News & Events

News and Events

VRC Welcomes a New Neurologist and a New Medical Oncologist

The VRC Team is growing! Dr. Christine Senneca, a board-certified veterinary neurologist and Dr. Colleen Martin, a medical oncologist, have joined our robust staff of veterinarians. Each brings with her experience and skill in her field that will contribute to VRC’s team of highly qualified specialists. VRC is a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital committed to providing the highest quality care to pets in the greater Philadelphia area. Dr. Senneca and Dr. Martin will greatly enhance our team with their extensive service offerings and knowledge as well as enable VRC to provide care for a wider variety of illnesses and injuries.


Christine Senneca, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology) hails from Long Island, New York. After receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, she completed her clinical rotations at the University of Florida, and then interned at the VCA Aurora and VCA Berwyn Animal Hospitals close to Chicago. Post-internship, Dr. Senneca spent time practicing emergency medicine before completing a residency at the University of Florida, where she specialized in neurology and neurosurgery. Now a member of the VRC team, Dr. Senneca’s areas of interest include surgical intervention for neurologic disease, nervous system diseases of a non-infectious nature, and seizure management.


Colleen Martin, DVM, Practice Limited to Oncology, is originally from Atlanta, GA. With a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from SUNY Oswego and a Master of Science degree in immunology from the University of Rochester, Dr. Martin decided to work in cancer research for a few years. Afterward, she earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada. Her rotating internship in small animals was completed at the Veterinary Medical Center of Central New York, and she completed a second internship and residency in medical oncology at North Carolina State University. As a part of VRC, Dr. Martin’s areas of interest include the human-animal bond, hematopoietic malignancies, targeted cancer therapies, and comparative oncology.


VRC is a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital. If you are a referring veterinarian in the greater Philadelphia area or beyond and would like to schedule a Meet & Greet or Lunch & Learn with our new team members, Dr. Senneca and Dr. Martin, or any of our other doctors, please contact Brian Haugen at

Case Study: The Dangers of Prescription Medication Exposure or Overdose in Pets

Dogs and cats are intelligent, inquisitive creatures and as much as we try to keep them safe, everyday objects in our home can be a tempting danger to them. VRC has covered common household threats to pets such as toxic food items, poisonous flowers, and household chemicals, but today we’re going to write about your prescription medications and what their presence in your home can mean for your pets.

Clarke is a 2-year-old male Labrador from the greater Philadelphia area who is always exploring and getting into trouble. Clarke came into VRC after biting his owner’s albuterol inhaler. Commonly used as an asthma medication, albuterol opens the bronchial airways for people with breathing issues, but it can cause life-threatening concerns when consumed in large doses. Symptoms of albuterol poisoning include severe arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and electrolyte disturbance.

When Clarke came into VRC, he had a heart rate that was twice what’s normal in a dog his size and age, a blood pressure level of 230/165 (for dogs, 120/80 is around normal), and a potassium level low enough to be concerning. Thankfully, the owner knew the inhaler had been bitten, and got Clarke to a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital quickly where we were able to immediately administer IV fluid therapy and medications to block the effects of the albuterol. Thankfully for Clarke, albuterol leaves the body within 12-24 hours, so we felt confident that a short course of aggressive supportive care would save him. As it turns out, we were right! Clarke’s blood pressure and heart rate stabilized within half an hour of being admitted, and within twelve hours we were able to release him to his owners.

Next, let’s look at Buddy, a 7-year-old male pug, and his best friend Delilah, a ten-year-old female pointer mix. Though usually well behaved, Buddy and Delilah love their snacks and treats, which recently got them into trouble, necessitating a visit to our greater Philadelphia area veterinary hospital.

As dogs age, it’s common for them to get arthritis in their joints. While aging is a natural part of any dog’s life, we can help them with medications such as omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine chondroitin, and sometimes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Buddy had been prescribed beef-flavored steroid pills for his hip dysplasia. While his owners were out of the house one day, Buddy and Delilah knocked the bottle of steroids off the counter and ate them all. Once Buddy and Delilah’s owners came home, they found the empty pill bottle and brought both dogs in to VRC for 24/7 emergency care.

