animals – On Wisconsin For UW-Madison Alumni and Friends Thu, 27 Jun 2019 17:02:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 World’s Smallest Monkeys Tue, 28 May 2019 14:47:34 +0000

Irene Duch-Latorre

The UW announced the winners of this year’s Cool Science Image contest in April: 10 photos and two videos, including this shot of pygmy marmosets submitted by Irene Duch-Latorre PhDx’20. “Pygmy marmosets are the smallest monkeys in the world,” she wrote. “While their pocket-friendly size makes them cute, it also makes them desirable exotic pets, and [they are] frequently trafficked far from their home range in the Amazon River basin.” See other winners on the UW News site.

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Raw Talent Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:30:13 +0000 After college, Marie Moody ’90 moved to New York City, studied acting, got fired from waitressing jobs, worked in fashion marketing, and adopted two dogs: first Stella, then Chewy.

Chewy’s health was failing, and Moody learned that changing his diet had the potential to help. She began preparing her pups meals of raw meats, fruits, and vegetables: a fresh, unprocessed menu intended to be closer to the animals’ ancestral fare. The raw-food diet helped Chewy fully recover — and fired up Moody’s entrepreneurial spirit. She filled her tiny Manhattan apartment with industrial freezers, made her own raw-food blends, and took taxis to personally deliver her small-batch product to customers.

Fifteen years later, Stella & Chewy’s is a multi- million-dollar, national pet-food brand, headquartered in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Moody has stepped away from her role as chief executive; she now serves as founder and chairman of the board.

What keeps you most engaged with Stella & Chewy’s?

Getting people on board who are much smarter than me has been so much fun. To build a brand is like pushing a boulder uphill, so the more people doing it, the better it is.

How have the preferences of pet owners changed over time?

People are able to access so much information, and I think that helps [them] make more educated and intelligent decisions about what they want to feed both themselves and their pets. Pets are our family members, and the kind of unconditional love they give has become really important. With the evolution of the internet and social media, there’s something in between us and other people oftentimes. With your pets, you communicate in person.

You were one of the first entrepreneurs to bring raw pet food to market.

When I started, raw was a bad word. People were like, “Oh, you can’t call it raw. Can you call it gently uncooked?” When people hear raw meat, they still need to sometimes be talked through it, because they might think there could be a food-safety concern. But openness to raw feeding has come a long way.

Is it true that you collaborated with UW scientists on food safety?

I could not have done it without people at the UW. It’s funny, because I was an English major and a women’s studies major, and I came back and worked with an animal nutritionist and a meat scientist. I didn’t even know there was a building for meat science [on campus].

You know more about pathogens than the average person.

I know all about bacteria. More than I want to.

When you worked with UW scientists, was there a breakthrough moment?

They were able to point me to a technology called HPP [high pressure processing, a food-preservation method that retains nutrition and eliminates harmful bacteria]. There was one place to have it done [on a fee-for-service basis] in the United States 10 years ago, and it was in Milwaukee. It was pretty serendipitous.

How did your women’s studies major influence the Stella & Chewy’s brand?

I was coming out of the fashion industry, so I was looking at things like how to name it something besides “Natural Champion,” you know, like a really boring name. Because raw diets were already a brand-new way of thinking, I wanted something that was a little more approachable and friendly. Women’s studies really forced me to question the existing corporate hierarchy. For example, when I wanted to build a manufacturing plant, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t. And that’s thanks to the women who came before us. So I do feel a sense of responsibility to pass that on and to help women coming up now. That gives me great joy.

Has your advice changed for those who want to step forward in business as you did 15 years ago?

It’s fun to be at this point in my life and to have anything to offer the next generation in terms of advice. People complain about millennials, but I love millennials. I love the way they’re going about building businesses that are more concerned about the environment and sustainability and giving back.

How many pets do you have at home?

One cat, one dog, one kid. We were getting hate mail at Stella & Chewy’s that we weren’t focused enough on cats. My son and I were at a rescue event, and I told him he could pick one out. I just wanted to understand. You know how cats are.

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That’s Ruff Thu, 01 Sep 2016 16:45:01 +0000 Apart from being quadrupedal, furry, and commonly found on your couch, cats and dogs have little in common. But the two species share one more — much less fortunate — trait: both can contract canine influenza.

Sandra Newbury DVM’03, clinical assistant professor and director of the UW School of Veterinary Medicine’s Shelter Medicine Program, confirmed earlier this year that the virus — previously confined to dogs in the Midwest — had started to spread to cats. The outbreak in canines began in the Chicago area in 2015, and it was later found in several shelter cats in Indiana. It also became clear that the virus could be passed between cats.

