Salvaging the best of a tragic situation

Salvaging the best of a tragic situation

This morning, Dr. Kowaleski took a phone call from a deeply distraught client. Her beautiful, young male puppy had just been euthanized after he suffered a tragic accident.

To make a long story short, Dr. Kowaleski suggested to her that we could potentially harvest semen and freeze it if she felt like she could brave the thought and transport the patient to make it happen. She said she would speak to her co-owner and make a fast decision. She was able to rally the strength to load her beloved, promising puppy and bring him to us.

We indeed were able to harvest semen – enough to do 2 breedings. Late last fall, we had a similar incident – another young male dog lost much too young in a tragic, unforeseeable accident. Both owners are kind, responsible, experienced, smart, careful breeders. But sadly, despite the care these breeders provided their dogs, accidents happen. She was also blessed to have 2 breeding units collected and frozen. Of course, we still don’t know if we can produce a litter with the semen, but it gives this heart-broken owner a glimmer of hope.

It is not an easy procedure to offer – both emotionally and technically. As unlucky as these breeders were, they were lucky enough to think and act fast, pulling themselves together to make the best of a painful heart-wrenching situation.

My team pulled together to make this all happen with artful scheduling changes, the ability to think outside the box, and the flexibility to fit a highly time-sensitive procedure into an already busy day. Kudos to them for being big-hearted and dedicated to helping clients in deep pain.

So remember, if this happens to you or one of your friends, sometimes the stars align and all the right people are in the right places to make this happen. Do your best to remain composed so you can salvage a terrible tragedy.

Please contact us if you need help.

Progesterone Test Please

Progesterone Test PLEASE!

This has been another busy week at Veterinary Village.
As you all know, we have a large following of breeders, really good breeders who do a really great job of providing well-bred dogs with important and predictable health and behavior qualities.

That being said, some lose track of their breeding timing. Why is that important? If you can get your dam pregnant without progesterone timing, why should you worry about timing her?

We had multiple dams due in the last 2 weeks without good timing.
If you have trouble at the back end of the pregnancy, we can’t predict when she is due.

The following are real cases:
1. Three (no make it 4) dams due with singleton pups. These girls don’t go into labor at the 63 day post ovulation mark. Why? Because labor is initiated by the pups, not the dam. If there is not enough hormone secreted by the pup(s) because there is a small litter and they are not stressed, the dam may not initiate labor until the placentas and pup(s) are more than 65 days along, leading to placental deterioration and fetal death. This is a tragic way to end a pregnancy – with a c-section and a dead fetus. One dam was out of state for her breeding – test anyway (see below).

2. Two dams with exceptionally large litters. These girls were getting into trouble due to the volume of puppies and associated placentas and fluid. We can only safely deliver pups 2 days before their due date, based on ovulation. (Ovulation occurs at 4-8 ng/dl). Without knowing their due date, we could not have safely done a c-section to save not only the pups but the dam as well. No one wants to lose a puppy. But in most breeders’ eyes, saving their dam is even more important. We saved both dams and their pups by early intervention – a c-section at day 61.

3. One dam who should have delivered her pups but failed to progress into a successful labor. We took her to c-section and found the first pup trying to be delivered was heading north in the southbound lane. He blocked the way for other pups making a c-section the only hope in saving the dam and the other littermates. This was an unplanned breeding – well, unplanned by the owner, not the dogs. She had a history of failure to conceive so no one thought she would have a pregnancy. At least, draw and save the blood – see below.

4. One dam with a huge disparity in fetal size and position. She had 6 pups in one uterine horn and 1 in the opposite horn. The first pups that would have been born vaginally in either horn were HUGE. Without a planned and well-timed c-section (Of course, on Thanksgiving day), at least the first pup would have been born so slowly that the pup would have likely been stillborn. Dams weighing 24 pounds should not have 15 oz pups. Because we knew her due date, we scheduled a c-section and saved the entire litter.

5. One dam who lost her entire litter last year to premature progesterone drop. She is being monitored carefully to assure her litter can be saved with supplementation if needed.

Need I say more?

