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Tag: spinal

A modern day Dr. Frankenstein?

A controversial neurosurgeon in Italy said this week that he and his fellow researchers may be able to conduct the first human head transplant next year.

We suggest they start with their own.

Dr. Sergio Canavero has been compared to Dr. Frankenstein, and called a nut, but that hasn’t stopped him and members of his consortium — from China, South Korea and the U.S. — from severing the spinal cord of the beagle above (just so they could try to reattach it) and doing the same with numerous mice.

If that’s not weird enough, Canavero and team say that before they attempt a head transplant on a live human, they will conduct some experiments on human corpses, and then reanimate them with electricity to test his technique.

We can only assume they will do so in the basement laboratory of a castle, during a thunderstorm.

canaveroCanavero is director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group. He released three papers this week, and the video above, showing how he and his collaborators had successfully reattached the spinal cords of the dog and several mice.

Canavero also claims that researchers led by Xiaoping Ren at Harbin Medical University have already performed a head transplant on a monkey – connecting up the blood supply between the head and the new body.

Canavero’s short term goal is to successfully transplant a human head. His long term goal, he admits, “is immortality.”

What’s an acceptable number of dogs to torture in a quest of that nature?

We’d say none.

Canavero says the experiments on animals prove the technique used — known as GEMINI spinal cord fusion — incorporates a chemical called polyethylene glycol, or PEG, to encourage neurons to grow toward each other and connect.

He suspects it will also work in humans to fuse two ends of a spinal cord together, or to connect a transplanted head to a donor body.

He made the claims in a series of papers published in the journal Surgical Neurology International.

The claims have been met with widespread skepticism, according to New Scientist.

Canavero first announced his plans to conduct a human head transplant in 2013 and established the ead Anastomosis Venture, or HEAVEN, project to develop the techniques needed to carry out such an operation.

His collaborator in South Korea is Dr. C-Yoon Kim, a neurosurgeon at Konkuk University in Seoul who partially severed and reattached the spinal cords of 16 mice. Five of the eight mice who received PEG regained some ability to move. The other three died — as did eight who were in a control group.

In another experiment the South Korean team nearly severed the spinal cord of a dog. While the dog was initially paralyzed, three days later the team reported it was able to move its limbs and wag its tail.

South Korea is also the birthplace of dog cloning and up until this summer — when an American company cloned a dog for a customer — it was the only country cloning dogs for profit.

It’s probably not too outlandish — given all the bizarre turns medical researchers are taking — to wonder if surplus canine clones in South Korea end up being used for other wacky experiments by mad (or at least overly zealous) scientists.

In fact, if you look at its history, creating dogs for medical research use was one markets mentioned by the developers and marketers of dog cloning.

Could it be that some of the ideas initially presented in science fiction might ought to remain in the realm of science fiction?

Canavero’s research papers don’t indicate how many more dogs might have their necks snapped or heads severed by his research team as they boldly and single-mindedly stride toward their goal.

But, again, we’d argue that — no matter what medical gains it could lead to for humans — it should be NONE.

Disabled dog gets in on homecoming

Excited dogs greeting returning soldiers have become an Internet staple, but here’s one with a special twist.

Emma, a pitbull mix who suffers from a congenital anomaly that affects her spine — leaving her front legs only partially functioning and her back legs useless — didn’t let that stop her when her human returned from a six-month deployment.

She pulled and slid herself across the floor to greet him, along with the other two family dogs.

Melissa Swanson uploaded the video of her returning husband and excited dogs on YouTube.

“Emma and her daddy were very close! It broke her heart when he left,” she wrote. “When I come in the door, she normally sits at the end of the hallway and waits for me to pick her up. This time, when her daddy came in, she went to him … Gotta love homecomings!”

The Swansons heard of Emma through SNARR  (Special Needs Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation), and became her foster parents. They’ve since decided to adopt her. They’re still trying to find the perfect cart for Emma — one that will require her to keep using her front legs without putting too much pressure on them.

You can learn more about Emma on her Facebook page.

Two wheels for Tuzik

More than six months ago, a dog was hit by a car in St. Petersburg, Russia, and left to die.