As there was no way for us to know how many pills either dog had eaten, we had to assume a full bottle’s worth of pills was consumed by both. NSAIDs have a narrow safety margin, meaning overdose can happen even with one or two extra pills—not only that, but NSAID overdose can lead to severe stomach ulcers and failure of the liver and kidney. First, we induced vomiting, but when no pills were produced, we had to admit both dogs to our hospital to flush them with IV fluids and administer medications that helped reduce the risk of ulcers.

NSAIDs are usually metabolized within 48-72 hours, so we kept both dogs for observation over that time. Buddy’s liver and kidneys were fine, so he was discharged before Delilah, who had to be hospitalized for an additional two days due to injury to her kidneys from the overdose. Delilah was sent home after she stabilized, but it was a close call. If her owners hadn’t gotten her to the veterinarian so quickly, her kidneys might have shut down.

All’s well that ends well, but the moral of both stories is that it’s important to keep all medications away from your pets unless they’re being carefully administered. Given how difficult it can be to get a pill into your pet sometimes, it may seem like your animal is safe from accidentally ingesting medication, human or animal, but accidents can happen. especially This is especially the case with medications that are flavored to be tempting as well as with human medications that may look or smell interesting or unusual.

Best practice is to keep all medication, human or animal, on counters they can’t reach, or even better, behind the doors of your medicine cabinet. Don’t leave bottles on nightstands—even “child proof” plastic bottles can be destroyed by the powerful jaws of animals that like to chew.

August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day. Yes, this day is for human overdoses, but pets can overdose too, and International Overdose Awareness Day is as good an excuse as any to look over your home and see what’s lying about waiting for an accident to happen, or to make things even safer by tucking your medicines even further out of reach!

VRC is a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital located in the greater Philadelphia area. If you suspect your pet has overdosed, contact our emergency medicine and critical care center. It’s open 24/7, 365 days a year.

Case Study: The Dangers of Allowing Your Dogs to Play with Sticks

Summer is here, which means great weather for you to play with your dog in the park. Regular readers of this blog will know VRC, your specialty veterinary healthcare hospital, recommends appropriate exercise for dogs of all ages, but today we’re talking about the dangers of one common activity for dogs—playing fetch with sticks you find on the ground. While playing fetch with a stick is an iconic image of dog ownership, it’s much safer to use a ball or other toy with your dog.

Dr. John Anastasio, our medical director and a board-certified criticalist at VRC, recommends dog owners never play fetch with sticks off the ground. A good example of why owners should avoid this practice is the case of “Sadie”..

Pet Health Situation and Challenge

Sadie came into the ER after a night of coughing and gagging. She was obviously experiencing neck discomfort, and gagging was triggered when the affected area was touched. Her owner had noticed her chewing on a stick, a favorite activity of Sadie’s, and because of all this Dr. Anastasio suspected a foreign body lodged in her esophagus.


The first step to treating Sadie was to run routine lab work. Afterward, Dr. Anastasio recommended putting her under general anesthesia so that an endoscopic evaluation of Sadie’s mouth and throat could be completed. During that procedure, VRC’s experts noticed a small puncture wound with a protrusion. It could not be removed with endoscopic instruments, so Sadie was operated on to remove a seven-inch stick lodged in her throat.

Results and Recovery

Sadie recovered well and seems in good health post-operation. VRC’s veterinarians recommended post-operative observation for a few months, as there was some concern she might experience scarring, narrowing of the esophagus, or infection. But, after three months, Sadie is doing fine.

What Pet Owners Need to Know

What’s the takeaway from this case study? Obviously, Sadie’s case is somewhat unusual, but she’s not the only dog we’ve seen here at VRC who has needed emergency care after picking up and playing with sticks outside. We have treated dogs who have had sticks lodged across the roof of the mouth, splinters, punctures, lacerations, eye injuries and even eye loss, internal blockages due to ingestion of wood, impalement of the heart and lungs, and obstruction of the respiratory tract.

Dogs love to pick up sticks, and the temptation for a pick-up game of fetch can be strong, but the best thing to do is limit your dog’s contact with sticks. Keep your yard as clear of sticks and twigs as you can, but also teach your dog the command “leave it” so that he or she will be able to resist the temptation to pick up sticks while on a walk. Only play fetch with a stick-shaped toy from the pet store, or something like a tennis balland allow your dog to satisfy his or her urge to chew with appropriate items in a supervised environment. Of course, we know dogs love to pick up items off the street, but it’s important to do your best to make sure what goes in their mouth isn’t going to harm or choke them, necessitating a trip to your veterinarian in the greater Philadelphia area.

