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Mango – March POM

Our March Patient of the Month is Mango, the Sun Conure.  Mango came to All West Veterinary Hospital with a broken leg.  The broken bone was Mango’s right tibiotarsal bone.  He was taken to surgery and the fracture was repaired by ESF, which is external skeletal fixation.  This technique allows the fracture site to be stabilized and form a callous while being held in place from distant points.  It is a great way to repair fractures in birds.  Mango’s surgery was performed in January and the fixator was removed in March and we are pleased to report that Mango is doing great!

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February Patient of the Month

Meet our February Patient of the Month – Blue the Cat

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Unlike our previous patients of the month, Blue has had no illnesses. He is a completely healthy 1 year old indoor cat. So you may wonder why we are featuring him this month!

He has a super power – he is a blood donor!

Cats may require a blood transfusion due to several diseases like D-con rat poison ingestion, blood loss from trauma, immune system destruction of red blood cells or blood parasites.

There are a few blood banks that offer feline blood to the US. Unfortunately, feline blood can only be stored for 1 month and feline blood transfusions are fairly uncommon. This makes local blood donors ideal because the blood can be obtained as needed. The ideal donor cat is strictly indoors, is 1-8 years old and good tempered. Blue is a whopping 17# (although his mom admits he is 1-2# overweight), strictly indoors & quite mellow. He must stay current on his vaccines, have bi-annual healthy physical exams along with routine annual blood tests. Blue has been screened and has tested negative for viruses like leukemia and FIV and also infectious diseases like Anaplasma, Mycoplasma and Bartonella, just to name a few. His blood type was also tested – he is type A.

Cats have 3 blood types – A, B and AB. 99% of domestic cats in the US are blood type A. Pure bred cats have a 10-50% chance of having blood type B. These breeds include Persian, Himalayan, Birman, Devon Rex and British Shorthairs to name a few. Blood type AB is extremely rare. Type B cats that receive type A blood will show rapid and often fatal reactions. Any cat that receives Blue’s blood must also be blood type A. Blood type is determined with blood typing “cards” we have in-clinic. The picture below shows a blood typing card.

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Another test that is performed before the blood transfusion occurs is a cross-match. A cross-match test uses blood from the donor and recipient. It makes sure that the recipient does not have antibodies that would destroy the donor’s red blood cells, which could cause a reaction for the recipient. This test is also performed in-clinic.

Once these tests are performed and Blue is deemed a compatible blood donor for a recipient cat, Blue is sedated to allow easy, stress-free collection of his blood. Fur over his neck is clipped and an antiseptic solution cleans his skin. Cats can donate 10-20% of their blood volume safely, which is based on their ideal body weight. At his weight, Blue can donate about 85 mL of blood. The blood collection takes about 10-15 minutes. He receives oxygen and his heart rate and oxygen levels in his blood are monitored while he is sedated. Once his sedative is reversed, he wakes up and goes home. Then he dines on a meal of canned food.

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An anti-coagulant is placed in the syringes prior to collection of the blood. This prevents blood from clotting. Since the blood is going to be used immediately, the blood from the syringes is injected into a sterile empty bag. A special IV line and filter is attached to administer the blood to the recipient. This filter collects any microscopic clots that could harm the recipient.

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The new red blood cells should live 1-2 months in the blood stream of the recipient cat, which usually allows time for treatment of their underlying condition. Blue receives a small monetary stipend for his donation, which he uses to buy his food and an occasional bag of cat-nip and Greenies.


Meet Baby, our January Patient of the Month!

Baby is a 3 year old female Neopoliton Mastiff who presented to the pet emergency clinic (PETS) when her mom came home to find her lethargic and gagging. Baby was able to walk into PETS, but collapsed shortly after arrival. Her oxygen levels (sPO2) were dangerously low, so the doctor decided to sedate Baby and intubate her (place a breathing tube into her trachea). Upon intubation he found a large swelling in the back of her mouth covering her airway. Oxygen was delivered through her breathing tube and she was given intravenous antibiotics and sedation so she would tolerate the breathing tube.


