CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University is beginning construction to renovate and expand the large animal clinic in the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital on campus, which will allow the College of Veterinary Medicine to enhance its treatment and care of horses, as well as cattle, sheep, llamas, alpacas and other animals.

Groundbreaking for the $12-million project was held this week and construction is scheduled to begin in December.

When completed in the spring of 2008, the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Teaching Hospital-Large Animal Clinic will boast an intensive care unit, an expanded isolation area, a covered lameness evaluation arena, an imaging wing that includes facilities for modern computed tomography and a nuclear medicine suite, offices and laboratory and teaching space for faculty.

There will even be a treadmill for dynamic evaluation of equine patients.

"It will be an important addition to our college, which is growing by leaps and bounds," said Rich Holdren, interim dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. "It will increase the capacity of the college to treat more of Oregon's large animals and offer more sophisticated diagnosis and care. It also will provide excellent opportunities for our students as they work side by side with faculty on clinical cases."

OSU's College of Veterinary Medicine is the only such professional program in Oregon, and the demand for research to support the state's private animal owners, cattle and sheep industries, and racehorse and equestrian operations is growing rapidly. Although most of the new large animal hospital's patients likely will be horses, OSU has become one of the nation's leading institutions for its work with llamas and alpacas.

"One of the most important benefits of the expansion will be our ability to better treat and prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases - those diseases that can move between animals and humans," said Tom Riebold, a professor in the college's Clinical Sciences Department. "One prime example is cryptosporidosis, a disease caused by a parasite that can severely sicken and even kill people.

In 1993 that parasite, cryptosporidium, killed more than 100 people and made 400,000 others ill in Milwaukee, Wis., by getting into the water system.

Treatment of these and other communicable diseases will improve because of the hospital's new large animal isolation area, which will allow evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of animals without fear of transmission - to humans or other animals.

Riebold said the large treadmill will allow faculty to observe horses while exercising and aid in diagnosing their problems. Some injuries or syndromes are not apparent at rest, he pointed out.

"Some horses develop subtle airway problems, and if you examine them standing still, you may be unable to diagnose the problem because the abnormality isn't present when the horse is at rest," Riebold said. "Yet the horse remains unable to get enough oxygen to meet its needs and can't race or perform satisfactorily.

"With our new facility, we will be able to monitor the horse's airway using an endoscope while it is running on the treadmill," he added. "It will also be a valuable research tool, allowing faculty members to duplicate the effort expended by a horse while exercising in a controlled and repeatable fashion."

The imaging wing of the new building will expand the hospital's capability in at least two areas, OSU leaders say. The new wing has accommodations for computed tomography - a capability that will be used for both the large and small animal patients. The college frequently must refer several clients a week to Portland to get necessary diagnostics, Holdren said.

"With this new facility, we will be able to provide state-of the-art diagnostics here while minimizing the stress on both our human clients and the animal patients," Holdren said.

The nuclear medicine unit will allow OSU veterinarians to use a gamma camera on large animals to follow radioactive isotopes that indicate areas of inflammation in the animals. It more quickly and accurately identifies stress fractures and other injuries that are difficult to pinpoint through X-rays and other imaging technologies.

The new covered lameness evaluation arena will allow the hospital's faculty members to walk, trot and canter horses in a more controlled environment during inclement weather instead of performing those evaluations outdoors.

"This new facility is simply critical and will greatly improve the capacity of the college to provide the kind of treatment and research that Oregon needs," Holdren said. "We are excited that construction is beginning and are looking forward to its completion."

The project is being supported by a $5-million pledge from the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation.

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Rich Holdren,