Thursday, January 16, 2020

Retired dog's physical therapy enhances quality of life

News Release: Physical rehabilitation at veterinary college enhances pets' quality of life

January 16, 2020 -- Saint, a retired Saint Francis service dog, loves baby food.
Frozen baby food.

And the 11-year-old black Labrador retriever gets plenty to encourage him during physical therapy at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

After developing hind limb weakness from neurologic causes, as well as general soreness and decreased mobility because of arthritis, Saint was referred to the college’s physical rehabilitation service by his veterinarian, Virginia Tech alumnus Thomas Blaszak ’05, D.V.M. ’09.

“Even taking joint supplements and various forms of pain medication and having undergone therapeutic laser treatments, Saint still endured arthritis,” said Blaszak. “Referring Saint for rehab at the veterinary college has helped him regain some muscle and strength in his legs, ultimately improving his mobility and quality of life.”

Saint’s owner, Krista Sinnott, a Realtor who volunteers for Saint Francis Service Dogs of Roanoke, Virginia, adopted the Lab when he needed a new home upon his retirement at age 8. He’s now a member of the family.

“Saint goes to work with me almost every day. He’s in his second career in commercial real estate,” she said. “We want him to be as active as he can be, but he began having trouble on his walks. He would stumble, and there was weakness in his rear end. He had a hard time getting up off the floor.”

Although Sinnott was unfamiliar with physical therapy for dogs, she was entirely receptive when Blaszak recommended it for Saint. “It has made a huge difference,” she said. “He plays a lot now. He’s taking longer walks, and he’s much more stable. We have stairs in our house, and he is much more confident going up and down and has far fewer spills. His quality of life is much better.”

Since his initial evaluation by the veterinary college’s rehab team in July 2019, Saint has visited the service regularly, first undergoing treatment twice weekly, then moving to weekly and now bimonthly.
During his first appointment, “Saint had no spunk,” said Florence “Flori” Bliss, a licensed veterinary technician who completed the Canine Rehabilitation Certificate Program. Having worked with him for several months, she definitely sees a change. “He has a job again,” she said. “He really lights up.”
A typical rehab session moves at a good clip, progressing from one exercise to the next to keep Saint interested and on his toes. First, short hurdles are lined up to form a mini-obstacle course on two long mats.
Saint steps over the hurdles willingly, one by one, up and back, all the while prompted by Bliss’ encouraging words — “Focus. Good boy. Good job.” — and the jar of frozen baby food she holds before his nose. The multiple repetitions of the exercise help his strength and balance, requiring him to pick up his feet at various times and shift his weight.

Bliss next leads the Lab through a series of sitting and standing exercises, “sit, sit; up, up; down, down,” which helps strengthen his hind-end muscles to offset the effects of neurologic issues and arthritis.
“This good boy, he knows exactly what to do,” said Bliss. “When we first saw Saint, he wasn’t able to do any of this. At home, he was having trouble with routine tasks like getting from a sit to a stand. Our focus was to improve his strength, balance, and core to help him go about his day with independence. For example, we started with some modified/assisted sit-to-stand exercises with low repetition; as he strengthened, we were able to progress to doing 10 reps independently now.”

Then, a rubber balance ball is brought out, and Saint places his front paws upon it, still licking at the jar. “This is another huge development,” Bliss said. “When we first assessed Saint, he would have fallen off or refused to do this exercise, which requires a lot of core work, balance, and confidence. Now, he has all three."

Quality Dog Collars

Tracking the baby food, Saint steps off the ball and is led for another go over the hurdles and then returns to stand on a larger ball. Though his back legs are shaking, he tolerates the exercise. “That was really good, buddy,” Bliss tells him. He has already licked his way through three jars of baby food.
The gradual repetition of the exercise has allowed Saint both to grow stronger and to develop his confidence, and he has finally graduated to putting his back legs on the ball. “We switch things up to keep him entertained,” Bliss said. “Repetition is good, but preventing boredom and targeting different muscle groups is important for these guys.”

