Expanded treatment options
help pets with urinary obstructions

By Sarah Carey

Tucker Roberts is shown on an exam room table during one of his visits to UF. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Roberts)

Through a variety of techniques and intersecting disciplines, University of Florida veterinarians are expanding their treatment capabilities for animals that suffer from a variety of urinary obstructions ranging from cancer to kidney stones.

UF veterinarians have been treating cancer of the urethra in pets for two years now through a combination of stereotactic radiosurgery and chemotherapy. Last year, however, veterinary oncologists began treating cancers in the bladder neck, an area of thick muscle where the bladder joins the urethra.

“Most veterinarians aren’t aware that we can treat tumors in the bladder neck by surgically removing the bladder neck, moving the ureters and then cutting out the cancer,” said Nick Bacon, a clinical assistant professor of oncology at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine.  “Frequently, veterinarians will tell their clients that have pets with cancer in this part of the bladder that there is nothing that can be done, so we feel it’s important to get the word out that at UF we do have the ability to help them.”

An early case UF veterinarians performed the procedure in was a mixed-breed dog named Tucker, owned by Stephen Roberts of Orlando. Tucker initially was diagnosed by his veterinarian as having a tumor in the bladder neck. Through subsequent contact between Tucker’s veterinarian and UF veterinary specialists, Tucker came to UF for the procedure, which was followed by a few chemotherapy treatments.

“He was doing well, until around December we began to see small tumor growth inside the bladder,” Bacon said, adding that by May, the growth had begun to block the ureters and then the kidneys, causing Tucker’s kidneys to fail. “With the new situation, I could not move those ureters, as the whole bladder was now lined with cancer,” Bacon said.

At that point, the UF oncology group looked to their colleagues in radiology and internal medicine for help. In May, with radiologist David Reese providing real-time imaging, Kirsten Cooke and Alex Gallagher, both clinical assistant professors of small animal medicine, were able to successfully insert thin, flexible tubes, known as stents, from each kidney down the ureters and into the bladder. The procedure has allowed Tucker to urinate normally again.

“The Image-Guided Interventional Service includes specialists from medicine, oncology, surgery, cardiology and radiology,” Gallagher said. “Tucker’s ureteral stenting is just one example of the procedures in which our specialists can collaborate with the result of positive outcomes for our patients in a minimally invasive way.”

Although UF veterinarians have been placing stents in different parts of the body to address a variety of conditions, predominantly cardiovascular, Tucker’s procedure was the first time stents had been placed between the kidney and the bladder at UF.

“The important thing is that more places in this region of the body, specifically areas higher up in the urinary tract, are now potentially treatable,” Bacon said. “The large majority of dogs with urinary cancer die from urinary obstruction and we can now treat them, or get better at treating them.”

He added that UF’s overall capability to provide radiation therapy, surgical expertise to remove cancers once thought inoperable and the capability of placing stents to open up previously blocked areas of the body, all represent services not available to pet owners anywhere else in the state of Florida.

Roberts, Tucker’s owner, said he had been impressed by UF’s team approach to treating his dog.

“I’m ecstatic about the way things are working out,” Roberts said. “I honestly never expected Tucker to last a year. Right now he’s 9.5 years old, and the more time we can get with him, the better.”

When Tucker last visited the UF veterinary college for a check-up in June, veterinarians found that his kidney values had returned to normal.

“Tucker still has cancer, but he is doing great and is now one year out from when his owner was told initially that nothing could be done,” Bacon said.

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July 2011

Post-RDVM Day reception doubles as send-off; draws crowd to hospital

Post RDVM-Day reception honors Dr. Burrows and draws practitioners to new hospital.

UF arsenal grows for treating urinary obstructions

Treatment capabilities grow at UF
for animals with urinary obstructions.

Dog’s handler gives $5K in K-9’s memory

K-9 Sophie’s handler, Troy Fergueson, right, shown with oncology technician Amy Beaver and a montage of stories she created, presented UF with a check to assist other dogs suffering from cancer.

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