70ºF

Texas A&M creating breakthrough treatments for pets

Texas A&M creating breakthrough treatments for pets

HOUSTON – Veterinarians at Texas A&M University in College Station are using breakthrough treatments to save pets that until recently would have had little hope of survival.

Teddy is a 6-year-old shih tzu.

He looks like any happy, happy dog, but he had bladder cancer.

"You don't expect to hear devastating news like that so early in a dog's life," said Ben Layman, Teddy's owner.
Teddy was only given days to live.

"We knew if we lost him, it would be more than just losing a dog, it was really like a family member," said Layman.

Layman was down to his last options.

With time running out, Layman and Teddy headed off to the veterinarians at Texas A&M University.

Every day they are using breakthrough treatments to save pets, that until recently, would have had little hope to survive.

Like 3D virtual reality.

Dr. Elizabeth Scallan is an assistant professor and director of clinical skills lab at Texas A&M.

"Picked up the heart and spun it in the air and saw all sides. We can do that in veterinary medicine. We can do that here," said Scallan. "Take an image from a CT or an MRI and convert it into a 3D image and when the surgeon gets ready to go in and do the surgery, they can go in and pull up the spleen that has a mass in it."

Dr. Michael Deveau is both a radiation oncologist and medical physicist at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, "Many times we get the worst of the worst."

Cooty came to him all the way from New Jersey with full body skin cancer.

He needed advanced radiation, with a machine called Tomotherapy.

Only of a handful worldwide are used on animals, including at Texas A&M.

But, the power of the radiation would've been too much for Cooty.

"I can guarantee you I can kill a cancer cell with unlimited radiation, but the problem is, all the normal tissues around it ... I will also kill those normal tissue," said Deveau.

So, Deveau used a 3D printer to print a full body cast to protect Cooty.

"It would help limit the dose to the superficial patient ... the other big advantage ... that way we can guarantee they are in the correct position," said Deveau.

A&M isn't just breaking barriers with complex cases of cancer. But also helping pets that swallow a sock or gets clipped by a car.

Also at A&M they are using synthetic cadavers, called Syndavers.

"A surgical canine model. So it's a large dog, about the size of a German shepherd," said Scallan.

These models actually breathe and bleed.

"So the students get the practice of not just doing the surgery, they actually get the practice of standing there and knowing their patient is bleeding and they feel their patient is breathing and it's very stressful," said Scallan.

With the Syndavers, students can realistically practice surgically retrieving a sock from a dog's belly or repairing a spleen after a dog is hit by a car.

They come with android tablets that can make the blood pump harder and faster.

"So we can re-create that stress on the model before they go to the live animal and then they walk in and they're comfortable," said Scallan.

So far A&M has purchased 15 of these dogs.

"What we do is we try to find all the newest and greatest innovations and add those to what the students are already learning," said Scallan.

And, in the near future, A&M will be the first school in the world with horse model Syndavers.

Take our quiz: are you a dog person or a cat person?