The effects of the virus are mainly limited to upper respiratory symptoms in cats: runny nose, congestion, and excessive salivation. The symptoms are similar in dogs, but they also include a fever. Most dogs can be treated with the H3N2 vaccine, but there is currently no vaccine available for cats. In the spring, Newbury said that all infected cats had been quarantined, and that the shelter would continue monitoring for other outbreaks.



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Jan Ramer DVM ’95 Wed, 19 Aug 2015 20:04:33 +0000 Jan Ramer

Photo Courtesy © Gorilla Doctors/

The sun rises over the nine-thousand-acre expanse. Herds of sable antelope, southern white rhinos, and giraffes roam freely. Somewhere, a newborn Sichuan takin learns to walk. It’s another beautiful day in … Cumberland, Ohio.

This is the Wilds, a fourteen-square-mile safari park and conservation center smack-dab between Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s home to thirty-one rare and endangered species. It’s also where Jan Ramer DVM’95, the Wilds’ director of conservation medicine, goes to work every day.

“It’s first and foremost a conservation and research center,” says Ramer. “It’s also a drive-through safari park. You can go on safari drives right through the pastures and have camels, giraffes, and rhinos come right up to the truck, just like you would in Africa.”

And if anyone knows what it’s like to interact with wildlife in Africa, it’s Ramer. Before joining the Wilds, she regularly made six-hour hikes through rainforests in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda to care for sick and wounded mountain gorillas, a subspecies of eastern gorillas. For two two-year periods (broken up briefly by a stateside job at the Indianapolis Zoo), Ramer worked as the regional veterinary manager for Gorilla Doctors, an international nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of Africa’s critically endangered mountain-gorilla population. That habituated species is the only great ape population that is currently increasing — thanks, in part, to Gorilla Doctors.

“Gorilla Doctors makes a difference and is really contributing to the conservation of eastern gorillas in the wild,” Ramer says. “It felt good to be on the cutting edge of conservation in that way, with such a wonderful team.”

Ramer has always wanted to focus on zoo and wildlife work, particularly nondomestic medicine. “The Wisconsin [School of Veterinary Medicine] was really great about offering extracurricular opportunities and allowing me to go off campus to seek experiences in nondomestic species,” she says.

Even though Ramer completed her undergraduate degree at Purdue, she is a Badger at heart. As a child, she went to summer camps near Eagle River. She and a group of Madison friends reconnect to go camping on Rock Island each year. And she’s made it back to campus to speak at the veterinary school.

“There’s something about the UW and about Madison that makes people want to stay — and stay in touch,” she says.

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Philip Tedeschi ’84, MS’87: Animal Alliances Fri, 27 Feb 2015 15:14:09 +0000 Phil-Tedeschi2

Philip Tedeschi and his lab, Samara, have a close bond. Photo: Terese Bergen.

Every day is Take Your Dog to Work Day for Philip Tedeschi ’84, MS’87. And you couldn’t find a better-tempered, sweeter-eyed dog than Samara, Tedeschi’s black lab — which is only to be expected from the poster dog of a cutting-edge, animal-assisted therapy program.

Tedeschi is the executive director of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) at the University of Denver, which he co-founded in 2005. Housed within the university’s School of Social Work, the institute offers an animal-assisted social-work certificate to students in the master’s degree program, and distance learners can earn an animals-and-human-health certificate.

It all started at the UW. As a student in the veterinary program, Tedeschi moonlighted teaching horseback riding to adults with schizophrenia. The positive changes he saw in the riders left him fascinated with human-animal interactions. His advisers suggested that he leave the vet school to design his own major. Citing Aldo Leopold as a major influence, Tedeschi says he drew from psychology, educational psychology, social work, occupational therapy, physical and recreational therapies, and companion-animal and equine sciences to create his independent major. He stayed on at the UW and completed his master’s in social work in 1987.

While several veterinary schools have related programs, IHAC’s approach of looking at animal-human interactions through the lens of social science is very new, says Tedeschi, and the response has been overwhelming. Hundreds of the program’s graduates have specialized in animal-assisted therapy, and distance learners have represented every continent except Antarctica.

“Animals are now in human health-care environments across the whole human lifespan,” Tedeschi says. IHAC alumni use animal interventions to help many populations, including survivors of school shootings, children in forensic interviews, self-destructive people in prisons, children with autism, and seniors with depression. “[Our graduates] have opened clinics everywhere from Singapore to Latin America,” he adds.

IHAC is also interested in companion animals and their role in providing an “everyday form of mental health” for millions of people. “That really is a major part of the way people cope with everyday stressors,” he says. “They’re some of the most important relationships we have.”

