Health and Medicine

Part of what made mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE) such an insidious health problem was its slow creep. Some epidemiologists are growing concerned about another epidemic caused by prions that has been gathering steam for decades: chronic wasting disease (CWD), an illness like mad cow disease but found primarily in wild populations of elk and deer. The differences between it and mad cow disease are important but so, too, are the parallels.

I spoke about this with my science communications pal Jay Ingram, who wrote about the spread of CWD in his most recent book is Fatal Flaws: How a Misfolded Protein Baffled Scientists and Changed the Way We Look at the Brain (HarperCollins 2012). Read more about it in my column for SmartPlanet “The slow march of chronic wasting disease.”

Back in 2009, I patted our dog Newman on the head for what I later calculated was about the 15,000th time. That time proved different from every other, however. My fingers found an unexpected depression half the size of a ping-pong ball above and behind his right eye.

That was how my wife and I discovered that our dear pet had a brain tumor, and it marked the beginning of a nearly two year adventure in learning how dogs are treated for cancer—and how, for better or worse, their treatment differs from what humans receive. Read more about it in my Txchnologist story “Cancer and Dogs: One Pet’s Tale.”

Anahad O’Connor was nice enough to take note of my piece in a “Well Pets” column that she wrote for The New York Times, entitled “Chemotherapy for Dogs.”

This memorial to Newman also wouldn’t be complete without the beautiful video that my wife put together for him: