Surgery Success: Happy


Happy3Happy had been having some concerning symptoms for two months. His hind legs became clumsy, his back hunched, and he could not play. An X-ray at his family veterinarian showed multiple rare bone lesions on his spine. He was referred to NorthStar VETS where the Neurology and Radiology teams performed an MRI and noted that one of the growths was compressing the spinal cord, creating pain and weakness. Happy2It was determined that surgery was the best option, and the Neurology team used a custom 3D-printed model to plan their approach. Days later, Happy underwent a successful surgery in which the growth was removed and the spinal cord was no longer pinched. When he woke up, Happy lived up to his name, showing us his delightful personality and youthful zest for life. His recovery with the nursing team went well, and Happy loved going outside to walk around. He went home where he is expected to live a long, active, and happy life.Happy1

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Surgery Success: Diamond


diamond the chickenDiamond had a serious problem: she suddenly couldn’t get food through her system. Unlike humans, when chickens swallow food, it goes into a storage sack along the side of their neck called a crop. From there, it goes bit-by-bit into a stomach-like proventriculus before moving on to the ventriculus, which crunches up food so it’s ready for the intestines. With Diamond, some dietary indiscretion (mainly grass and feathers), plugged the crop’s exit, so everything she ate after that filled the sack until it was a large pendulous lump in front of her chest. The Avian and Exotics team at NorthStar VETS performed a successful surgery in which they opened Diamond’s crop, pulled out the large grass and feather clump along with her undigested food, flushed everything out, ensured there were no other issues, and closed her back up. Now Diamond is back home hunting and pecking with the rest of her flock.

Diamond's Clump

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Case Success: Puffy


PuffyPuffy ate a lamp cord which resulted in electrocution and ingesting many tiny pieces of toxic copper. The hundreds of small wires risked perforating her GI tract, causing a toxicity, destroying her red blood cells, and putting her other organs at risk for shutting down. The shock she received when eating the wire also caused fluid to build up in her lungs. The challenge was that if chelation therapy were started before the metal passed through her intestines, the treatment would leach more copper into her blood causing additional red blood cell destruction and organ shut down. She was brough to the Avian and Exotics team at NorthStar VETS. A blood donor gave Puffy a much-needed transfusion since her PCV was 12% (normal is closer to 35-50%). Miraculously, the hundreds of metal fragments passed without getting stuck or breaking through the intestines, so chelation therapy could be started, which rid her of the rest of her toxin. Puffy is currently no longer anemic and her organs suffered no permanent damage. She is now home where her family reported she is back to her mischievous self again.

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Case Success: Rico


It was a terrible day for Rico. A fire broke out in his home, exposing him to smoke inhalation and causing great fear. When the firemen came into the house to put out the fire, Rico ran by them out of the house. As he got farther away from that danger, he ran into the street and was hit by a car.

Rico2Immediately, he was brought to NorthStar VETS where the Emergency team evaluated his extensive injuries. He had a broken forearm and back leg which would require surgery, in addition to three pelvic fractures, pulmonary contusions (bruising in his lungs), a hemoabdomen (blood in his belly due to an injury on his liver), and numerous cuts and scrapes. During his eleven-day stay, the Surgery and Anesthesia teams repaired his broken bones while the Critical Care and nursing teams helped him heal and recover from his other injuries.

Rico1Fortunately, things are better for Rico. He is finally back with his family and feeling much better. Once he gets his casts off, life will go back to normal.

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Case Success: Gaby


GabyGaby was suffering from a host of medical issues, and came in through the NorthStar VETS Critical Care service for hind-limb swelling, weakness, and an inability to urinate. A urinary catheter was placed to relieve that issue, but he had another problem with his blood. Normal packed cell volume (which is the percentage of red blood cells per unit volume,) is 35-55% and his was only 15%. An emergency blood transfusion was needed to save his life. Allison is a cat that donates to the NorthStar VETS blood bank, and recently gave blood that ended up saving Gaby by bringing his PCV back up to 26%, an exceptionally large jump! This was good enough for him to go home a couple days later while continuing to heal.

Gaby’s return home meant the world to his family because of the journey he took to get to this point. Gaby was born in Robbinsville with his brother, Buddha, in 2007. Three years later, he jumped through a screen on the second floor of his home, not to be seen again for the next ten years! About two years ago, his family received a call from a local animal hospital. A lovely woman took him in and noticed he stopped eating and was losing weight. That animal hospital scanned him for a chip, and discovered it was Gaby! He was finally reunited with his litter mate and his other pet siblings, and is catching back up with them! During his decade absence, he lost his tail, developed diabetes and heart/kidney diseases. He’s had numerous medical emergencies since his return, and NorthStar VETS has helped him manage some of those issues. His family is in gratitude for little Allison, the former stray cat who saved his life with her blood donation, and for the time they’ve had with Gaby (named after the Angel, Gabriel).

Click here to learn more about the NorthStar VETS Blood Bank and how you can get involved.

Steven Berkowitz, DVM, DACVECC

Dr. Steven Berkowitz attended St. Georges University and did his clinical year of training at University of Illinois. Dr. Berkowitz joined NorthStar VETS after service as the Chief of Emergency and Critical Care at another specialty hospital. Prior to that, he completed a three year residency in Emergency and Critical Care medicine at Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, NJ. His residency was completed at one of the first level one veterinary trauma centers in the United States. Prior to his residency, he was a staff emergency veterinarian at Animal Specialty Center in Yonkers, New York, as well as at Animal Emergency and Referral Center in Fairfield, NJ. Dr. Berkowitz can be seen on seasons 5 and 6 of “Animal Precinct” on Animal Planet, which was filmed at the Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital of the ASPCA wherein he did his rotating internship after completing veterinary school. Dr. Berkowitz’s professional interests include management of metabolic and endocrine emergencies, as well as management of septic patients. He is published as the primary author in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care with his article “Resolution of spontaneous hemoabdomen secondary to peliosis hepatis following surgery and azithromycin treatment in a Bartonella species infected dog.”

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Case Success: Colby


Colby1Colby, a Cocker Spaniel, came to the NorthStar VETS Emergency service for evaluation of lethargy and appetite. He was diagnosed with Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) which is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks and destroys its own red blood cells. This results in a life-threatening anemia with a high risk of pulmonary thrombo-embolism. Often, this necessitates life-saving blood transfusions. The treatment for this disease suppresses the immune system and blood transfusions are given to treat the anemia. Packed cell volume (PCV) is an indicator of the amount of red blood cells in a dog or cat. A normal dog typically has a PCV of 40-50%. Emergency transfusions are typically needed below 20%. Cocker Spaniels have a breed predisposition for this serious disease.

Colby2At initial presentation, Colby was noted to be severely anemic necessitating a lifesaving blood transfusion. Orson, a greyhound and blood donor, saved Colby’s life. The case was transferred to the Internal Medicine department where Colby received multiple blood transfusions and spent days in the ICU recovering under the care of the nursing staff. During the course of his hospitalization, his PCV fluctuated between 24% and 12% when Athena, another greyhound, donated as well. When his PCV rose a little more and he was stable, Colby went home and did great between rechecks. His family made sure he got his medication on time and rechecked his bloodwork as recommended. A month later, his PCV was 45% and he is eating, drinking and getting back to his old self at home!

Adam-Miller-WebAdam Miller, DVM, DACVIM
Dr. Adam J. Miller is a native of Buffalo, New York and received his veterinary degree from St. George’s University having completed clinical rotations at Cornell University in 2015. He completed an intensive Small Animal Rotating Internship in Medicine and Surgery with VCA in Norwalk, Connecticut before returning to Cornell University for a three-year residency in Internal Medicine. Dr. Miller’s professional interests include nephrology, gastroenterology, and immune-mediated disease.

Outside of work, you will find him trying new restaurants, watching football (Go Bills!) or documentaries, or enjoying the outdoors with his affectionate Newfoundland, Isabelle.

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One Masked Client per Pet in the Building


On Monday, December 27, 2021, we took steps to increase safety for our clients and staff which is our highest priority, and we will continue to follow protocols outlined by the state.

One masked pet parent will be able to enter the building with their pet. Plexiglass shields have been installed in our lobby along with touchless payment options. We ask that everyone maintain social distancing practices and utilize the hand sanitizing dispensers located throughout the facilities.

For pet parents wishing to safely remain in their vehicle, our staff will come out to receive your pet and communicate via phone to limit face-to-face contact.

We thank you for your patience and understanding, and hope that you are staying healthy and safe during this time.

The NorthStar VETS Team

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An Open Letter to the Community


We know how difficult the last year and a half has been on you, especially for those of you who in addition to everything else, also experienced a sick or injured pet, or the loss of a beloved companion. The intent of this letter is to inform you of what is happening in the veterinary world so you have greater understanding should you need to visit us.

For a few reasons right now, demand for veterinary care is at unprecedented levels. When the world first sheltered in place, people noticed more of their pet’s behavior during the day, but avoided unnecessary trips like veterinary well visits. A few months in, there were more pet health issues identified, some of which progressed to more serious conditions, and a backlog to visit general practices. In addition, general practices had to adapt, sometimes closing or limiting caseload for weeks at a time. All of this led to more cases coming to NorthStar VETS.