Baby was transferred to All West in the morning with her IV sedation running and breathing tube in place. Further testing revealed severe pneumonia. The All West doctors suspected that the swelling in the back of her mouth was a large infection that may have been caused by a bone or stick puncturing her mouth tissue. The pneumonia could have been caused by infection draining from the swelling or if bacterial from the swelling got into her bloodstream, then into her lungs.


Baby remained at All West during the day receiving oxygen, IV fluids, antibiotics, sedation and lots of intensive nursing care. It took a team of technicians to care for her round the clock given she weighed 150#! At night she was transferred back to PETS by our technicians using portable oxygen. This continued for 2 days & 3 nights total. On the 3rd night at PETS she maintained healthy oxygen levels without additional oxygen, so her breathing tube was removed and she was woken up from her sedation. The doctor placed a nasal cannula to deliver a little extra oxygen.


When Baby went home her mom had to give her multiple antibiotics and use a nebulizer to deliver moistened air and antibiotics directly to her lungs. Follow-up visits show she has made a full recovery! Baby’s recovery was the results of her being a young, strong dog prior to her illness and the teamwork between All West and PETS to provide round-the-clock critical care for a super-sized dog. We are happy that Baby is back to her spunky self!


December Patient of the Month!

Meet Rudy, our December patient of the month! Rudy is sweet little Pomeranian mix puppy. At just 16 weeks old Rudy was doing what any puppy loves to do, playing with his bigger dog friends! During all the playtime fun Rudy sadly got stepped on by the bigger dogs. Shortly after the incident Rudy’s parents noticed he was not using his right hind leg and was just holding it up. He showed no pain when his leg was touched but his parent’s knew something wasn’t right so they brought him in to All West to be looked at.

After examining Rudy we proceeded to take radiographs of his hind leg to see what was going on. When the radiograph showed up on the screen it confirmed the doctor’s suspicion, a broken distal femur. The femur is the bone above the knee and Rudy had fractured off the end closest to his knee and incorporated his growth plate. It was clear at this point surgery was needed to repair the bone, however, there was only an 80% chance that he would return to full function after surgery due to the complicated location of the break. In the future, he will also be at risk for arthritis and decreased range of motion. Rudy was taken to surgery the next day and Dr. Jacy Cook placed two wires to stabilize the fracture. Rudy was a champ and pulled through surgery with flying colors. The next day you would have thought he was a normal puppy and that nothing had happened, he was ready to go!! Unfortunately the next 6 weeks wasn’t going be as fun as Rudy would like, he needed strict rest with only leash walks while his fracture healed itself.

It is now 4 weeks after Rudy’s surgery and he is doing great! He still has two weeks left before his 6 week recheck where we will take another radiograph to assess the healing of his fracture but he is putting up very well with his leash walks and extra attention. Be sure to check out our Facebook page for more pictures and radiographs and for updates on Rudy’s recovery!

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October Patient of the Month

This is Hank (on the left), our October Patient of the Month!  His Mom, Sam, is one of our large animal technicians.  Sam noticed one night that Hank was acting like he didn’t feel well – he was a little lethargic and seemed like he may be a bit nauseous as he was drooling.  He was willing to eat a small handful of food, but the next morning began vomiting bile and was definitely not right.

She brought him into AWVH for a work up and he had bloodwork and x-rays.   His bloodwork showed that he was a bit stressed and dehydrated.  Abdominal radiographs showed even more abnormalities.  Although his stomach was empty, there was a section of his small intestine that looked a bit suspicious.  There was increased tissue opacity, meaning the radiograph showed more white/grey (how soft tissue and fluid show up) than black  (how gas shows up) than what was expected.  The area had a triangular to diamond shape and was enough to make us suspicious of a foreign body causing an obstruction which was making Hank feel very ill.

Hank was taken to surgery and sure enough, a foreign body was found.  He had somehow eaten enough grass to block part of his small intestine, called the jejunum.  With the obstruction he began to feel ill and stopped drinking, making his body and his intestines dehydrated.  All of this distention, blockage and dehydration contributed to poor GI motility, or peristalsis, meaning that his intestinal movement was really sluggish and he was unable to move the bolus of grass forward through his GI tract.