In addition to floor exercises during his visits, Saint is also given an acupuncture treatment by fourth-year veterinary student Savannah Giannasi, who has completed the CuraCore Medical Acupuncture for Veterinarians certification course, the veterinary college’s course in complimentary medicine/physical rehabilitation. Highly popular among students, the rehab course was reinstated last year by associate professor of neurology Theresa Pancotto, a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences.
Saint is in good hands with Giannasi, last year’s American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians student member winner of the AARV/Royal Canin grant, allowing her to travel to the 2020 VMX Conference to present her case report, “Physical Rehabilitation Exercises, Laser Therapy, and Acupuncture on an 11-Year-Old CM Labrador Retriever with Osteoarthritis and Suspected Geriatric Onset Laryngeal Paralysis and Polyneuropathy,” during the AARV lecture track.

“I have a couple of goals for Saint today,” Giannasi said. “I definitely want to focus on the weakness in his hind limbs. And I’m going to do some range of motion beforehand as I also want to check on his joints for signs of pain and inflammation.”

Saint sprawls comfortably on a colorful mat during the session, hardly lifting his head to lick the baby food that Bliss offers while Giannasi inserts the needles with precision.

“These needles are super-tiny, and patients usually don’t feel much until after about five or 10 minutes,” said Giannasi. “They’ll let you know when they’re starting to feel a little sensation.”

When Giannasi has completed the acupuncture, it’s time for a more conventional spa treatment to close out Saint’s session. Bliss rises and walks over to the underwater treadmill, adjusts the ramp, and leads Saint into the tank.

“I remember the first time he went into the treadmill,” Bliss said. “He just flopped down as if he knew exactly what was going to happen.” She explained that many patients are uncertain when being introduced to the treadmill: a closed-in space with loud noises and a moving floor.

“We use a lot of positive reinforcement, and the owners are always present to reassure their pets," she said. “We have several different techniques when introducing patients to the water, depending on their personalities, and we never force anything. Most patients will acclimate within two or three sessions, but Saint was a pro after the first time.”

Once Bliss flips the switch, the holding tank quickly fills with warm water, some 400 gallons, and the treadmill begins moving. The machine makes a racket, but Saint walks in comfort because most of his weight is supported by the water, which helps take pressure off his joints. The exaggerated range of motion maintains joint health and the elasticity of surrounding muscles and tendons.

The water is kept between 78 and 82 degrees, so the tank time is truly therapeutic. Saint walks for nearly half an hour, intermittently offered a few licks of baby food to keep him on task. “He loves the water treadmill. This is when we get to know each other,” said Bliss with a big smile.

After the tank has completely drained, Saint is led back down the ramp to be dried. “We should scent the towels so it’s really like a spa in here,” said Bliss, who admitted that she’d purchased a hair dryer specifically for the heavy-coated Lab. Saint then receives a granola snack for his final reward.
“Both physically and mentally, Saint is just a brighter dog,” said Virginia Kiefer Corrigan, assistant professor of community practice in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner who also works in the rehabilitation department. “When he shows up, I always think to myself, ‘you look just like a puppy.’ He gets so excited, and it really warms everyone's heart because he has lived a tremendous life of service.”

Having participated in scores of rehab sessions, Corrigan added: “Not only do these older patients get physically better, their mental status improves because they have something to think about, something to work on, something to learn. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Look what Saint has learned in two months’ time.”

Rehab in the ‘spectrum of care’

Corrigan explained that, besides geriatric patients, the rehabilitation service also works with neurologic, post-surgical, and orthopedic patients, many of whom are referred to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital for treatment.

“Though first and foremost an educational institution for students, the veterinary college also serves as a referral base for local veterinarians,” Corrigan said. “We have the equipment and expertise in specialized areas to achieve the high level of care that our clients ask for. We’re happy to work hand-in-hand with our referring veterinarians, such as in Saint’s case, to provide services that they can’t necessarily provide in their own hospitals.”

Not only are patients helped by way of referrals to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, veterinary students benefit from exposure to a variety of different cases, what the college calls “a spectrum of care,” said Corrigan. “Our students are getting to see different options that are available to them after they graduate so that they can provide a breadth of different services and options, whether at their own clinics or as referrals.”


