How a Chester vet is treating hyperthyroidism in cats with radio iodine therapy
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 September 2018
A Chester-based vet has an almost purrfect solution to a health problem afflicting many an otherwise happy pet, writes Janet Reeder.
Chester vet John Innes is pioneering an almost purrfect solution for a condition affecting the lives of the region’s cats.
John is no ordinary vet. He was professor of veterinary surgery at Liverpool University for 13 years, he specialises in orthopaedic surgery and once had to operate on a giraffe. But now he is bringing the latest treatments for animals to Cheshire.
John, who lives in Heswall with his three daughters and dentist wife Caroline, heads the team at ChesterGates specialist multi-disciplinary veterinary referral animal hospital, where they have just introduced the first feline radio iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism.
‘Older cats often get an over-active thyroid, which is essentially a benign tumour in their thyroid gland,’ explains John. ‘This secretes extra thyroid hormone - a hormone which is primarily involved in controlling the metabolic rate of these poor cats. As a result they become very hungry but also lose weight at the same time. They start to look rather unkempt in appearance, often not grooming themselves very well, while the other major effect is on their heart. Their heart rate becomes very fast and, of course, that can be very damaging.’
The traditional treatment for this condition is usually surgery with all the risks that entails, especially as this is something affecting older and therefore more vulnerable cats. There’s also a higher risk of damaging a gland just next to the thyroid called the para-thyroid gland which controls calcium balance in the body.
‘If you damage that gland you get disruption of calcium that can have all sorts of side effects,’ says John. ‘But if Iodine is injected straight into the thyroid gland with radiation it basically kills the tumour. It’s pretty secure and will produce a cure in 95 per cent of cases. And of course all it requires is an injection.’
Cats will need to be referred to ChesterGates by their own veterinary practice. Once the cat has been assessed by the team, they come in for treatment which is a single injection at the back of the neck performed under light sedation. Following treatment, the cat will be hospitalised for five-14 days in order for the radioactivity to diminish to safe levels for pet owners to resume contact with their pet. So far the treatment has been a huge success and John is keen to make people aware that it is now available in the north west.
‘We only set up at the beginning of the year and this treatment option never existed in the north west before so it’s a matter of raising awareness with vets and cat owners that this is an option for them,’ says John.
‘There is a waiting list building up now.’
Pioneering treatments such as feline iodine therapy have been made possible thanks to a massive capital injection at the hospital at ChesterGates, making it the most state-of-the-art treatment centre in the region.
‘CVS is a large veterinary company that runs in the region of 480 clinics and we are a part of that at ChesterGates. I sit on the executive of that company and I head up all our specialist services across the UK,’ reveals John.
‘The main benefit of being part of a big company for us in Chester has been the investment from the company. They acquired the practise five years ago and have recently invested £2m in upgrading the facility.’
John was brought up in Liverpool but says he feels ‘naturalised’ having trained as a vet at Liverpool University and graduating to the position of professor. Many staff at ChesterGates come from an academic background andJohn believes innovation will come from practices such as ChesterGates as much as from universities. The clinic is always working to improve the health and lives of animals with innovative treatments.
‘In areas such as orthopaedic surgery we have got quite a lot of innovative treatments,’ says John.
‘We have got a particular link-up with a University of Liverpool spin-out company called Fusion Implants who work in 3D printing in metal technology; we can essentially make bespoke implants, very specific implants that are printed in metal using 3D printing machines. That’s very new technology that we are developing here and rolling out to certain vets across the country and internationally.’
If this all sounds rather expensive John asserts that feline iodine treatment which costs around £2,000 is more cost-effective than an operation to remove the thyroid, while 3D printing in metal is also cheaper as it is a far more efficient way to manufacture new plates and implants for animals.
‘We also have an interest in pushing forward biological therapies such as stem cell therapy for conditions like arthritis,’ he says.
‘We are able to recreate skeletal structures in metal and other materials and that will incrementally take us to more and more successful treatments so amputation is less necessary than days gone by.’