Basenji Companions

Devoted to Basenjis as Pets

Who Is Doctor Gonto?

Betsy Polglase, Massachusetts (with input from Dr. Steve Gonto)
(updated 2013)

Who is Dr. Steve Gonto, the man to whom those of us who have, and are maintaining, a Fanconi-afflicted dog owe so much? Steve Gonto. MMSC Crit.Care/Life Support, PHD/Med. Sci. is a clinician and a professor of clinical medicine. He is one of only 220 graduate members of the select, AMA-Recognized and approved MMSC program in Anesthesiology and Life Support Systems, which combines a high degree of knowledge in the fields of instrumentation, clinical research, biomedicine, and medical practice—a program within standard medical schools. He additionally has an advanced degree in the AMA recognized and approved Intensive Respiratory Care/Critical Care Medicine program. Members practice hands-on critical care and anesthesiology in operating rooms across the country.

Dr. Gonto is a full member of the American Academy of Anesthesiology Associates and the American College of Critical Care Medicine. He is a nationally Board Certified Specialist in Anesthesia/Advanced Life Support Systems and in Critical Care Medicine/Intensive Respiratory Care, Life Support Systems; specializing in neurological, cardiovascular, trauma, and transplantation medicine.

Graduates of this highly specialized course of discipline are Chief Anesthetists at Baylor, Cornell, and the University of Colorado; one is Director of Critical Care and Biomedicine for NASA, and others provided anesthesia for the first artificial heart transplants (Jarvic VII). Dr. Gonto teaches hands-on clinical medicine in the operating room to medical students, to anesthesiology students and to resident physicians from Emery School of Medicine, Mercer University School of Medicine, and the University of Georgia School of Medicine.

As Dr. Gonto succinctly put it, “If you are in the region of the Southeastern seaboard and you come into the hospital with anything serious enough to propel you into the operating room, such as a heart attack or a gunshot wound, the ‘baby blues’ that peer into your face and the hands attempting to save your life may well be mine.”

This high degree of training in putting together disparate areas of medical knowledge allowed Dr. Gonto to question the then-accepted veterinary treatment of Fanconi Syndrome when it appeared in his beloved family pet Basenji, “Cenji.” “Cenji’s” Fanconi Syndrome symptoms were steadily worsening—approached the critical stage. Dr. Gonto called veterinarians all across the U.S. and Canada, and all of them were very discouraging about saving “Cenji’s” life in the presence of Fanconi Syndrome. “She will die” was the consensus. The expectation for Fanconi Syndrome was that one after the other her internal organs would begin to fail and she would soon not be able to function. “Cenji” finally couldn’t even stand without crying out.

Desperate to save her, Dr. Gonto summoned all of his knowledge, began to test and to try to treat his dog, using the venous blood gas readings and complete blood panels that we all now use to figure out the status of the faltering renal tubule system of our Fanconi dogs. He began to experiment with adding the missing nutrients, protein, and buffers, giving the pills to “Cenji” in small balls of Velveeta cheese.

“Cenji” began to rally in a startlingly rapid fashion. Not only did she rally, but she lived to the age of nearly 13, when she died of a brain tumor, her blood gasses and blood panels being within normal range for Fanconi-afflicted dogs until the end.

Dr. Gonto began to suggest this treatment to veterinarians, and it has worked on all Fanconi-afflicted dogs as long as the dog would take the pills and as long as the dog had sufficient renal function remaining. In the over 20 plus years he has studied Fanconi Syndrome, he has tracked the test results of well over 3,000 Fanconi-afflicted dogs worldwide. His veterinary protocol card and update have been widely distributed with the help of veterinarians, grateful owners of Fanconi dogs and helpful Basenji club members around the world.

The Gonto Protocol was evaluated in an study by Jennifer H.Yearley, DVM, Dale D. Hancock, DVM, phD, and Katrina L. Mealey, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVCP in Vol.225, August 1, 2004 issue of the prestigious VAVMA (Journal of the American Veterinary Mecical Association), pages 377-383, entitled, “Survival time, lifespan, and quality of life in dogs with idiopathic fanconi syndrome.”

“The veterinary protocol is no more than the correct application of established, sound, scientific and accepted methods of human medical practice applied to veterinary use for this particular Syndrome,” stresses Dr. Gonto. A similar protocol is now being used in the treatment of the people version of Fanconi Syndrome, allowing its human victims to lead nearly normal lives as long as they take their supplementary nutrients, buffers, protein and water.

Early detection of Fanconi Syndrome with dextrose test strips, obtained inexpensively from your local drug store in the diabetic section is exceedingly helpful. Dr. Gonto stressed, “Damage done cannot be reversed; damage not done can be prevented.” With the current Fanconi Genetic test, dogs have been able to be treated earlier than when they were spilling glucose, resulting in even less internal damage.

If your Basenjis has had the NEW genetic Fanconi test and is designated, “Affected,” a baseline venous blood gas is recommended, followed by strip-testing and repeat blood gasses at 3 month intervals until symptoms begin to occur.

If you have not done the Genetic test, once a month, from the age of 3 years on, put one of the dextrose test strips under your dog’s urine stream and wait the appropriate amount of time. If it changes color indicating glucose spilling, repeat the test the next day. If it still changes color, have your veterinarian draw a blood glucose (sugar) reading. If it is normal to low, your dog has Fanconi Syndrome by definition. (Dogs have occasionally started out spilling glucose in their urine intermittently, but that will change to steady spillage in the urine as Fanconi Syndrome progresses.)

Dr. Gonto also hastens to add that the fact that there is a viable and effective treatment for Fanconi Syndrome does not lessen the need for continuing research into the causes and cure for this plague upon our little 4-legged charges.

Ongoing Fanconi Syndrome research:
Dr. Steve Gonto
1 Savy Lane
Savannah, Georgia 31411

email: Dr. Steve Gonto
phone: (912) 598-5067

Article copyright © 2013 by Betsy Polglase.

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