Rusty still spunky despite cancer treatments

Friday, October 10, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:48 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

While Rusty the therapeutic riding horse undergoes radiation treatment at MU, equine health manager Wendy Vail gives daily updates to his riders and volunteers 630 miles away in Ohio.

“I can’t walk through the doors of the center without someone asking me, ‘What’s the Rusty update?’” Vail said on Tuesday.

Vail said radiation is done every other day, and Terri Warhover, the MU resident in radiation and oncology who is treating Rusty, e-mails updates after each treatment.

Vail said the updates tell her that Rusty has not shown any of the anticipated negative side effects, such as skin irritation and loss of appetite. About two-thirds of the way through his radiation treatment, Rusty is eating well and “still full of spunk,” Vail said.

Five weeks ago, Rusty’s caretakers brought him from Ohio to MU’s College of Veterinary Medicine for treatment for cancer of the eye. Treatment for the therapeutic riding horse was financed by fund raising in Oregon, Ohio.

Jim Lattimer, another MU veterinarian in charge of Rusty’s radiation treatment, said the outlook is “cautiously optimistic, but the prognosis is still guarded.”

Lattimer said there is not a lot of literature on such cases, so it is difficult to know how the tumor will respond to treatment. Rusty has about five days of treatment left.

Vail said reports from the MU veterinarians say the tumor is soft and appears to be shrinking in size.

Lattimer said that any follow-up treatments will probably be done at Ohio State University, closer to Rusty’s hometown.

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