So even if you don’t need to know what day to do the breeding, you do need to know the day the pups are due. At the very least, have a progesterone test drawn, the blood spun in the centrifuge and the serum frozen. In this way, IF she is pregnant and we need to run the blood from the time of the breeding, we can thaw the serum and run the test at the end of her pregnancy.

Why not just run “reverse progesterones” at the end of the pregnancy? Because they require daily trips to the vet. Because you may end up with your dam going into labor after hours and end up at the Emergency Clinic. Because they may drop early in the case of luteal insufficiency or a pregnancy gone wrong. Because, in the case of a small litter, they won’t drop till the placentas have deteriorated and the pup has succumbed to placental failure.

Progesterone tests don’t cost that much – not as much as the time it takes you to run back and forth to the vet every day. And not as much as the loss of a pup or dam will. And not as much as it will cost you in heartbreak for losing pups we could have saved with timing on the front end of the pregnancy.

Work with us or your local vet to arrange a way to have a tech at their clinic draw the blood and store it for use at the end of the pregnancy if we need it.

We are pretty good at canine reproduction at Veterinary Village and International Canine Semen Bank – WI/IL but so far, we don’t have a crystal ball to predict when your dam ovulated 2 months ago. Breeding dates are NOT the same as ovulation dates.

Please contact us for information on how we can help your vet or even help you collect and store serum for this important and life-saving testing.

Fecal Testing at this Time of Year?

Fecal Testing This Time of Year?

Fecals? Why this time of year?
In the spring and summer, our clients and our staff are really good about remembering to have stool / fecal samples checked, monitoring for the presence of intestinal parasites.
It is easy to remember to check our pet’s fecal when we are also looking at the blood for Heartworm, Lyme disease, Ehrlichia and Anaplasmosis.
In the fall and winter, these things tend to fall by the wayside.

But why is it important?
Who remembers “Hartz Once a Month Wormer”? I do.  Does that make sense? Yes, it makes so much sense that almost all Heartworm preventives also include Pyrantel and Praziquantel so our pets are protected against the intestinal parasites – Roundworms, Hookworms, Whipworms and Tapeworms.
But if we have pets that don’t take Heartworm and intestinal parasite medication at all or ones that don’t take it in the winter, this is a great risk. And it is not just for our pets.


Children and adults who are immunocompromised with medical conditions are at increased risk of contracting intestinal parasites too. These are people on corticosteroids, with cancer, with HIV/AIDS and so on. And these parasites may not only be in the intestines. Sometimes they migrate through the body cavities, called visceral larval migrans, and the eye called ocular Laval migrans.

So remember to bring in your dog and cat’s stool samples so we can assure you and your pets are parasite free.

You don’t have to wait for an appointment, if you are worried, stop in anytime we are open and have this important test done for everyone’s health.

Breast Cancer Awareness – For Pets!

Breast Cancer Awareness – For Pets!

While we typically think of Breast Cancer as something for human women, we need to remember that this affects our female dogs and cats too!  In animals it is called Mammary Gland Tumors, which doesn’t sound as scary, but in fact is the same issue that faces women.  We are reaching out to you this month to spread the awareness of what Mammary Gland Tumors are, what the symptoms are, the treatment options, and how to prevent it.

Below is an article that our Dr. Greer had contribitued to back in 2011 for the Vin News Service:



Veterinarian Campaigns for Awareness of Mammary Gland Cancer

September 30, 2011
By: Phyllis DeGioia
For The VIN News Service

Dr. Marthina Greer finds it heartbreaking to see a dog die from a preventable disease. She aims to educate pet owners about the fact that mammary gland cancer — the veterinary equivalent of breast cancer — can be avoided by spaying pets when they’re young. 

Greer’s practice specializes in canine reproduction, so many of her clients have intact bitches. She rarely loses a breeding dog to mammary gland cancer because in her experience, breeders monitor their dogs for masses and have them removed. It’s the average pet owner who’s often uneducated about the connection between mammary gland cancer in female dogs and sterilization, she said.

That’s because sterilization is widely promoted as a means for controlling pet populations — not preventing cancer.

“The shelters and others have done a great job of teaching clients and pet owners about population control,” Greer said, “but breast cancer has been left as a poor cousin of a reason to spay your bitch.”