Luckily for Hank, he bounced right back.  In addition to having surgery to have the obstruction removed, he also received medication for pain, antibiotics to prevent infection and IV fluids to rehydrate him and get his intestines moving again.   Hank has made a full recovery, and we hope he has learned his lesson about eating too much grass!

See his x-rays and more photos on our Facebook page!



September Patient of the Month

The fall has been busy here at All West, but we did have an interesting case in September we still wanted to post as our patient of the month.

This horse is a 6 year old Missouri Fox Trotter.  He was seen in the field for lameness that was present for several days in his left hindlimb.  Prior to being seen, he had somehow stepped on a nail about 3 weeks earlier.  After that he was sore for several days but then improved and went out to pasture.

When we looked at this horse, he was able to walk on his left hindlimb but was pretty sore, and would prefer to toe-touch in order to rest it while he was standing still.  His vitals were normal.  He was positive to hoof testers – meaning when we applied hoof testers to his foot, he had a painful response.

Given his history of stepping on a nail several weeks earlier, we were suspicious that this may not just be your average, run of the mill foot abscess.  He was given a pain medication and came into the hospital for x-rays and a further work up.  Once in the hospital, his shoe was removed and a lateral x-ray was taken that showed a large gas pocket between his coffin bone and his sole.

His foot was soaked to soften it, and then he was sedated so that we could fully explore his foot without it being too uncomfortable for him.  Our farrier was able to find that the area where the nail had been actually communicated with a large region of undermined sole.  What likely happened is that the nail and/or nail hole caused an infection in the sensitive sole tissues of the foot and there was a pocket of infection that likely initially filled with fluid and then gas on our radiographs.

The treatment was not much different compared to other abscesses we see – the foot needed to be soaked and poulticed, bandaged and the patient was put on antibiotics and pain medications and received a tetanus booster.  However, his owners had to be especially careful to keep his foot clean and bandaged while the sole was growing out in order to make sure that it did not get reinfected.

If you ever find that your horse has stepped on a nail – call your veterinarian right away.  If we can take a radiograph with the nail in place, we can get a better idea of what structures may be involved and what treatment may be necessary.

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Pet and Backyard Chickens at All West

Pet & Backyard Chickens at All West

There has been an increase of pet, backyard, and urban chickens in Bozeman in the past few years due to new city ordinances that allow such. More recently, Belgrade is working to pass an urban chicken ordinance to allow its citizens to also keep chickens. This has been an exciting thing for chicken enthusiasts in our area! With that, All West Veterinary Hospital has seen more chickens and answered more calls regarding chickens than ever before. We proudly offer excellent service and care for all avian creatures including chickens.

Chicken Keeping 101: Basic Husbandry

Keep your chickens in a clean, dry and well-ventilated (but not windy) coop.  Providing a predator proof coop and pen is very important to the longevity of your chickens! Bed your coop with pine shavings to absorb urine and feces; add straw in the winter for insulation. As a general rule of thumb, for backyard chicken keeping, birds need 4sq feet of indoor coop space and 10sq feet of outdoor/pen space. Crowding of birds can cause hen pecking, generally unhappy birds, and unsanitary living conditions. Provide a place in the coop for birds to roost (multiple areas and levels if more than three birds), and a nesting box (1 per 3 birds) to lay their eggs.

Ample food and water should be available at all times. A good “layer” feed should be available full time, and providing a selection of kitchen scraps to your birds is a great way to enhance their diets! When your bird is molting (biannual shedding of their feathers), be sure to provide food that has a higher percentage of protein, 16% or more. Feathers are made of nearly 80% protein! When a bird is molting, their egg production slows, and their body focuses on generating new feathers.  Foods for your chickens to avoid include citruses, overly salty food, onion, and overly starchy foods. It is important to have a free-choice calcium source, such as oyster shells, always available to allow for strong eggshell production. Free ranging can be a great pastime for your birds that might get bored being penned up all the time. Make sure that your birds are supervised to avoid encounters with neighborhood dogs or people who might not enjoy a chicken scratching in their garden.  If your birds are not free range, it is important to provide some opportunity for foraging to prevent boredom and aggression.