Dr. Anastasio is a board-certified criticalist at VRC, a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital located in the greater Philadelphia area. If you’re in need of our emergency medicine and critical care services,  we are open 24/7, 365 days a year.

Case Study: Approach to Premature Closure of the Distal Radial Physis


Gayle Jaeger, DVM, MSpVM, DACVS, an orthopedic and soft tissue surgeon at VRC, has been treating a Golden Retriever puppy named Lito after his distal radial physis closed prematurely.  As a result, his right radius was shorter than the adjacent growing ulna with subluxation of the elbow joint. If left untreated, this would progressively create lameness and complete dysfunction of the limb.

History & Diagnostics

Lito initially presented to Dr. Jaeger in early December 2016 at 5.5 months of age, with a progressive three-week history of right front limb lameness unresponsive to rest and anti-inflammatories. Radiographs at that time revealed evidence indicating premature closure of his distal radial physis with secondary elbow subluxation.

Initial Radiographs

Above are lateral radiograph projections of the front limbs. The left is the normal side and the right is the affected side. Notice the open left distal radial physis on the left compared to the closed distal radial physis 
on the right. Also, note the shorter length of the right radius compared to the ulna as well as the resultant radiohumeral (elbow) incongruity.



Partial Ulnar Ostectomy

A partial ulnar ostectomy was elected in an attempt to curb the secondary effects this incongruity would create on the elbow and carpal joints. By performing this procedure, we realized that over time his right antebrachium and overall limb length would be shorter than his left side. Our first priority was to save his elbow joint from discomfort and irreversible damage as the ulna continued to push up against the humerus.


Above are post-operative lateral radiographs of the right antebrachium before and after the partial ulnar ostectomy. There is immediate mild improvement of the step between the height of the radius and ulna simply by releasing tension in the longer ulna. This improved further with weight bearing on the limb.

Second Partial Ulnar Ostectomy

Unfortunately, due to his young age, Lito’s ulna healed prematurely requiring a second partial ulnar ostectomy to remove more of the ulna while he continued to grow.

Note above how the step between the radius and ulna improved with weight bearing, making his elbow more comfortable and preventing deformity.

Once his growth plates started closing and we knew how long his normal leg would be as an adult, we could measure the true length deficit of his right side and start planning to lengthen his limb. The affected right radius was ultimately almost 4 cm shorter in length than the normal left side.

Above depicts the left fully-grown normal limb versus the shorter right limb. Note the persistent changes of his right elbow compared to his left.

Radial Osteotomy & Stryker Triax External Skeletal Fixator Application

We contacted Stryker for assistance in providing a special external skeletal fixator called the Triax.  This device would allow us to slowly lengthen his leg over time. The external connecting bar of the Triax frame has the ability to lengthen bone by turning a distraction bolt; separating two bone segments in small increments. Lito again went into surgery and we repeated the partial ulnar ostectomy, created a radial osteotomy, and applied the external fixator.


Post-operative radiographs of the radial osteotomy and application of the Stryker Triax External Skeletal Fixator.

Slowly, we distracted and lengthened the limb by having the owners turn the distraction bolt on the fixator in small increments every day.


After a month of distraction, we can see the amount of bone length that was achieved (figure below). There is also a cone of new bone at each end of the osteotomy. When performing these distraction procedures, there is a fine balance in timing. If performed too slowly, the bone may heal before distraction is complete. If performed too quickly there is not enough time to allow the soft tissues (tendons, muscles and ligaments) to stretch with the bone, which may impede full extension of the carpus.  During his distraction, Lito has also been involved in a rigorous formal physical rehabilitation program.

Lateral radiograph after one month of distraction. Note the length of the distraction gap and the new bone forming from each fragment end.

Once Lito’s distraction program was completed and the desired radial length was achieved, the bone was permitted to consolidate. When complete healing occurred, his fixator was removed. He continues physical rehabilitation to improve his joint range of motion, build muscle mass and improve overall limb use.

Above: Lito’s radius has almost completely healed.