Innovation in Boxers with Cardiac Disease

RoxTylerStumpPond2Cardiomyopathy is a common affliction of the Boxer breed with as many of one-third of Boxers developing cardiomyopathy during their lifetime. Early in the disease affected dogs develop ventricular arrhythmias, which are often isolated and infrequent. At this stage a routine ECG may identify ventricular arrhythmias and lead to suspicion of disease, but the definitive diagnosis usually is established from a combination of a 24-hour ambulatory ECG (Holter) recording and echocardiography. As the disease progresses and arrhythmia worsens, severe ventricular arrhythmias can result in clinical signs of syncope or sudden death. Some proportion of dogs will develop features of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), with ventricular dilation and reduced contractile function, often progressing to overt congestive heart failure. Recent studies have indicated that dogs that go on to develop the DCM phenotype of the disease are likely to be homozygous for the same genetic mutation (in the striatin gene) associated with the arrhythmic form of the disease. This suggests that DCM in Boxers is likely a continuum of the same disease. Continue reading


MR spectroscopy: Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), also known as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, is a non-invasive analytical technique that has been used to study metabolic changes in brain tumors, strokes and other diseases affecting the brain. Dr. March is currently leading a clinical trial to evaluate the use of the technique for the definitive diagnosis of primary brain tumors and strokes.

Stem cell therapy for immune-mediated meningoencephalitis: Dr. March is conducting a trial designed to determine whether after initial stabilization with current treatment approaches, stem cell therapy allows dogs to remain in clinical remission.

Intervertebral disk disease: Dr. Faissler recently completed a clinical trial evaluating the use of trophic factors such as platelet rich plasma and erythropoietin for stimulating spinal cord repair in paraplegic dogs with loss of pain perception in both hind legs – analysis of the results is pending.  We are planning and continuing to explore  novel treatment options for dogs with severe spinal cord damage, including stem cell transplantation. Under the supervision of Dr. Faissler, Dr. Sutton is investigating prognostic factors for paralyzed dogs with intervertebral disk herniation. Our hypothesis is that the degree of dispersion of extruded disk material correlates with outcome.

Brain surgery:  Dr. Faissler has introduced intracranial pressure (ICP) during and, most importantly, after brain surgery.  Knowledge of ICP has improved patient outcomes. Dr. Faissler has also developed a technique for closing large skull defects resulting from cranioectomies which uses a combination of titanium and bone cement. Because titanium is non-ferromagnetic, MRI for assessment of tumor control can be performed during the postoperative period.


The Zoological Companion Animal Medicine Service works closely with the Oncology Department at the Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine to ensure the best care for exotic animals with challenging tumors. Radiation therapy, intralesional therapy and various systemic chemotherapeutics have been used with success in a variety of exotic species.

Dr. Graham is currently seeking cases of avian squamous cell carcinoma for a project to establish avian tumor cell lines. If you have diagnosed any pet birds with squamous cell carcinoma that could potentially participate in this project please contact Dr. Graham at or by phone at 508-887-4745.


Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy for Labrador Retriever Chronic Hepatitis

Labrador retrievers develop a breed-specific chronic hepatitis (CH) that progresses to cirrhosis and hepatic failure. Vague clinical signs include decreased appetite, lethargy, PU/PD and vomiting.  Median age at diagnosis is between 6.4-9.3 years (range: 2-15 years).  A female predominance is noted in some, but not all reports. Dogs typically have increases in serum  ALT and AST with more modest and variable increases in ALP and GGT. Some dogs also have renal tubular disease manifested by the presence of normoglycemic glucosuria. Definitive diagnosis is by hepatic histopathology, which shows varying degrees of necrosis/apoptosis with centrolobular to periportal mononuclear inflammation (lymphocytes, plasma cells and histiocytes), regeneration and fibrosis (Fig 3). In some dogs cirrhosis is present at diagnosis. Median survival is 374 days (range:1-2,645 days).

Fig 3

Figure 3: Hepatic biospy from a 5-year-old spayed female Labrador that presented for anorexia, weight loss, and PU/PD. H and E stains (A, B) show marked portal inflammation consisting of lymphocytes, plasma cells and macrophages. Multifocal lipogranulomas are present. Siruis Red stains (C, D) highlight the abundant fibrosis with prominent bridging between portal areas. Low (A C, 100X)) and high (B, D 400X) power.

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