breed dogs, like Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers and Huskies, the benefits of keeping the ovaries, and therefore hormones (lower incidence of joint disorders and cancers) outweigh the risks (infection of the uterus and mammary tumors).

A 2013 study of Golden Retrievers by researchers at the University of California, Davis indicated that disease rates for two joint disorders and three cancers were significantly higher for male and female dogs that had been sterilized than those that had not been spayed or neutered. The study also linked early sterilization with an increase in cranial cruciate ligament tear (a joint disorder) for both male and female Golden Retrievers.

“I see these animals after being in   practice 24 years coming in overweight, looking terrible, broken down in the hips, incontinent and just thinking, ‘There’s got to be a better way,’” Dr. Roach said. “Surely those hormones are there for a reason; God put them there for a reason.”

Dr. Kutzler, DVM, PhD, DACT and associate professor at Oregon State University, has been performing the ovary-sparing spay since 2008 and is a leading proponent of the surgery. While the first known reference of the partial spay dates back to a 1972 article by Dr. Wendell O. Belfield (DVM), Dr. Kutzler was one of the first in the U.S. to openly talk about and advocate for the procedure.

In fact, the Parsemus Foundation, an organization that “works to advance innovative and neglected medical research,” funded a video demonstration of Dr. Kutzler performing the ovary-sparing spay. While the video’s original intent was to educate veterinarians, the video is available to anyone at

Dr. Kutzler is passionate about spreading awareness of the procedure because as female dogs lose their ovaries, their hormones are negatively affected.

Most people only think of the ovaries and the testes as gammy-producing organs—  egg-producing organs or sperm-producing organs, and that’s it, she said. What they don’t understand or haven’t really thought about is the importance they serve as endocrine organs or, plainly stated, hormone-producing organs.

“So, other endocrine organs in the body are the thyroid glands, parathyroid glands, and the pancreas. We would never talk about removing the endocrine glands from a dog unless there was something wrong with them,” she said.

Dr. Kutzler said the result of this interruption of the hormone production can include urinary incontinence, obesity and other health problems.

Ovary-sparing spay in Oklahoma

Dr. Roach is the only vet in Oklahoma offering the partial spay, according to the Parsemus Foundation, which works to keep an updated list of veterinarians who perform the procedure. He has been providing the ovary-sparing spay for about six months and has performed dozens of these surgeries. Clients have trekked to his clinics from Dallas, Wichita and across Oklahoma for   the procedure.

Dr. Roach said the operation is more complicated than a traditional spay because the incision is longer than a traditional spay incision to allow for the surgeon to remove the entire uterus down to the level of the cervix. This meticulousness is necessary to avoid a condition known as stump pyometra, an infection that can develop in the remaining uterine tissue when estrogen is present.

“It does take longer,” Dr. Roach said. “It’s a little more difficult surgery, so the price is higher. I bet if the price of it were the same, there would be very few people who would choose the other way.”

The ovary-sparing spay costs Dr. Roach’s clients about $100 more than the traditional surgery. The cost of this procedure is usually about 30 percent higher than a traditional spay.

“As surgeons find out the benefits and get exposed to this kind of surgery, they’re going to be more comfortable with the surgery, and the cost may reduce as vets gets faster at it,” he said.

Kama’s story

Bernadette Bowker of Edmond, Okla., has been entrusting her pets’ health to Dr. Roach for about two years. Her Husky Kamala, commonly called “Kama,” had the ovary-sparing spay surgery. Bowker learned about this type of procedure from Dr. Roach who encouraged her to do a bit of research and consider the ovary-sparing spay over the traditional spay.

“I thought it was a really interesting option to have so that she has a better chance of good health later on in her years.”

Bowker had another Husky, Gabby, before Kama. Gabby unfortunately developed arthritis and hip problems later in life and also struggled with disorientation. So, Bowker was interested in options that would lead to Kama’s quintessential health, and hopefully, help avoid some of the challenges Gabby faced.

Kama’s surgery went smoothly, and she bounced back quickly.

“She’s a very active dog, so it didn’t keep her down for very long at all,” Bowker said. “She seemed to be comfortable and happy and then back to full throttle.”

Kama’s now about 15 months old, and Bowker encourages other dog owners to talk to their vets and research the ovary-sparing option when preparing to have their pets spayed.

There’s no arguing the benefits of sterilizing pets. According to a 2003 study by Elizabeth A. Clancy and Andrew N. Rowan (Companion Animal Demographics in the United States: A Historical Perspective), the number of unclaimed dogs and cats killed at animal shelters has decreased from about 23.4 million in 1970 to about 4.5 million in 2000.

While many supporters of the ovary-sparing spay believe the traditional procedure has its rightful place in veterinary medicine, Dr. Roach, Dr. Kutzler and Bernadette Bowker, along with many others, want dog owners to know: you have a choice.

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