Greer sees approximately one new case of canine mammary gland cancer a week in her Lomira, Wis., practice. “The ones we lose are usually bitches who were not spayed but were not bred and were never intended to be bred,” she said. In 30 years of practice, she has encountered four cases of inflammatory mammary carcinoma, what she calls “the worst of the worst,” alluding to the cancer’s aggressive nature.

To spread the word about cancer-related benefits of sterilization, Greer believes some terminology needs improvement. “Why do we call it mammary tumors? No wonder the clients don’t know what we’re are talking about,” she muses.

She’d rather have the condition referred to as breast cancer, a more common reference. 

What causes mammary gland cancer is unknown, though hormones are believed to play a role in its development. Signs of cancer include firm nodules in the tissue around the nipples, ulcerated skin, swelling and inflammation as well as discharge in some cases.

Cats are not immune to mammary gland cancer, though statistics of incidence vary depending on the study. Generally speaking, mammary gland cancer occurs less often in cats than in dogs. However, studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the mammary tumors in cats are malignant. The malignancy rate for mammary tumors in dogs is 50 percent.

“Mammary gland cancer is certainly in the top three (most common cancers in cats),” said Dr. Ruthann Chun, a board-certified oncologist and head of clinical oncology at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. “I think it is fair to say that we see more dogs with mammary cancer, but whether that actually means it is more common in dogs is another question that I can’t answer. For sure, when we see a mammary tumor in cats, it is much more likely to be malignant.”

Incidence is a hard to pin down because most research papers exploring the topic were written in the 1960s, notes Dr. Corey Saba, a board-certified oncologist working at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

“It has been published (in the 1960s) that mammary tumors are ‘at least the third most common tumor in cats,’ but I can’t say that’s been my clinical experience,” wrote Saba in an email interview with the VIN News Service. “I also don’t know that mammary cancer is any more or less common in cats versus dogs. The main predictor of mammary gland tumor (MGT) development seems to be timing of spay, and because most pets are spayed as kittens and puppies, we really don’t see a lot of mammary cancer in either species. In fact, a lot of the recent studies about MGT have come out of Europe and South America because spaying is less common in those countries.”

Saba characterized her typical mammary gland cancer patient as a dog or cat spayed “later in life” after at least one heat cycle. However, spaying a dog or cat at a young age does not guarantee future good health, even if it works to ward off mammary gland cancer.

There are health benefits to leaving pets intact, and Greer notes that spaying has drawbacks. For example, spaying a dog that’s less than a year old is believed to increase its risk for developing osteosarcoma, splenic hemangiosarcoma and hypothyroidism. Still, spaying before the first heat cycle protects nearly all dogs from mammary gland cancer, Greer said.

“I think spaying needs to be discussed with all clients — risks and benefits. In contrast to humans, mammary tumors in dogs are nearly 100-percent preventable if owners would take one simple step: to spay their female dogs prior to age 2 or younger,” Greer said. “We all know that spaying (ovariohysterectomy or ovariectomy) prevents heat cycles and pregnancy. What we have not always done as well as we should have as veterinarians is to educate our clients that spaying under age 2 prevents most mammary tumors.” 

Saba recommends spaying cats between 6 months and 1 year of age. Research shows that cats spayed after 1 year of age are at greater risk for developing mammary gland cancer than felines spayed before their first year.

Greer is considering how she might educate the public by way of a national campaign. Right now, she’s reaching out to her clients with a message that sterilization is a cancer preventative. 

Because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, every pet spayed in Greer’s clinic will go home wearing a pink ribbon bandanna that resembles the pink ribbons promoting knowledge of disease in humans and early detection efforts.

Given that women are taught to conduct monthly breast self-examinations, Greer wants to piggyback onto that idea by reminding women to check their female pets the same day they check themselves. She also is considering developing stickers for calendars much like the monthly reminders that accompany flea and tick preventatives.

“Since dogs can’t do self exams, we will have to do them for them,” she said. 

Saba predicts that owners might have a hard time differentiating normal “fatty” mammary tissue from true masses. “Masses are usually firm,” Saba said. “If there’s ever any doubt, the owner should have the pet evaluated by the veterinarian.”