But witnesses to the accident picked up the dog and brought him to a veterinary clinic. A veterinarian performed surgery, for free, but the dog’s spinal injuries were such that he lost the use of his back legs and wasn’t expected to walk again.

He was taken to an animal shelter, whose staff couldn’t bear the thought of the dog, who they named Tuzik, spending his life laying in the shelter’s dirt yard.

After a flurry of Internet searching and email exchanges, hampered by language differences, arrangements were made for Tuzik to be shipped to the U.S. and taken in by Pets With Disabilities, a non-profit group in Prince Frederick, Maryland.

The organization rescues and finds home for animals who have been injured through trauma or disabled by illness. It provides support and resources for the families of disabled pets and for shelters attempting to place special-needs animals into loving homes. Joyce Darrell and her husband, Michael Dickerson, founded the organization in 2000 after their dog Duke broke his back playing as a puppy. Tuzik10-09

Tuzik arrived in October.

“Why a dog from Russia? We were wondering the same thing for many months,” Darrell says on the Pets With Disabilities website, “But Tuzik was on a mission to find a better life – and meet a family that would appreciate all he had to offer.” Darrell says he has “brought a sense of royal majesty to the rescue. It’s hard to explain, but when you sit with him, you have no pity for him – he really is not looking for that…

“He’s moving around the rescue with more confidence everyday. He’s begun to play with toys – and he has a huge heart to offer the right family.”

Tuzik is available for adoption. To see more of him and the organization’s other disabled dogs in need of homes, click here.

(Photo courtesy of Pets With Disabilities)

Tarra and Bella, previsited

The special bond between an elephant and a dog in Tennessee has captured the attention of humans — if the number of web hits I’ve been getting since posting Steve Hartman’s CBS News report is any indication.

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has been flooded as well — “with high fives and uncounted media offers,” according to its website.

Tarra, an elephant, and Bella, a stray dog the sanctuary took in, have enjoyed each other’s company for years. When Bella suffered a spinal cord injury a few months ago, Tarra — despite having 2,700 acres to roam, stood vigil outside the sanctuary office, where Bella was recuperating.

The CBS report didn’t provide any details of how Bella was injured, but that’s addressed on the sanctuary’s website.

“Since Bella and Tarra’s recent television exposure, a lot of people have asked how the spinal injury happened. When Bella was found in a shallow ravine in the elephant habitat, unable to walk, she was rushed to the veterinary hospital. X-rays revealed that she had sustained a spinal injury. The absence of deep tissue damage and puncture wounds led the veterinarian to surmise that Bella’s spinal injury was the result of an awkward twist, most likely sustained when she was running and jumping over something.”

Also on the website is the video above, filmed before the CBS visit, which we provide for those of you can’t get enough of this inter-species love story.

Izzy (or isn’t he?) getting surgery

Izzy, the retired Longmont, Colorado police dog in need of surgery, will be getting it — thanks to an outpouring of help from residents in the community and beyond.

A drive started by the local Fraternal Order of Police has raised enough money for the operation — from vets, kennels and individuals, including a resident of Las Vegas who came through with $1,000, said Robin L. Ericson, assistant to the chief of the Longmont Police/Fire Department.

The Flatirons Kennel Club has promised to pay $6,000 to cover the cost of his surgery, board member Love Banghart told 9NEWS. “This dog served the community for nine years,” said Banghart. “Any dog that serves the community for that long is very special.”

Izzy sustained a spinal injury catching an armed kidnapping suspect. Since retiring two years ago, the dog’s condition has gotten so bad it is hard for him to walk.

Ericson said that dental and medical benefits are provided to dogs in the city’s K-9 unit, but that those benefits end at retirement, as she says they do for police officers and other department staff.

“A number of people called and donated,” Ericson told ohmidog! — from money to ramps to help Izzy negotiate stairs. Any extra funds received will go toward future care for Izzy and a fund that will provide financial assistance to other retired police dogs.

Ericson said that Izzy’s vet has offered no guarantee that the surgery will help the 11-year-old dog.

She said it was unfortunate that the department termed the dog “equipment” in media reports — but said that’s the name of the official budget category under which the K-9 unit falls. “We love our dogs, and we understand why public wants to help… The term ‘equipment’ might not have been best choice of words.”