Ask the Vet: Gumby to the Rescue!

When Angele Bice, DVM saw that more and more kittens at Charleston Animal Society were suffering a type of eye issue brought on by common upper respiratory infections (URI), she started doing research. “The challenge we were running into was that we couldn’t extract enough serum from these tiny kittens to treat their eyes,” Dr. Bice said.

In her role as Associate Director of Veterinary Care at Charleston Animal Society, Dr. Bice stumbled onto a unique solution that would involve someone our readers know very well – Gumby!  Carolina Tails featured Gumby in our Winter 2015 issue, profiling him as the “Houdini of the Lowcountry.” 11 times families tried to adopt this sweet, loving hound, but 11 times, he would hop a fence, or open a latch, and somehow, come running back to Charleston Animal Society.

“The staff unanimously decided that Gumby wanted to live here, so we officially adopted him as our live-in Charleston Animal Society ambassador in January,” said Charleston Animal Society CEO, Joe Elmore.  Since he officially settled into his new digs in the “300 section” of Charleston Animal Society, Gumby has displayed some amazing talents. The behavior team discovered that Gumby was a natural “greeter dog” for playgroups, so each day, he is the leader of the pack when it comes to training the new guys on becoming friendly, social, playful pets.

But back to our story…

Dr. Bice researched and discovered that an ophthalmologist had successfully used dog’s blood to create the serum needed to treat the corneal ulcerations that develop in kittens battling URI. What’s more, one blood draw from a large dog could produce enough serum to treat 10 to 15 kittens! “Many people ask why we don’t use adult cats and the reason is that we don’t have a full history on the cats that come in and using serum from them could spread disease,” Dr. Bice said. “A blood draw for a cat is very stressful on them and would only produce enough to treat one kitten.”

That’s when Gumby stepped in. “He is very easy to handle and is so happy-go-lucky, that he became the perfect candidate,” said Charleston Animal Society Senior Director of Veterinary Care Dr. Lucy Fuller. Now, every couple weeks or so, Gumby has his blood drawn and the resulting serum is used to treat kittens in the shelter. Fuller adds that kittens are monitored closely for any reaction to the Gumby-produced serum, such as inflammation or worsening of the eye disease.

“The program has been very successful,” Dr. Bice said, “we are seeing most of the kittens healing at a faster rate than without the serum.”

As for Gumby? On the day Carolina Tails was there, Gumby donated the blood, was given a treat and then insisted on running out to the play yard to check and see how the “newbies” were doing in the playgroup.