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The Vet Specialist

September 25, 2013

Dr. Leah Cohn, veterinary specialist with the University of Missouri, focuses on infectious, immune-mediated, and respiratory diseases.  Involved in comparative medicine, Cohn collaborates with Dr. Carol Reinero to find better asthma treatments for both cats and humans. 

 Story by:  Spencer Yelgren

Many animal owners look to their community veterinarians for routine checkups, immunizations, and treatment of minor illnesses and injuries. Community practice veterinarians are general practitioners, like family doctors. However, like family doctors, community practice veterinarians may see patients that could benefit from the care of a specialist. Dr. Leah Cohn, Professor of Small Animal Internal Medicine and Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, wants people to know that veterinary specialists exist, and at the University of Missouri Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, those specialists are on call to help.

Dr. Cohn is a specialist with a focus on “infectious, immune-mediated, and respiratory diseases.” Dr. Cohn tells SyndicateMizzou that she “can’t remember ever wanting to be anything but a veterinarian,” and that she has been working with animals since her first position at a veterinarian’s office at the age of 12. After earning a BA in Animal Science, she went on to obtain a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in her home state of Tennessee, and then elected to pursue specialization training involving a one year internship and a three year residency in internal medicine. After specialization training, Dr. Cohn’s interest in research and teaching led her to pursue a PhD in veterinary microbiology and immunology, as well as a postdoctoral fellowship in immunology. Dr. Cohn’s early interest in veterinary medicine has lead to a distinguished career at the University of Missouri over the past 18 years.

Specialists like Dr. Cohn are extremely important in Missouri, where the large tick population and prevalence of tick-transmitted diseases are significant dangers to animal health. One particularly deadly tick-borne disease, Cytauxzoonosis, is currently the main focus of Dr. Cohn’s research. Known colloquially as “bobcat fever,” Cytauxzoonosis was discovered at the University of Missouri in the mid 1970s and described by Dr. Joseph Wagner. The disease is caused by a complicated protozoal organism named Cytauxzoon felis (C. felis). The “reservoir species” for C. felis is the bobcat, which roams nearly the entire continental US. Bobcats infected with C. felis—for reasons not yet completely understood—are able to live through the infection and become persistent carriers of Cytauxzoon. Ticks that feed on bobcats can contract C. felis and spread the infection to any other felines, including domestic cats.  See more…