Please join us in observing Breast Cancer Awareness Month by taking a minute to check over your your female cats and dogs.

You can make it fun by making it part of a belly rub!


Denied Adoption with Current Intact Dog

Why should a client with an intact dog be denied adoption of a Rescue dog?

As a busy veterinary clinic, we have contact daily with rescue organizations and rescue dogs and cats. We try to support as many as we can. We understand they have limited resources and a difficult job to do. I have taken in rescue dogs myself, primarily from Corgi rescue. At one point, my daughter was volunteering at a local humane society. A dog came in from the south, as most do in the Midwest, with heartworm disease. She was 11, and didn’t get along well with other dogs. And at the time, the medication for treating heartworm was unavailable to the humane society. But we had some in our inventory. I called the shelter and offered to take her in as a foster, treat her for heartworm, and let her find a forever, albeit, short-lived home.

As they were interviewing me to take her, they discovered I had intact dogs, and worse yet, breeding dogs. You would have thought I was a pregnant woman who came into the shelter drunk and chain-smoking, with a raft of little kids dancing on the seats of the mini-van, unrestrained. There was no way they would let me help her with her medical condition.

Bringing us to the present. On more than one occasion, we have had clients with intact male and female dogs who have offered to adopt (aka buy) a rescue dog. They may be intact for a variety of reasons. One was a family who have been clients at our practice for 35 years. This family was responsible, had raised their children successfully, had wonderful grandchildren and were active in the community. Over the years, they provided outstanding veterinary care to their dogs. At the time of the attempted adoption, they had an intact male hunting dog in their home. Even though they were getting a dog through rescue who was going to be spayed, they were denied the opportunity to take in a rescue dog because their other dog was not neutered.

Now I understand that rescue organizations want to find great homes for the dogs they have to place. But this was a great family home. I was willing to put my reputation on the line for this family.

Can rescue really afford to be that fussy about their homes? And who are they to classify a dog owner as
“irresponsible” for keeping an intact dog in their home? With a track record of never having a dog fight or accidental breeding?

Again I want to be clear that I understand rescue and their mission. And we are willing to do all we can to assist them.

For those of you with intact dogs, whether they are intact because you breed, or because your dog is young, or because you believe the new literature (as I do) that indicates better health and greater longevity when our dogs are allowed to keep their hormones. Please speak up and help rescue groups understand that intact is not the equivalent of irresponsible. They need all the help they can get to find great homes for pets in need.

Laryngeal Paralysis

Laryngeal Paralysis

Why is my dog’s breathing suddenly so loud? Should I worry about it?

There is a very scary respiratory condition we see in older dogs. This can start suddenly and be life – threatening. It is most commonly seen in Labrador retrievers but can be seen in other breeds as well. It usually affects dogs in their teens.

The condition is called Laryngeal Paralysis, or Lar Par for short. Many Labrador breeders and owners are familiar with it.

This is characterized by loud inspirations, usually with the dog’s mouth open. It can start in episodes but frequently progresses to the point it is constant and can be so loud you can’t carry on a conversation in the room with the dog present.

The diagnosis is confirmed by anesthetizing the dog with an agent that still allows the cartilages in the airway to move open and closed, and looking for the movement with the dog’s mouth open. I usually have this done by the surgeon who is planning to surgically correct the condition.

In cases of severe Lar Par, particularly when the weather is very hot and humid, it can be life threatening.

There is a surgical correction for this – called laryngeal tie-back. I think it is best performed by a Board-certified surgeon who works at a 24 hour facility. Reason being, this is a big deal surgery. It is also important that for the first 24-48 hours after surgery, the dog needs to be closely monitored for swelling or obstructive disease in the airway. If this occurs, the dog will need additional care including oxygen therapy to survive.

If your dog has symptoms of loud breathing that are NOT reverse sneezing, please capture it by video on your phone or camera and share it with your veterinarian so they can help with an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

And if you think your dog may have it, be extremely careful to protect your dog from extremes of heat and humidity. Don’t leave your dog in the car, even for a minute, without air conditioning. Don’t let the dog follow you back and forth in the yard while you are cutting the grass. And please don’t wait till your dog is turning blue when they are breathing. Keep stress levels low and ask your veterinarian for anti-anxiety medications and other meds to help them breathe more comfortably during the summer and fall months.

