Wednesday, February 23, 2011

MRI Machines Go To The Dogs!

Now your pet has access to the same state-of-the-art health care you do.

Newmarket’s 404 Veterinary Hospital is one of three clinics in the province that offers MRIs for your pet and it’s the only machine in Ontario specifically designed for pets. “We’re catching up to human medicine, and there’s no wait list,” clinic veterinarian and animal neurology specialist Dr. Andrea Finnen said. “We mostly do imaging for cats and dogs and sometimes horses, but if you send me a sheep, I’ll do that, too.”

The machine produces images of an animal’s brain to diagnose the cause of seizures, neck pain, behavioural changes and sudden loss of co-ordination as well as locate tumours. But instead of being placed in a long tube, animals under anesthetic lay on a magnetic table, which allows technicians to examine other body parts, such as limbs and paws. It’s not like a human machine, where you get rolled in and someone talks to you through a speaker, Dr. Finnen said. “We can’t ask a dog to sit still.”

While a scan is being performed, the animal’s heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels and temperature are monitored. There’s no radiation, you don’t have to wear protection and it’s non-invasive, said Dr. Finnen, who performed nine MRIs during the first week the clinic had the machine. “The animal just has to sit there. We do the rest.”

Having an MRI is more beneficial than an x-ray because the images can create a 3D picture of a tumour and the machine can capture images from the back, side and front without bothering the patient.
An MRI can distinguish between all the gray matter in an image, she said, noting it lets her see so much detail, she can pinpoint a tumour that’s only millimetres is size. “A dog doesn’t know he has a tumour,” she said. “But his mom does. Our goal is to improve a dog’s life and to give him a longer life.”

A big push behind getting an MRI is the quick results and the decision factor, as it allows pet owners to make a knowledgeable decision to proceed with surgery or chemotherapy. “It’s not like it was before, where a dog is suddenly blind and the only option is to put the dog down,” Dr. Finnen said. “Knowing is a big part of the process.” Unlike the human procedure, the pet version is not covered by OHIP, which means pet owners are on the hook for the cost, which is about $1,500 per treatment.

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