March 30, 2015

New service offers life-saving non-surgical veterinary treatment

Patients back on four feet sooner, thanks to minimally invasive procedures offered through Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Serge Chalhoub and Teresa Schiller, instructors in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, pose with energetic Nibbles, an eight-month-old Lab retriever who underwent a minimally invasive procedure to repair a urinary incontinence problem. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
Serge Chalhoub and Teresa Schiller, instructors in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, pose with ene

Benji the Pomeranian is alive and barking today thanks to experts at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM), who performed a life-saving procedure never before done in Calgary.

The 11-year-old dog was suffering from tracheal collapse — a condition small breed dogs like Pomeranians and Yorkshire terriers are predisposed to — where the trachea (windpipe) loses its ability to stay open and collapses on itself. As the condition progresses, dogs literally cannot breathe.

“Tracheal collapse is an acquired disease, we don’t know why it happens but it does. And traditionally there’s almost nothing we can do once the trachea fully collapses onto itself,” says Dr. Serge Chalhoub, an instructor at UCVM. “But now we can do a minimally invasive procedure and put a stent in to open up the trachea and keep it open.”

Chalhoub and Dr. Teresa Schiller, a senior instructor in small animal surgery at UCVM, performed this non-surgical procedure using fluoroscopy (live, real time X-rays). They inserted a self-expandable mesh stent into the dog’s windpipe to permanently open up his main airway.

“Benji can now play again and his quality of life has much improved,” says Chalhoub.

UCVM, in partnership with Western Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Centre (WVSEC), has officially launched a minimally invasive interventional radiology service.

The new service, through the expertise of Chalhoub and Schiller, offers advanced procedures that allow certain medical conditions to be treated in a less invasive way, resulting in a shorter recovery time and less chance of infection. And Benji isn’t the only beneficiary of the service. 

Meet Nibbles, an eight-month-old Labrador retriever who suffered from constant urinary incontinence (dribbling pee). Nibbles had little or no ability to control her urination because of a congenital defect knowns as intramural ectopic ureter, which resulted in the dog’s urine flowing into her urethra instead of her bladder.

Cystoscopy (small video camera) and fluoroscopy were used to find and visually confirm the problem.  Then a diode laser corrected the abnormality, allowing the dog’s urine to flow properly to her bladder.

“Nibbles is now continent and does not leak urine,” says Schiller. “All without a traditional surgery.”

The new service offers a number of other minimally invasive procedures, including laser lithotripsy, where a camera and laser are used to break up and remove a dog’s bladder stones without the need for surgery.  

“It’s a great collaboration,” says Chalhoub. “For me it’s really satisfying to be able to offer this kind of specialized care, and it’s great our faculty has brought this to Calgary.” 

For more information call Dr. Serge Chalhoub at 403-220-2508 (UCVM) or Dr. Teresa Schiller at 403-770-1340 (WVSEC).