More information can be found at VetSpecialists’ article on Laryngeal Paralysis

Contact us at 920-269-4072 or at if you need assistance with your dog or cat’s health care.

Rabies in Humans

Rabies in Humans – Does that Really Happen?

Yes, rabies still happens, even in Wisconsin, and even to humans. And yes, this is a highly emotionally charged issue for many people.

All the doctors and many of the staff members at Veterinary Village are immunized against rabies, preventively. Yes, humans can be vaccinated if they are in high risk of exposure categories – veterinarians, laboratory workers, people who work with wildlife.

One of our staff members was immunized and received the immunoglobulin because a rabies suspect bit her. She was treated after the bite to protect her.

So how do you know if you need to have the immunoglobulin and rabies immunization after an animal exposure? The best answer is to talk to your veterinarian for animal testing and to your physician for your health care. In the absence of availability of your doctor, you can use the following website to walk you through the scenarios, based on the type of exposure, the animal involved and other details. The weblink for this is:

It is very important that you keep your pets immunized. Dogs are required to be immunized for rabies according to all 50 state laws. Rabies vaccination requirements for cats are highly variable based on where you live. Sadly, many people try to cheat the system and not vaccinate their pets, especially cats. Cheating is not good for your health, the health of your family or the health of your pets. IF you have a pet that is not vaccinated, and there is a bite wound, the State Veterinarian will have to consider your dog or cat a non-vaccinate and will either be quarantined or possibly euthanized for testing. Testing is not a pleasant event – it requires submitting brain tissue, meaning to the State Lab of Hygiene in Madison, if you are a Wisconsin resident. Having to euthanize a pet because you disregarded the rabies vaccination requirement is a very sad event. Don’t cheat!

But really, are there dogs and cats in Wisconsin with rabies? The answer is yes, at times. A very good friend of mine picked 2 rescue dogs in another state from a commercial breeder and transported them to her home in Wisconsin. Before she picked them up, a kennel mate dog had died. Shortly after she returned with the 2 dogs to Wisconsin, one became ill. She took the dog to her veterinarian who wisely recognized the signs of illness and had the dog tested. The dog was positive for rabies. As a result, this well-meaning person, her family and her neighbors, and their dogs all received post exposure rabies vaccines. Details of this incident are laid out on this website page:;wap2

And many of us in the Fond du Lac area recall the near tragic case of a high school student who picked up a bat in church during mass and took it outside. This young woman contracted rabies and due to the brilliance of the Fond du Lac physician who diagnosed her and an experimental treatment provided at Children’s hospital in Milwaukee, she survived. She is now an adult with children of her own. Her survival truly was a miracle. Her story can be found here:

The last human reported to have died in Wisconsin of rabies was in 2011, a mere 6 years ago, again contracted by a bat. His story is here:

One of our clients was exposed to a rabid kitten when she was pregnant many years ago. She went through rabies vaccinations while pregnant, something that had not been done before. Her son is now an adult, and all ended well with the pregnancy, the mother, and the child.

My sister lives in urban Minneapolis. She had 2 events of finding bats in her home with her cats playing with the bats. Even in the city, there are bats in homes and cats and dogs exposed.

As veterinarians, we had 17 hours of lecture on rabies. We are the experts in the medical field on rabies. Our human counterparts only get 1 hour or less. However, we are not permitted to make recommendations on human health. Clients need to rely on their physicians to make medical decisions. The veterinarians are the medical professionals who manage the animals who may have created a human exposure and submit the correct samples to the Wisconsin diagnostic lab for testing.

