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Veterinary medicine: Cat scans for animals

Oklahoma Veterinary Specialists offers one of only three pet CT scanners in the state.

You can now get your dog a cat scan in Tulsa. You can get one for your cat, too.

But that’s not a joking matter. It’s a serious and important new feature of veterinary medicine.

Cat scans — technically computer tomography, or CT — have been around for humans since the mid-1970s. But only in recent years have they been adapted for animals. And in Oklahoma, the only availabilities were at the Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences or at a clinic in Oklahoma City.

Now, Oklahoma Veterinary Specialists in Jenks has added a CT scanner. That’s important, because in traumatic situations the hours spent moving a dog (or cat) from Tulsa to Stillwater or Oklahoma City could be vital.

A CT scanner is a useful tool for human and animal doctors. It is based on traditional X-ray technology but is dramatically more complicated and far superior to a conventional X-ray. An X-ray produces a two-dimensional image; a CT scan provides a three-dimensional cross-sectional view inside the body. It can reveal small tumors or provide increased details for a surgeon to help with diagnoses or improve operating procedures. It offers more anatomical detail than an X-ray and can also provide more information from soft tissue than a traditional X-ray can.

It will be especially helpful for dogs with back problems, bone diseases or nose problems, says Dr. Steven Hodges, internal medicine specialist for Oklahoma Veterinary Specialists.

It is particularly useful for back problems, he says, because it “can identify if it (the problem) is a compression of the spinal cord due to a bulging disc, a severe fracture or a tumor.”

As for tumors, it “doesn’t seek out cancer but gives details on tumor size, shape and location,” Hodges says, which a surgeon can use to biopsy or remove them. It can find small nodules that a conventional X-ray cannot detect.

It is important also that the technology is located at Oklahoma Veterinary Specialists, a 24-hour, seven-day emergency clinic as well as a referral center where other veterinarians send patients to internal medicine and surgical specialists.

In addition to Dr. Hodges, a board-certified specialist in internal medicine, the clinic has a full-time surgeon and three full-time emergency doctors. It also has a staff of technicians, including operators of the new CT equipment.

The scanner will be available 24 hours a day, too. All the technicians trained in its use live within 10 minutes of the Jenks clinic.

The OVS equipment is comparable to that which humans would see in a smaller hospital, Hodges says. One big difference is the patients — animals have to have a light anesthetic for scanning. Most human scans don’t require that — doctors can tell a person to hold a leg still or move his or her hips slightly, but dogs and cats don’t offer that option.

CT scans moved slowly into animal medicine in part because of expense. The machines are costly to buy and to operate — they can cost as much as a home in a nice neighborhood — and require trained technicians.

But as scanners have improved and costs have come down slightly, CT scanners are being used more by veterinarians. Still they are pretty much limited to dogs and cats — owners probably wouldn’t spend the money for a CT scan of a gerbil or rabbit, Hodges says.

Oklahoma Veterinary Specialists is one of two 24-hour emergency clinics in the Tulsa area. Dr. Hodges opened Oklahoma Veterinary Specialists in 2007 after completing his internship and residency in the Detroit area and Albuquerque, N.M.

Hodges is from Jenks and is an Oklahoma State University veterinary graduate, as are all the other OVS doctors.

The clinic recently relocated into a new facility at 9360 S. Union Ave. in Jenks.

The other area 24-hour emergency animal clinic is on East 41st Street east of South Yale Avenue, operated by a consortium of veterinarians.



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