Veterinary Neurology of the Chesapeake | Jay McDonnell, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM | Annapolis & Towson, MD


Welcome to VNoC's "Happy Tails" section!  We would love to add more happy tails and encourage you to email us to submit your update, story or just tell us how your pet is doing.


Houligan the Pug and the Canine Vaccine Trial

In April 2015, VNoC announced that it is participating in two brain research projects that, long-term, could have implications for humans. One research project is a canine vaccine trial at the University of Minnesota, that is studying malignant gliomas and meningiomas and has shown extended survival with both tumor types.


This is the story of one of VNoC's patients, an 8 1/2 year-old Pug named Houligan, who is participating in this trial, as told by his owner, Amy S.


We got Houligan when he was 8 weeks old. He's the first dog I've ever had, though my husband has had dogs before, and he's become a member of our family.


In January, Houligan began to have seizures. We went to the emergency veterinarian who prescribed phenobarbital. It seemed to work at first, but 3 or 4 weeks later, Houligan had more seizures. That's when we came to see Dr. McDonnell, who recommended an MRI. The results showed a tumor. Dr. McDonnell explained that it could be a 'good' tumor in a bad spot — but in the end, it turned out to be a bad tumor in a bad spot in the brain. I really appreciated how Dr. McDonnell was able to simplify what was a complex problem and diagnosis — especially at time that was quite emotional, learning what was wrong with Houligan.


We elected to go forward with surgery in early March. [Dr. McDonnell performed a rostrotentorial craniectomy.] Houligan did well during the surgery, and stayed three nights for after-care. He did have a tough recovery at home, and my husband, who's an ICU nurse, stayed with him. Over time, he got stronger; by now (June) I'd say he's 80 percent better. His back foot scrapes a bit, so we put a booty on it; and he may have lost vision in one eye, but he's compensated well.


At his three month check-up, we started the vaccine trial. The vaccine's actually made using cells harvested from Houligan's tumor. He has had six rounds of vaccine—one every two weeks—in the back of the neck. The good news is that he seems to be doing well.


I think it's wonderful that our Houligan is a medical pioneer for the good of mankind. I know we're living on borrowed time, but I'm thankful for every minute of it. Houligan's had an amazing life and any extension of it is appreciated.


Board Certified Veterinary Neurologist Dr. Jay McDonnell | Annapolis & Towson, MD