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Oklahoma State University

OSU Expands Shelter Medicine Program

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Dr. Brooke Bennett

Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is expanding its shelter medicine program. Currently under construction is a brand new shelter medicine suite.

“We are adding a separate area dedicated to shelter medicine needs,” said Dr. Kim Carter, associate professor leading the shelter medicine program. “The new suite includes an induction area where we prep the dogs and cats, a scrub area, and a surgery suite with four operating tables. The suite also includes a cat room. This is a sound-proof room where cats can relax and recover from surgery without hearing barking dogs who are also waking up from surgery.”

The college’s shelter medicine program partners with approximately 34 animal shelters to perform spay/neuter surgeries for 3,200 dogs and cats a year. Oklahoma law requires that animals adopted through a rescue agency must have a voucher program or be spayed/neutered before their release. If they have the resources, most shelters opt for surgery to spay/neuter their animals before adopting them out.

“Shelter surgery is a core course requirement for fourth year veterinary students,” Carter said. “Depending on our case load and individual speed, by course end seniors will perform roughly 40 spay/neuter surgeries as either the primary surgeon or an anesthetist. At the end of the rotation, our goal is to have these students hone their surgical skills and confidence to become an independent surgeon.”

Junior veterinary students also benefit from the shelter medicine program. Each student performs one spay and one neuter surgery as an assistant surgeon and three spays and three neuters as the primary surgeon. Even shelter medicine interns benefit from the program. Dr. Brooke Bennett, the PetSmart Charities shelter medicine intern, recently performed her first forelimb amputation on a cat that was in for a neuter surgery.

“The college recently increased class size from 88 to 106,” Carter said. “This required our program to grow in order to give all students valuable hands-on experience in surgical techniques. In addition to making the animals more adoptable by spaying and neutering them, the shelter surgery program provides ancillary services. We vaccinate and microchip each animal. We do dentals, which can be expensive. Some of these animals have terrible health in their mouth. If we can give them a dental cleaning, do some x-rays and get their teeth in good shape before they are adopted, it’s huge toward improving their overall health. We perform other small surgeries like entropion surgeries where the eyelid rolls inward against the eyeball, cherry eye surgeries, and limb amputations if they have a catastrophic break. Most shelters do not have the resources to do any sort of pinning or plating. We perform limb amputations to save an animal’s life. Three-legged cats and dogs live very happily and get adopted readily.”

The building construction is being paid for by private donors who gave to the veterinary college. OSU’s shelter medicine program is funded in part by grants from PetSmart, Maddie’s Fund and Petco. These generous sponsors enable the College of Veterinary Medicine to offer the shelters a very low cost spay/neuter.

“What our shelters pay doesn’t even cover the cost of a surgery,” Carter said. “We depend heavily on grants to help subsidize our program. It’s a win-win situation—a win for the animals, the shelters, and our veterinary students who gain valuable experience. Graduates going into private practice will perform spay/neuter surgeries very often and it’s important that they have the confidence to do so.”

If you would like to support OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, please contact Ashley Hesser, assistant director of development with the OSU Foundation, at ahesser@osugiving.com or (405) 385-0715.

MEDIA CONTACT: Derinda Blakeney, APR | OSU College of Veterinary Medicine | 405-744-6740 | derinda@okstate.edu

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