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A new dog and cat specialist service at Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital is expected to improve standards and general pet health throughout the inland Northwest.
The new service, officially known as Small Animal Theriogenology among veterinarians, makes WSU one of the few places in the Pacific Northwest where dogs and cats can receive specialized small animal reproductive medicine and surgery.
“We need that,” said the certified theriogenologist Dr. Michela Ciccarelli, who leads the service. “We’re the only specialist in Washington State, including Seattle; and we strive to improve the lives of these animals by taking their genetics into account and maintaining their breed standard. “
Ciccarelli works closely with regional breeders to ensure that dogs with certain genetic disorders are not passed on to future generations. But it’s not just breeders – she also handles most of the veterinary referrals related to reproductive medicine and surgery in the area. WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital is the largest veterinary reference center in the Pacific Northwest.
While the service was just officially beginning, Ciccarelli and Dr. Eduardo Arroyo, intern in theriogenology in his second year, already has several customers a day.
“Caesarean sections, dystocia, pyometra, mammary gland problems, oestrus cycle problems, vaginitis, sexual development disorders, incontinence, prostate problems, we’ve diagnosed and treated all of these cases,” she said.
To make sure a dog is genetically okay to breed, Ciccarelli uses the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals to compare breeds for specific conditions. She also looks out for the genetic health of the dogs she encounters.
“We know if it’s a Golden Retriever and has hip dysplasia, this dog must have clearance, otherwise I would never recommend an owner to breed him,” said Ciccarelli.
Ciccarelli, who completed her residency in theriogenology at WSU and mainly works with cows, goats and horses, said it was important for veterinarians to understand theriogenology in species large and small. She said the WSU is one of the few veterinary schools in the country that offers its residents theriogenology in a comparative way – other universities divide the specialty into small and large animals.
“Here we want students to have consistency and the ability to switch from one animal to another,” said Ciccarelli. “While they are different, there are many things that you can relate to these other species and that makes you a versatile clinician.”
Bringing together large and small animal theriogenology is also a focus of the American College of Theriogenologists, which is why the board exam now includes both large and small species.
Ciccarelli said while the new service will primarily provide education to residents, she plans to eventually convert it to a rotation for fourth-year veterinary students.
“The teaching aspect is what I appreciate most,” she said. “Together with the curriculum course I can, in my opinion, prepare them sufficiently in two to four weeks rotation so that they are ready for practice.”