The institute has formed many national and international alliances. Tedeschi was recently at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to set up internships with the Warrior Canine Connection project, which uses dogs to help service members with PTSD. Last year, the institute hosted its first international conference on the role of animals in trauma recovery. Tedeschi has advocated for biodiversity protection and animal welfare at the UN. He’s taken many students to East Africa, where he encourages them to examine the correlations among ivory poaching, deep poverty, and terrorism.

“I’ve been [at the institute] nearly twenty years,” Tedeschi says, “and this year will be the most exciting yet.”

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Liking Lichen Fri, 27 Feb 2015 15:03:50 +0000 shutterstock_65415661

Lichens are an important part of the world’s ecosystem. They grow slowly but regularly, so they can be used to date major geological and climactic events. Lichens are also important to the diet of a variety of animals such as reindeer. Shutterstock photo.

The Wisconsin State Herbarium has added 60,000 samples to its collection.

Neatly filed away in drawers in the bowels of Birge Hall, tucked into carefully folded slips of paper, you’ll find bits of rare organisms from around the globe. At home within the Wisconsin State Herbarium, they are part of one of the world’s largest lichen collections — a collection that, in 2014, grew 60,000 samples larger.

A herbarium is a group of preserved plant specimens, and Wisconsin’s dates back to the UW’s founding. At the second meeting of the board of regents — in January 1849, a month before the first class gathered — that august group recommended that the university host a “cabinet of natural history.” Today, that “cabinet” holds more than 1.2 million specimens of plants, fungi, and lichens, making it the eleventh-largest herbarium in the Americas.

The Wisconsin State Herbarium’s lichen collection is particularly strong, with more than 180,000 specimens. Lichens are unusual in that they are composite organisms — they develop through a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and algae or bacteria. Each sample includes not only the dried lichen, but also its substrate — the material it was growing on.


Lichens found in the eastern Black Sea region of Turkey. Istock photo.

A scientist who studies lichens is called, not surprisingly, a lichenologist, and in the mid-twentieth century, the UW faculty included the man who wrote the book on lichenology: John Thomson MA’37, PhD’39. (Technically, he wrote the books, plural: Lichens of Wisconsin: American Arctic Lichens, volumes 1 and 2, and so on.) He made the herbarium home to a vast variety of lichens from around the state and across the far north.

In 2014, herbarium director Ken Cameron added 60,000 more specimens when he purchased the collection of German lichenologist Klaus Kalb.

“Kalb’s collection includes mostly specimens from the Old World tropics,” Cameron says. “We had to outbid some big competition — Harvard, the New York Botanical Gardens. But we had a lot to offer, including that we could keep his collection together, and it would round out what we already had.”

The herbarium’s materials are shared with researchers around the world. They can then study how the fungi, algae, bacteria, and substrate interact to create a composite. The UW’s lichens are also available for viewing digitally.

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Anteaters to Zebra Fish Fri, 27 Feb 2015 15:03:50 +0000 VetMed_Exotics14_9093

UW Veterinary Care staff and specialists serve a growing number of exotic-pet owners. Melanie Conklin relies on the clinic for the care of her animal menagerie, including this chinchilla, called Chinicula, and a hedgehog, named Hogmanay.

A UW service makes sure rare and wonderful species are in good hands.

When Hogmanay the hedgehog encounters an unfamiliar situation, he usually curls himself into a spiny little ball. But during a recent visit to UW Veterinary Care, the teaching hospital at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, he’s all curiosity, exploring the exam room with a flickering nose and dark, darting eyes.

Hogmanay is at the clinic to have a few skin lesions evaluated. For moral support, his owner, Melanie Conklin MA’93, has a few of his rodent pals in tow, including a puffy white chinchilla who lifts his forelimbs when he wants to be held, and a fidgety brown degu with a penchant for turning straw bedding and drinking water into cage sludge.



Conklin is part of a growing group of exotic-pet owners, and her small menagerie represents only part of the species mix. According to the 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, 20 percent of American households own pets other than cats or dogs, including birds, fish, and exotic or specialty animals, a category that encompasses reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, marsupials, primates, invertebrates, and more.

The UW Veterinary Care Special Species Service — part of the only Midwestern veterinary medical hospital with board-certified zoological medicine specialists on duty year round — has seen more than its fair share of these creatures. Although the majority of the caseload is more predictable, in recent years staff members have cared for a baby lizard weighing less than a gram, a lumbering one-hundred-pound African spurred tortoise, and even rarer patients, such as ring-tailed lemurs, a red panda, and an elusive harpy eagle.

Just like their dog and cat counterparts, exotic animals need annual wellness exams, says Christoph Mans, clinical assistant professor of zoological medicine. And the clinic supports specialists in areas ranging from dentistry to radiology when the animals need specialized care.