The bottom line is:
1. Immunize your dogs and cats. Don’t try to cheat on this – it’s not worth it. Follow your local and state laws.
2. Don’t handle any wild animals, or dogs and cats you are not familiar with. Keep your kids safe.
3. If you have any animal exposure, keep the animal for testing. Contact your veterinarian immediately. Don’t shoot it in the head or beat it with a shovel. Don’t bury the animal. Keep the animal cool (but NOT frozen!) until we can get the animal to us and samples collected for testing.
4. Contact your physician if you may have had an animal exposure – bite, scratch, fluid in your eye, mouth, or an open wound.
5. If you work or play with animals that may transmit rabies to you, have pre-exposure prophylactic rabies immunizations and regular titers to be sure you are still protected. My titer is 38 years old – these last a long time and offer safe protection.
6. If you have a question we can’t answer for you about rabies, we contact the state veterinarian for her assistance. Call us for answers. 920-269-4072 or e mail

When to C-Section Safely

When is an elective C-section safe?

This weekend, we have had 2 contacts with clients who have had c-sections done prematurely, because the doctors and staff at their veterinary clinics would be unavailable. This leads to unfortunate outcomes for the puppies and their owners. It’s not good for the veterinarians and their staffs either.

Dogs are only pregnant for 63 days. Puppies are not like human babies. There is only a 4 day window when puppies can safely be born.

Timing to schedule a c-section is based on ovulation date, not the breeding date. Puppies can only be born safely 61 to 65 days from ovulation.

Before day 61, puppy’s lungs are immature, lacking surfactant, and if born too early, the pups will gasp a few times and die. These pups often don’t have hair on their faces. In large litters, the mom will often go into labor before day 63. This is usually OK because the pups produce more cortisol when stressed by fetal crowding and their lungs will mature a wee bit earlier than if the litter is a normal size.

On the other end, after day 65 or 66, the placenta fails. Placentas are programed to last 63 days, and can be stretched out to day 66. After day 65 or 66, the placenta will deteriorate and no longer provide the blood flow to the pups necessary to carry oxygen and nutrients. Pups not born by day 66 may die before they are born. Rarely, the females will not go into labor by day 65. If this happens, it is most likely due to a small litter size. Labor in the dog is initiated by the fetuses, not the mother. When there is a small litter, the pups don’t produce enough cortisol collectively to initiate labor in their mother. In these cases, progesterone levels can’t be used to estimate due date. For this reason, we need to know her due date based on progesterone timing at the time of breeding and intervene before it is too late to save pups.

So when you have not done progesterone testing at the front end of the pregnancy, what can you do to time the c-section if you find yourself in need of intervention. Or what can you do to estimate due date if you have a high risk pregnancy?

1. Progesterone timing at the end of pregnancy. A progesterone below 3 ng/dl indicates a c-section is safe, as long as the dog does not have luteal failure. This is most effective when you can get progesterone results back the same day the sample is drawn and sent to the lab. When testing progesterones at the end of pregnancy, we frequently see the progesterone hovering between 3 and 4 ng/ml, sometimes for as many as 10 days. It is NOT safe to do a c-section unless we see the progesterone drop below 3 ng/dl. Don’t be hasty in making a decision based on progesterone drop alone.

In our hospital and a few others in Wisconsin, progesterones can be run in the hospital. We do a “quality assurance program” with our progesterone testing. That means on a quarterly basis, we collaborate with Marshfield lab. We submit samples to them and they submit samples to us. They run our samples and compare their results to ours. In doing so, we are able to assure you that our tests are accurate. I believe we are the only veterinary hospital in the US, not just Wisconsin, that uses this service. Inaccurate progesterone results are worse than no results.

2. Lactation. If the mother is not producing milk yet, waiting may be a great idea.

3. Ultrasound signs. Puppies that are mature enough to be born have active guts and obvious kidney interior structure. This requires a great ultrasound machine and experience.

4. Maternal behavior. Nesting, refusing food, a temperature drop, and a far-away look in her eye are all indicators of first stage labor.

Our doctors at Veterinary Village and International Canine Semen Bank WI/IL are cautious about proceeding to c-section without using all of the above parameters to determine the ideal time to deliver pups. We often agonize over the decision, with the owner involved in making the decision. It is critical to get this right. We make our decisions on the best interest of the mother and baby’s readiness for delivery, not based on a calendar and when it is convenient for us. I will walk through fire to help you make a great decision.

We are not a 24 hour hospital but we are a 7 day a week hospital willing to help you make a great decision on timing a c-section.

We want to be YOUR veterinarians. Call us for assistance at 920-269-4072.