Be sure to inspect your birds regularly for parasites like mites and lice, which can be transferred from wild birds. These little bugs can stress your birds, reduce egg production, and are generally not good for the overall health of your bird. These little insects can usually be found in the fine fluff feathers around the chicken’s vent and under their wings and are very easily dealt with by dusting your birds with a powdered pesticide from the local farm store. Keeping the coop clean can also help to reduce parasite numbers, and adding diatomaceous earth to their dust baths can minimize parasites as well.  Always read the label when treating your birds with any products! And don’t fear: these disgusting little creatures are species specific, meaning you don’t have to worry about becoming infected with them yourself. Remember to always wash your hands before and after handling your chickens as their eggs and their feces can carry communicable diseases like salmonella.

Chickens do very well when consistently provided with all of the things to meet their basic needs. They make great companions for families with children and anybody who has an available backyard space. We look forward to hearing from our clients with any chicken questions or concerns! Happy chicken raising, and enjoy all those eggs!

This article was written by Megan McGaffigan Lang, an Equine Technician at All West Veterinary Hospital. She is an avid chicken enthusiast who has 5 of her own backyard pet chickens.  Photo credit

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Geriatric Horse Care

With the Fall fast approaching here in Montana, it is time to take a good look at your horses and start preparing them for the long, cold months ahead. Geriatric horses particularly need to be prepared. A horse is considered “geriatric” when it is around the age of 20 years. Like people, some horses age better than others. Aging depends on genetics, conformation, and their overall care and lifestyle over time. It isn’t unheard of for horses to live to and beyond 30 in this day and age.  With longevity increasing, pay particular attention to any older horses you may have; how do they look – are they thin or overweight? Did your old gelding shed out well this summer? Is your old mare dropping any grain when she eats? Are you still riding old Rusty but he seems a little stiff these days? All the answers to these questions can indicate how you should proceed with the care of your aging companion.

Preventive care is an important part of horse ownership, especially for older horses. We recommend an individualized vaccination plan based on your horse’s exposure and lifestyle. Rotational deworming every two to three months can actually cause more harm than good, so we recommend a strategic plan with periodic fecal floats (a very affordable test to count how many and what type of parasites your horse may have). If your older horse did not shed out well, parasites could be the culprit. However in an older horse we also start to consider Cushing’s Disease, especially if the animal has a poorly muscled topline, recurrent infections, an unusually long hair coat along with a variety of other symptoms.

Dental health is a very important area of concern for maintaining your older horse. If your horse is a hard keeper, has trouble chewing hay, or has overall poor body condition, it is probably time for a dental float. Look for nasal discharge, foul odor of the mouth, or clumps of chewed up and spit out hay. Older horses can develop hooks on their teeth, which can make eating very painful. This coupled with a slower metabolism, and a poorer nutritional absorption rate which occurs with age is a recipe for an underweight horse. If you are supplementing with grain already and your horse has dental pain, your horse could be spilling grain out of its mouth and wasting the calories it needs (and your money).

Dietary concerns often come up in conversation with regards to maintaining the geriatric horse. In my experience, working at a large sport horse boarding facility that seemed to specialize in retired geriatric horses, many of the animals needed help supplementing calories in their diets. Our go-to solution diet for the senior-horse-citizens in addition to their hay rations is: a few heaping scoops of pelleted grass hay and a scoop or two of Purina Equine Senior, once or twice a day. This concoction is soaked in water, which creates a nice mash that is very palatable for horses that might not have all their teeth. If horses are hard extra hard keepers or are still in work, a stabilized rice bran pellet can be added to the mix to raise the fat content of the meal. This formula does wonders for keeping horses at an ideal weight and body condition throughout the winter. When choosing a grain product to supplement into your horse’s diet, make sure to read the label! Some feeds are “complete feeds”, meaning an animal can be sustained wholly on that product (no hay needed). It is important to note that foliage plays a very important role in the digestive process of a horse but if necessary “complete feeds” can be the diet for a horse that can’t eat and process hay.

