Famous Cat Treated at PVM Helps Other Animals through Fundraiser

Mike Bridavsky and Lil BUB with Purdue veterinary surgeons Mark Rochat (left) and Sarah Malek.
Mike Bridavsky and Lil BUB with Purdue veterinary surgeons Mark Rochat and Sarah Malek.

Lil BUB, the famous Indiana feline who received a very specialized surgical procedure at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH), helped the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine successfully complete its first crowdfunding campaign to benefit future patients with similar special needs. The campaign to raise funds for purchase of the hospital's very own Lil BUB Surgery Set concluded April 1, after reaching 102% of the goal, for a total of $7,150!

Lil BUB is a one-of-a-kind critter with more than 2.6 million internet followers. The runt of a feral litter, Lil BUB was rescued and given to Mike Bridavsky, of Bloomington, Ind., several years ago. A recording engineer with his own studio, Mike realized that Lil BUB was a very special animal. She is a toothless, dwarf cat with an extra toe on each paw and a very rare bone disease in felines, called osteopetrosis, which makes bones abnormally dense and prone to fracture. With her medical challenges and unique personality, Lil BUB is described by Mike as "the most remarkable creature in the world." An advocate for other special needs pets all over the world, Lil BUB spreads hope to many as she and Mike encourage the adoption of pets and helping those less fortunate.

In November 2015, everything changed suddenly when Lil BUB slipped and took a minor tumble that would be inconsequential for other cats, but, in her case, broke her elbow. Lil BUB's veterinarian, Dr. Art Woodruff (PU DVM '82), referred Mike to Dr. Kent Stauffer, a board-certified veterinary surgeon, who then referred the case to the Purdue VTH. That's when Dr. Sarah Malek, assistant professor of small animal orthopedic surgery, and Dr. Mark Rochat, clinical professor of small animal orthopedic surgery, got involved.

Dr. Malek researched the case and, understanding the patient's unique needs, arranged for surgery using a very specialized miniature bone plate and screw system. The special small tools are not inventoried at the VTH; so, with the help of Brian Gilbert and Maria Cunningham from DePuy Synthes, Dr. Rochat was able to have the Locking Compression Plate System overnighted to the VTH in preparation for the surgery.

"Because Lil BUB's bones are fragile, we knew we had one chance to stabilize the broken elbow without further fracturing," said Dr. Rochat. Dr. Malek further explained, "The special screws cut their own threads in the bone, and lock the plate so that less is required of the bone while healing occurs."

After the surgery, Lil BUB faced further challenges on recovery from anesthesia, requiring a temporary tracheostomy until she was able to breath normally on her own once more. "The ultimate success of the surgery would not have been possible without the diligent care of the VTH clinicians, veterinary technicians, and fourth-year veterinary students involved with her care," said Dr. Malek. "The emergency and critical care team led by Dr. Aimee Brooks, the anesthesia team led by Dr. Jeff Ko and the surgery team worked together to ensure the optimal recovery of Lil BUB."

Dr. Mark Rochat pauses for a selfie with Mike Bridavsky and Lil BUB in the VTH.
Dr. Mark Rochat pauses for a selfie with Mike Bridavsky and Lil BUB in the VTH.

Dr. Malek added that at the seven week check-up, the elbow had healed sufficiently for the cat to resume her normal routine. "We believe this may be the first time this kind of surgery was successfully performed in a cat with osteopetrosis," Dr. Malek said.

Mike said what meant the most to him is how the VTH Team cared for Lil BUB like any other patient, with painstaking care focused on finding the best treatment for her special needs. "I was so comforted when Dr. Malek told me, 'I did a lot of research...and this is what I think we should do,'" Mike said. "I knew she was really concerned for Lil BUB because she was a patient, not because she is a famous cat." After the check-up, Lil BUB returned home to be with Mike and his wife, Stacy, who Mike says he actually met because of Lil BUB. More information about Lil BUB and her exploits are available on her website.

The idea of raising funds for the VTH to acquire a Lil BUB Surgery Set grew out of conversations between Mike and Drs. Rochat and Malek. With the new Lil BUB Surgery Set, made possible by the successful crowdfunding campaign, the hospital will be able to expand its services even further to treat other injured small cats and dogs, exotic pets like chinchillas, and wild animals like eagles.

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