Rehabilitation services, Corrigan noted, “can be part of a comprehensive wellness plan for older, senior patients that commonly suffer from mobility issues, which can significantly impact their quality of life.” Besides medications and supplements, rehabilitation goes a step above and beyond: targeted exercises, time in the water treadmill, acupuncture, and laser therapy all help senior patients feel more comfortable.
“It's a very rewarding environment, but we certainly do always have needs in terms of keeping our equipment up to date,” Corrigan said. Although the rehabilitation center has gone through some transition and continues to grow, its personnel wants to keep the ball rolling.

As plans are ongoing to expand the Veterinary Teaching Hospital to meet space needs and modernize the facility, Corrigan said that the rehab space, which is currently tucked into a small room downstairs, deserves particular attention.

“Our current space was not originally intended for rehab services, but it has been repurposed,” she said. “The goal is to move the service upstairs by the hospital’s entrance, both for visibility and to facilitate access for older, less mobile patients.”

In addition, Corrigan said that the rehab service’s underwater treadmill is “reaching the end of its lifespan. We do have needs to replace that and the shockwave equipment and to expand other equipment, which could be really helpful for the service. There’s always something that we're working on and striving for.”
As expected, the benefit of having state-of-the-art equipment is twofold: Students learn to work with the latest equipment, and cutting-edge services and efficient equipment allow the Veterinary Teaching Hospital to offer the highest-quality patient care.

“With equipment like the newest MRI or CT machine, our doctors are getting the best images possible so that they can diagnose appropriately,” Corrigan said. “In rehab services, we’re able to provide the best types of exercises and therapy that are available.”

“As a university, we’re always striving to be the leader in the community,” Corrigan added. “We want everyone to know that they’re getting the best of the best at the veterinary college.”

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Before You Take The Pic Get Dad and Son Matching Outfits

When it comes to a really cool dad you have been willing to change the way you look. Mom’s gonna dress you but not because she is going to try and change you. It is all in an effort to look super cute with the baby. Whether it is a new baby or at a 2-year-old birthday party getting prepared to match. It is the trend today with all the different social media accounts that you can actually place pictures or posts on. Yep, it's not for you but you better roll with it.

And that’ where we come in. We try to stay away from the cheesy matching shirts and baby onesies. We actually have meetings to sit down and try and find the best and newest and yes even brainstorm on new ideas for dad and son matching outfits for any age including even dads with teens or grown sons. We have a lot of different ones to choose from.

Here are a few that we love. How about our newest one. Requesting Fly Baby – That’s A Negative Ghost Rider. Those two different quotes are from one of the movies of all time. Top Gun. By the time you read this, there will be others that have copied us and gotten these shirts out but I can tell you without a doubt these are hot sellers for any occasion. Great for just being super cute or at Valentines to take pics, Christmas, Dad’s Birthday and to show mom you are all in. Yep, that’s important. As a matter of fact, if you are a dad in the outhouse right now grab a set of our matching shirts and we are quite certain it will get you back where you belong.

Most of our apparel items take less than 24 hours to print. They are printed in the USA and ship from the USA. We take great pride in this. We also are adamant about not having a shipping charge. For us Free Shipping was a must-have. So when you visit you will see that every single item including hoodies ship at no cost to the USA. Now for those that need to get it quicker, we do offer 2nd day and even overnight options.

Finally, if you know a friend that is having a baby there is not a better gift than these daddy and me type shirts. These are great baby shower gifts as well as Christmas gifts etc. Here are some of the special occasions that we have t-shirt outfits for Valentines, Birthdays, Father's Day, Mother’s Day, Graduation, Christmas, Weddings, Dad’s Birthday, Grandpas bday and more. And just about any of these can be used for grandpa’s gifts as well. Check back often for a lot of new additions to the family.  New to the crew? We got you covered with all the different family-style shirts like family bear, shark, unicorn, pumpkin and more. 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

How to Get Your Child Socially and Emotionally Ready for the New School Year

Boy in Brown Hoodie Carrying Red Backpack While Walking on Dirt Road Near Tall Trees

Reena B. Patel, a licensed educational psychologist and author, offers tips on helping to prepare kids for the start of a new school year

SAN DIEGO, California – (August 1, 2019) – Labor Day marks the unofficial end of the summer, and the start of a new school year for most people. Many children experience anxiety at this time, being filled with the stress of what starting school again will entail. From bullying and being nervous about making friends and having a new teacher, there’s a lot that can weigh on a child. This stress can continue throughout the school year and have devastating consequences. According to the American Psychological Association, when children experience chronic stress it can contribute to psychological problems, as well as physical conditions. The good news is that there are plenty of things parents can do to help their child prepare.