The benefits of this expertise extend from the clinic to the curriculum. Veterinary medical students complete a two-week rotation with the service in their fourth year, but their education about exotic animals begins in the classroom. Mans and Kurt Sladky ’81, MS’88, DVM’93, clinical associate professor of zoological medicine, teach a course that includes live lab sessions on how to handle and examine animals students will likely encounter if they go into practice. The two also train several zoological medicine residents and work in the lab to devise ways to manage pain in zoo, wildlife, and exotic pet species.

Conklin’s experience with the clinic began five years ago when one of her hedgehogs went into hibernation, a condition that can be fatal for domesticated versions of the little mammals. During a late-night phone call, she recalls, “They told me the steps for waking up a hedgehog properly. … They even called the next day to make sure everything was okay.”

As for Hogmanay’s recent visit? Mans determines that his lesions are not cause for serious concern, and prescribes a medication to help clear up the hedgehog’s skin.

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Quick Takes: Winter 2013 Mon, 11 Nov 2013 18:43:25 +0000 As the cold and flu season settles in, UW students have an opportunity to help researchers track how the flu spreads. Using a smart phone app downloaded from, students can help crowd-source data for associate professor Ajay Sethi of population health sciences and graduate student Christine Muganda. Their work is appropriate, as crowd-sourcing is also the best way to catch the flu.

UW Housing

The UW’s newest residence hall has been named in honor of Aldo Leopold. The former professor was the author of pioneering works in the field of conservation, such as A Sand County Almanac. The res hall, formerly known as “32 Hall,” is located next to the Allen Centennial Gardens and Kronshage Residence Hall.

Time magazine’s Harry McCracken has named journalism professor Deb Blum one of the top twenty-five bloggers in the country for 2013. Blum’s blog, which can be found on the site, is called Elemental.

Anxiety makes you think everything stinks — literally, it turns out. A team of UW researchers led by Wen Li conducted a study in which they discovered that stress and anxiety temporarily rewire the brain so that people perceive even neutral smells as malodorous.

Andrew Bernard

Tony Goldberg discovered a new tick species where he could not have wanted to: in his own nose. The veterinary medicine professor was studying chimps in Uganda when his guest latched on. DNA sequencing showed it was previously unknown. The discovery was serendipitous at best. “When you first realize you have a tick up your nose, it takes a lot of willpower not to claw your face off,” he says.

The UW has created the nation’s first tenure-track faculty position in Hmong-American studies. Yang Sao Xiong will fill the assistant professorship and teach within the School of Social Work’s Asian American program. Xiong’s work will focus on contemporary Hmong topics such as race relations, education, health, gender, oral and family history, and religious adaptations since the Hmong arrived in the United States.

Matthew Jensen

Matthew Jensen, an assistant professor of neurology, was one of 15 winners of a video-creating competition sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Khan Academy. Jensen’s ten-minute video explains the basics of the nervous system. It can be seen at

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See Spot Itch Sat, 10 Nov 2012 22:00:59 +0000

Courtesy of Douglas Deboer

And see Spot stop itching, thanks to a new method to ease dog allergies.

In dogs, allergies to dust, pollen, and mold cause itchy skin inflammation. One treatment is familiar to people suffering these allergies: daily shots to reduce the allergic reaction.

Dogs are not always fond of regular injections. It would be much nicer if somebody would show that a tasty liquid works just as well. And that’s what Douglas DeBoer, a professor of dermatology at the School of Veterinary Medicine, has done, with major assistance from two alumni of the School of Medicine and Public Health.

In tests on 217 allergic dogs in Wisconsin, DeBoer found that placing allergy drops under a dog’s tongue was just as effective as allergy injections. Sixty percent of the dogs improved significantly, about as many as would benefit from shots. Intriguingly, the drops even helped some dogs that did not benefit from shots.

Both shots and drops for treating allergies are old technology, but shots are more common in the United States. In the 1960s, David Morris MD’54, a physician in La Crosse, Wisconsin, began using drops with farmers who had severe mold allergies, but had experienced severe aching and swelling from allergy shots. In 2006, his daughter, Mary Morris MD’83, tested allergy drops on what she calls a “poor little golden retriever that was losing most of its coat, scratching uncontrollably.”

The drops were successful, and Mary Morris contacted DeBoer, a respected veterinary dermatologist. “He was extremely skeptical, and he basically told me, ‘No,’ ” she says. “But much to his surprise, it actually worked.”

And what do the dogs think? “The drops have a slightly sweet flavor,” DeBoer says. “Owners say their dogs run toward them when they hear the bottle being opened. With the needle, they learn to run away.”

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