Don’t forget the opposite issue: an overweight older horse. This may simply be because your horse is getting too many calories and/or not enough exercise. A horse that needs to lose weight should consume 1-1.5% of their body weight in hay each day. For these horses, weighing their feed can be helpful to be sure they are not getting too much. If the right amount is being fed, contact us and we can look into some other causes for an overweight horse, such as equine metabolic syndrome which could have some other important consequences for your horse. Remember that an overweight horse needs just as much management and concern as a thing horse!

Lastly, when maintaining your geriatric horse this winter (and all year!) consistent exercise is very important to keep joints in working order. Arthritis is a common ailment that can hinder the mobility of any older animal. Many arthritic horses do well with consistent exercise at a level that the horse can maintain and enjoy. Things that can help combat the effects of arthritis are oral supplements like Cosequin, but perhaps more effectively, injectable products like Adequan. I have personally experienced great results with my own geriatric horse and Adequan coupled with a regular exercise program.

For advice, service, and suggestions with your older horse and the coming winter, All West Veterinary Hospital is always available to serve you and your equines. Good luck this winter and stay warm!

This article was written by Megan McGaffigan Lang, an Equine Technician at All West Veterinary Hospital. She is the owner of “Arthur”, a 21 year old Belgian Warmblood who is still actively schooling and showing in the Dressage arena.

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Pretty Penny, our August Patient of the Month!

Meet Penny, our August patient of the month.  Penny is a spunky, fun loving, 4 year old pit bull who belongs to one of our small animal assistants, Elise.  Seven weeks ago, Penny was diagnosed with a high-grade Mast Cell Tumor in her nose. Elise noticed in May that Penny had been sneezing a lot and that the inside of her nose seemed to be a little swollen. Penny met with Dr. Karyn Cook to address the original concern of sneezing.  Antibiotics didn’t seem to make a difference so after two months of sneezing Penny met with Dr. Karyn again. Dr. Karyn suggested Penny be sedated and have her teeth checked, thinking it could possibly be an abscessed tooth; she also recommended a nasal biopsy to rule out anything odd.  Dr. Shari Bearrow took on the task of taking skull radiographs, a biopsy of the nose and checking her teeth. The radiographs were normal and her teeth were healthy so the doctors were relying on biopsy results to make a plan. We all assumed the biopsy would come back as an allergy and that Penny may just need to be on oral medication seasonally.

When the results came back on July 8th, Elise was devastated. High-grade Mast Cell Tumors can act very aggressively and the prognosis was guarded. After Dr. Shari consulted with pathologists, Penny was given six months to live if immediate action wasn’t taken. Chemotherapy alone would not give her much time and Penny and Elise would have to travel to Colorado State University to pursue either radiation therapy or a ‘nosectomy.’  Three weeks after the initial news, Penny and Elise drove out to CSU to meet with a team of specialists and make a plan. Penny underwent a CT Scan and a rhinoscopy and after nearly eight hours at CSU, Elise sat down with a wonderful team of specialist and ultimately decided that pursuing a ‘nosectomy’ would give Penny the best chance of survival.

On August 5th, nearly one month after the initial diagnoses, Penny went in for a four-hour surgery to remove a large portion of her nose as well as remove her left lymph node because the cancer had begun to spread. She stayed in CSU’s Intensive Care Unit for two days before being released.  Once home, Penny struggled to adjust. Her nose was painful and swollen, she continued to lick at it and by doing so, pulled apart the sutures and had to have Dr. Karyn preform a ‘repair surgery’ a week after returning home.  Since the repair surgery, Penny and Elise have taken it one day at a time. Penny continues to be a little more herself each and everyday, she’s even doing hot laps around the house when Elise gets home from work! With Penny healing up well, she will begin Chemotherapy with Dr. Shari this week. It will be an eight-week course of treatments and by the end, we all hope Penny will be cancer free!  She’s been in the very best of hands at CSU and now at All West Veterinary. Her battle isn’t over, to keep up with Penny’s fight, visit her Facebook page, “Penny’s Big Fight” and watch her kick cancers butt!

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Not Your Average Root Canal…

Dr. Clark Hicken, DDS from Utah visited All West Veterinary Hospital to perform a root canal & place a cap on a grizzly bear’s broken canine tooth. The grizzly was from Animals of Montana. Dr. Dan Butterfield was in charge of keeping this guy under anesthesia during the procedure.

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