Tracheal collapse part of University of Calgary's pioneer into pet procedures

Dog owners in Calgary have some new options for treating rare medical conditions without having to put their animals under the knife.

Minimally invasive techniques use real-time radiology to make some surgeries unnecessary

Dr. Teresa Schiller at the University of Calgary's faculty of veterinary medicine shows off the minimally invasive procedures being offered for the first time in Alberta. (CBC)

Dog owners in Calgary have some new options for treating rare medical conditions without having to put their animals under the knife.

The non-surgical, minimally invasive procedures are being offered for the first time in Alberta through the University of Calgary's faculty of veterinary medicine.

One of the procedures involves inserting a stent to fix collapsed airways — tracheal collapse — a life-threatening condition common in some small dogs such as Chihuahuas and Pomeranians.

Dr. Serge Chalhoub, who teaches at the U of C's faculty of veterinary medicine, says he is now able to offer Calgary pet owners the minimally invasive interventional radiology procedures he studied in New York. (CBC)

"That's the amazing thing, I mean medicine is always very exciting because we look for new advancements in technologies and techniques," said Dr. Terri Schiller.

"Just as in people, we are moving to a lot of non-invasive procedures, we are going to follow along with that in veterinary medicine."

Schiller and her colleague Dr. Serge Chalhoub were trained in New York in the state-of-the-art interventional radiology procedures.

Less invasive treatments 

They have been offering them in Calgary for about three years.

"More regularly I would say in the last few months," Chalhoub said.

"We've been able to purchase pieces of equipment that have been very important, such as specialized lasers, specialized cameras and … the fluoroscopy unit."

Fluoroscopy allows the vets to see live, real time X-rays of their patients.

Using a minimally invasive laser technique, the doctors are also able to correct ectopic ureters, a condition where the tube from the kidney to the bladder ends up in the urethra instead, causing the animal to urinate without control.

"That takes a lot more training and is very unique to this region," he said.

Marion Volk realized her eight-month-old chocolate Labrador couldn't control her bladder last fall when she got her.

The doctors at the clinic were able to fix the urinary incontinence with a laser and a camera.

"It's made a huge difference," Volk said. 

Chalhoub says the procedures, which are being offered in partnership with Western Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Centre (WVSEC), will become more widely available as future veterinarians learn about them at the U of C.

"But of course, anyone that's interested, we're a phone call or email away to talk about these procedures. And we've had visitors come and watch our procedures — veterinary visitors," he said.     

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