New pet scanner already saving lives

18:17, Aug 25 2014
PATIENT: Nanook the dog is having a scan due to nasal discharge.

Ground is being broken even as animals are being fixed at a Cranford St veterinary practice.

Our Vets' newest addition is a $200,000 animal-specific CT scanner. It is one of two in New Zealand, 23 worldwide.

The scanner is housed in a $50,000 purpose-built room, which has 15-centimetre thick walls and lead windows.

Made in the United States, it took six weeks to ship, a week to install and a week to learn how to use under the guidance of two German technicians who made the trip especially.

The scanner is already saving lives. It captures extremely fine detail invisible on X-ray, allowing vets like Richard Lucy, Our Vets' diagnostic imaging extraordinaire, to diagnose hard-to-spot conditions.

Lucy notes the case of a 2-year-old golden retriever that presented with a bleeding, congested nose. The scanner showed the dog had a fungal infection, treatable with medication, but potentially fatal without.


The machine is the only one in New Zealand with fluoroscopy capability, a real-time X-ray that lets vets easily conduct biopsies and angiographies, as well as watch animals breathe and swallow.

Lucy says this yields more accurate, definitive diagnoses, enabling him to tell owners whether treatment is likely to be effective.

"Instead of saying ‘this [procedure] might help' or ‘this could be of value', now we can give owners a definite yes or no," he says.

In the five weeks since the scanner's installation, "a couple of dozen" animals - about 70 per cent dogs, 30 per cent cats - have undergone CT scans.

Its heaviest patient was a 70-kilogram malamute with a kidney tumour.

Lucy says the scanner's arrival in Christchurch means animals' accessibility to healthcare has increased, while its cost has decreased.

Previously, animals would be scanned using the human CT scanner at Christchurch Hospital after hours, at a cost of up to $2000.

"This was an awful lot of money for a diagnostic procedure," Lucy says.

"For some owners, it was their whole budget, and all we had done was tell them what was wrong. Now the procedure is more affordable - less than half the cost - there's money left to treat the animal."

He says 65 per cent to 70 per cent of patients scanned have been referrals from places as far flung as Queenstown, Blenheim and the West Coast.

There have been no referrals from Orana Park or Willowbank - yet. Should the need arise, Lucy says, "we could definitely fit them in."

The Press