“Kids don’t know just know how to handle their emotions, so it’s important for parents to take steps to help address them,” explains Reena B. Patel, a parenting expert, licensed educational psychologist, and author, who offer virtual workshops. “Parents who make emotional and social health a priority will help raise children who are more successful, stable, and experience less stress in life.”

There are many things parents can do to help prepare their children emotionally and socially for taking on a new school year. These include tips:
  • Teaching kids to embrace progress, rather than perfection. If they feel they have to get perfect grades, for example, they will have a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.
  • Setting your expectations for them based on your values. It’s important to let kids know what you expect for the school year from them, but that you realize there is room for error, too.
  • Taking the time to talk to your children about your own social mistakes, so they can learn from them. Let them know what mistakes you made and how you would have handled it differently if you could go back in time now.
  • Remembering that winning isn’t everything. Kids need to learn how to be a team member, and how to lose gracefully. Play games with them where they will lose at times, so they can learn good sportsmanship and resilience.
  • Discussing with them what “success” means. Teach them that we all learn through our mistakes on our way to success.
  • Kids need to know how to make friends, so discuss with them how to do that. Have your child pick five qualities you would want in a friend and then discuss the list with them. As social issues arise, refer back to that list of core values to see if the relationship is a good fit.
  • Having a family discussion about finding balance and discussing how much can be fit into one schedule. This is especially important when it comes to the number of extracurricular activities that can be taken on.
  • Making sure your kids know that it’s okay to ask for help. 
  • Making a social media discussion a priority if your child uses it, ensuring that they use the T.H.I.N.K. acronym regarding what they post online. T (is it truthful), H (is it helpful), I (is it inspiring), N (is it necessary), and K (is it kind).
  • Having a discussion about bullying. Remind them that bullying is never okay and that they need to speak up if it happens. Discuss having boundaries, speaking up, being a good role model, and getting help when needed.
  • Teaching your child coping skills, which will help them be better prepared to handle stress and anxiety.
  • Letting kids know the importance of focusing on the positives in life. They can do this by keeping a gratitude journal, and having a positive affirmation that they repeat each day.

“Most parents are focused on the supplies that kids need for school, but those pale in comparison to the emotional tools they need,” added Patel. “By making sure kids have the emotional and social tools and skills they need, they will be more likely to enjoy the school year, get better grades, and be happier, all of which are good.”

Patel has a new debut radio show on Dash Radio, North America’s first mainstream South Asian radio station, which premiered in April 2019. The station was founded by Rukus Avenue Music Group, and can be head on 24-7 on the Dash Radio app, as well as on the on the Dash Radio platform at 

Patel is the founder of AutiZm& More. As a licensed educational psychologist and guidance counselor, she helps children and their families with the use of positive behavior support strategies across home, school, and community settings. She does workshops around California, and virtual workshops globally where she provides this information to health professionals, families, and educators. She also offers concierge parenting services, helping families to reach specific goals, such as focusing on college admission. She is also the author of a book that helps children with anxiety coping strategies called “Winnie & Her Worries,” and author of a book about autism awareness and acceptance, called “My Friend Max: A Story about a Friend with Autism.” Both of her books are available on Amazon.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Xavier University to Transform Freshman Biology Experience through NSF Grant

New Orleans LA – Xavier University of Louisiana’s Biology Department has been awarded a $400,000 grant by the National Science Foundation through the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) over the course of three years.  This program, through the Targeted Infusion Projects (TIPs) competition, provides support to achieve short-term, well-defined goals to improve undergraduate STEM education.  The current TIP at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) seeks to re-design two freshmen lab courses as Course Based Research Experiences (CUREs).  Although merits of early research experiences are well-documented, very few freshmen at smaller institutions and HBCUs have research opportunities during their very first year of college. The proposed project aims at bridging this gap by infusing two authentic research projects in Biology’s foundational labs. The first, entitled the ‘Yeast ORFan’ project, in collaboration with Juanita College, PA, aims at characterizing unknown genes to determine their functions in yeast.  The second, in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), LA, is centered on discovering novel regulatory genes in Aspergillus (a filamentous fungus) species known to damage crops of human consumption. 