The pandemic also forced veterinary hospitals to find completely new and less-efficient ways to serve patients and clients. Emphasizing safety over speed, curbside protocols had the negative side effects of increased phone call volume, less face-to-face contact, and slower-than-normal processes. That reduction in efficiency, combined with greater demand, suddenly made us short-staffed. Unlike other service industries, the people we hire are highly-trained medical professionals, difficult to find under normal circumstances. In spite of all this, we worked tirelessly, never closing our doors, to simultaneously serve patients and clients, improve processes, and scale up our team.

By the one-year mark of the pandemic, the general public was in a worse place than they were before. Politically, socially, and attitudinally divided, people’s emotional exhaustion and anxiety were overwhelming, and their patience wore thin. When starting from that place, the stress of a suddenly sick or injured pet combined with long wait times at the emergency clinic wreaked havoc on our interactions with clients. Our team, already suffering from overwork and the emotional toll of handling many tough cases, were further demoralized by inconsiderate comments, online posts, and poor treatment by some of the people they helped. As a result, the veterinary industry has never had more people leave the jobs they love, never to return, making worse a short-staffed situation.

Even though the world changed, our commitment did not. NorthStar VETS is still a team of dedicated professionals committed to improving quality of life for patients, clients, our referring veterinary hospitals, and each other. When you come to one of our locations, know that we are operating under extremely difficult circumstances, but will give you and your pet our very best care. Please arrive with the knowledge that wait times are greater, but we are still here for you and your pet. We appreciate you and your patient understanding.

Sincerely,
The Grateful Staff of NorthStar VETS

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Case Success: Mud


First NorthStar VETS Therapeutic Radiation Patient Receives Second Treatment Course

Mud-GraduationMud, a six-year-old Sharpei dog, first had symptoms of a heart base tumor over two years ago when his abdomen began to fill with fluid (ascites). Using ultrasound at his family veterinary clinic, the primary care doctor found the cause to be a tumor of the right top chamber of Mud’s heart (right atrium), which backed up fluid traveling back from the abdomen through the main vein called the “vena cava.” He was treated with a 20 daily treatment protocol of intensity-modulated radiation therapy in January 2019. The fluid slowly disappeared as Mud’s heart base tumor reduced in size. Mud lived over two years after his initial therapeutic radiation treatment, and at age six, the fluid began to accumulate again. A recheck CT scan was performed, revealing that his heart base tumor was beginning to grow again. Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT/SRT) was used for Mud’s second treatment course, which allows highly concentrated doses of radiation to be delivered with submillimeter accuracy over three consecutive days. Further, because advanced imaging utilizing the Varian Halcyon’s onboard cone beam CT scanner (CBCT), greater surrounding normal tissue avoidance for this second radiation treatment was achieved. Mud graduated from his SRT treatment on June 10, 2021 as the first patient to be treated at NorthStar VETS with PetCure Oncology, a nation-wide veterinary oncology care provider. We wish Mud a quick return to his normal quality of life and many more happy days at home!

Rick-ChetneyRick Chetney, DVM, DACVR-RO
Rick Chetney is a native of central New York and has been practicing radiation oncology since 2013. He earned his DVM degree from Kansas State University in 2010, and completed a rotating small animal surgery and medicine internship at BluePearl Michigan Veterinary Specialists in 2011. Completion of a 12-month medical oncology specialty internship at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville followed. Dr. Chetney then worked as an emergency clinician at RIVER in Chattanooga before returning to the University of Tennessee and completed his residency in radiation oncology in 2015. He was board-certified in radiation oncology by the American College of Veterinary Radiology in 2016.

As a board-certified veterinary radiation oncologist, Dr. Chetney is one of fewer than 100 specialists practicing within his field in the world. He has a special interest in minimizing radiation side effects, skin healing, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT/SRS/SBRT) for various tumors. He was the first on-site veterinary radiation oncologist to employ the use of linear accelerator-based IMRT in eastern Pennsylvania, and has practiced previously in the use of strontium-90 brachytherapy. After working in the Greater Philadelphia Region for five years, Dr. Chetney joined PetCure Oncology in June of 2020, and now provides his services to the patients and clients of Northstar VETS. He resides in Southeastern, PA with his wife, where they enjoy disc golf, kayaking, hiking, and anything outdoors. They are pet parents to Theo (Siamese/ragdoll mix cat), Logan (Border collie), and Roux (toy poodle).

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New Satellite Summer Hours


Effective Thursday, July 1st, the NorthStar VETS satellites in Maple Shade and Brick will have new hours. For the duration of the summer, these offices will be open from 7:00am-11:00pm and closed during the overnight hours.

Additionally, both satellites will close completely on Sunday, July 4 and reopen on Monday, July 5 at 7:00am.

The Robbinsville location will remain open 24/7, 365 days a year.

This temporary change is designed to increase the level of service we provide to your patients and clients when they visit during our busiest times of the day. Thank you for your continued trust in us as we strive toward providing the best possible medicine and customer service to our community, clients and patients.

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