Columbia is well-known for its exceptional quality of life. For pet-lovers, that is especially true as we have something that only 27 other communities in the United States have; a veterinary medicine school and its associated teaching hospital providing us with access to the finest diagnostic and therapeutic services available anywhere. Essentially, it is a “Mayo Clinic” for animals, and, like the Mayo Clinic, thousands of people and their pets come from near and far for help.
One morning in May 2005, I noticed that my beloved miniature Dachshund, Roxanne, was dragging her back legs, apparently paralyzed. I felt panic begin to sweep across me but knew immediately what to do. I gently scooped up Roxanne and headed for the MU Veterinary Health Center (VHC). Within minutes of our arrival, we found ourselves in the comforting and capable hands of the hospital’s neurology and neurosurgical team, led by Drs. Joan Coates and Denny O’Brien. They used an MRI to assess the problem; a disc had ruptured into the spinal column, causing the paralysis.
Fortunately, they were able to perform a delicate surgical procedure that removed the intruding disc material from the spinal column, restored Roxanne’s nerve function and saved her life. Since that day, Roxanne has suffered the same problem on two subsequent occasions, each about four years apart, but was saved, yet again, by this outstanding group. Thanks to them and the advanced knowledge and technology that is resident at MU, I still have my little buddy.
The VHC includes scores of board-certified physicians and highly trained technicians practicing anesthesiology, cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, emergency and critical care, internal medicine, neurology and neurosurgery, nutrition, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, rehabilitation therapy, radiology and more. There also is an extraordinary pathology laboratory that is led by six board-certified pathologists as well as an emergency room and an intensive care unit that are staffed 24/7. From removing cataracts, to major dental interventions, to hip replacements, to cancer treatment, the folks at the VHC pretty much do it all.
The radiology and oncology programs at the VHC are particularly strong as they have state-of-the-art equipment usually limited to humans, including a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner, which is 1 of only 4 available to pet owners across the country. A PET scanner is able to detect cancer in dogs and cats and can assess how well therapy is working and determine whether the disease has spread. Along with a powerful new MRI that is being installed, advanced CT capabilities, a new linear accelerator used to precisely treat tumors, access to unique diagnostic and therapeutic radioisotopes from the MU Research Reactor (and cyclotron) and an extensive research program, including many clinic trials, we have an unparalleled resource.
The majority of my pet health needs are fulfilled by my excellent local veterinarian, Jill Moseley. But, when we have unique or complex problems, we can turn to the VHC. Later today, I will be taking my dear golden retriever, Wrigley, to the VHC, where he regularly works out on the underwater treadmill — part of rehabilitation services — to maintain hip strength and stability to counter severe hip dysplasia. Without this unique service, I fear I might have already lost him. Today, while fragile, he remains vital and fully functional. He also might enter a clinical trial to treat a slow-growing cancer recently detected by the pathology lab.
Did I mention that Wrigley is a very good boy?
We are very fortunate to live in a community with such a wonderful asset.