Due to a lack of having established CUREs as part of their curricula at undergraduate minority-serving institutions, there is a great need to study classroom-based research experiences and their multi-level impacts on underrepresented minorities (URMs) along with students who differ in factors like race and ethnicity.  “Xavier will be the first HBCU in Louisiana and likely the entire nation to convert high enrollment freshmen level courses into CUREs so that every single enrolled student will get to participate in exciting, integrative research and learn science by doing science,” said Dr. Shubha Ireland, Professor of Biology and Special Assistant to the Provost for Life Sciences Education at Xavier University.  “Based on current literature, we believe that this initiative will be a positive factor in increasing and maintaining student interest and retention in the sciences, which in turn, will have a direct effect in contributing to the ever-growing need for STEM graduates and post-graduates across the country.”  Ireland will serve as the Principal Investigator of this grant.  Three other faculty will serve as key personnel to implement this initiative: Dr. Andrea Edwards, the Conrad N. Hilton Endowed Chair of Computer Science), Dr. Hector Biliran, Associate Professor of Biology and Dr. Joanna Haye, Assistant Professor of Biology.

The two CUREs, designed to increase students’ scientific competencies, motivation and self-efficacy while broadening their knowledge of career options, will impact 500 plus freshmen each year.  Spanning over both semesters of their freshman-year, all incoming Biology majors will learn genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, statistics, and bioinformatics, along with research techniques to hone their analytical and problem-solving skills. The freshmen will also receive training in scientific writing and communication. The acquisition of these new skills and knowledge early on will have applications in upper level courses at XULA and contribute to student success in college and beyond.  

The impact of the XULA CURE model will be measured and assessed in multiple areas including affective gains and student retention rates in the department of Biology. By engaging every single Biology freshman in authentic research, this TIP will further enrich the XULA Biology curriculum, prepare the next generation of scientists and open new scientific career pathways.  With the participation of more than 1,500 students over the course of three years, this TIP will positively influence the numbers of URMs joining the US STEM workforce.  The first CURE will be launched in the Fall semester of 2019.

Friday, July 12, 2019

HELP! Spaymart in State of Emergency!

Image may contain: text
After serious flash flooding today in New Orleans and other parts of the state, Governor Edwards declared Louisiana to be in a state of emergency this afternoon.
A hurricane watch has been issued for parts of coastal Louisiana and some parishes have ordered evacuations ahead of anticipated rainfall and storm surge. New Orleans received 7 inches of rain in 3 hours. There are fears that the anticipated storm surge may even top levees in some places (SEE ARTICLE HERE)
Small shelters and rescues are contacting us for help, and we are mobilizing support as fast as we can, while trying to secure our own animals, facilities, and families. This unexpected weather emergency couldn't come at a more difficult time for us.
Please have any donations sent to the Spaymart Thrift Store at 6601 Veterans Blvd, Metairie, LA 70003
Keep up with updates on the Spaymart Facebook page and read the official announcement on the Spaymart website.


You all have been so generous and we appreciate your support during this state of emergency. Thanking you in advance.



SpayMart is a registered 501(c)3 public charity that runs a lifesaving animal welfare organization. Since 1998, they have worked diligently to enhance the lives of animals in the Greater New Orleans area and southeast Louisiana through programs directed at education, adoption, foster, rescue, and affordable spay/neuter. SpayMart’s goals are to: REDUCE pet overpopulation in the community PREVENT cruelty to all animals PROMOTE respect and compassion for all animals PROVIDE shelter and care for homeless and unwanted animals FIND loving, forever homes for the animals in our care.

Popular Posts

Blog Widget by LinkWithin