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Fat cat's on a diet

Vet: Emiliana Capurro, from Baldoyle, County Dublin

Animal: Caleb, a 10-year-old cat with an abdominal problem

Background: Emiliana has a particular interest in using ultrasound to investigate pets' illnesses

Emiliana is originally from Naples, qualifying as a vet there. She came to Ireland in 2001, studying for a Phd in food chemistry. Afterwards, she decided that she missed animals too much, so she took up work as a vet in practice again. She already had an Italian diploma in abdominal ultrasound of dogs and cats, so when the opportunity arose to do this type of work in Ireland, she was delighted.

Most people are familiar with ultrasound after seeing it being used routinely to view unborn babies in the womb. Ultrasound uses soundwaves and the principles of radar to obtain three-dimensional, moving images of the body's internal structures.

It allows organs such as the liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys and bladder to be seen and needle biopsies can even be taken, using ultrasound to pinpoint the precise area.



Delicate

Ultrasound is just one of several types of so-called "diagnostic imaging" that are now available for pets. The most widely used imaging technique is still X-rays. They provide clear images that are ideal for diagnosing certain conditions, but they have limitations. The images are static and not helpful when trying to assess some of the delicate internal architecture of organs.

Furthermore, X-rays carry a potential risk of radiation exposure to humans, so animals need to be sedated or anaesthetised and restrained while they are taken.

Ultrasound, in contrast, can obtain clear images of the internal structure of many organs, and there is no radiation risk, so sedation is not needed: animals can be gently held by their owners while the procedure is carried out.

More advanced imaging methods are also available, including MRI and CAT scans, but these are expensive and only available in specialist centres.

All vets learn the basics of ultrasound and at the highest level, some choose to specialise, obtaining a dedicated European Diploma and learning how to work with X-rays, ultrasound, MRI, CAT scans and other methods too.

Currently, Emiliana spends half her time doing normal clinical work as a vet in practice and half her time carrying out ultrasound examinations.

She spends most of her working life in a vet clinic in Raheny (www.rahenyvet.com). She also travels to vet clinics in Bray, Tallaght and Dun Laoghaire where she carries out ultrasound examinations on pets referred to her by other vets.

Caleb the cat had not been himself recently and his owner was worried about his enlarged abdomen.

Using ultrasound, Emiliana was able to confirm that his abdominal organs are normal: he's a bit of a fat cat and that would appear to be his only problem. A strict diet is all that Caleb needs to get rid of his tummy.

Visit Pete's website at www.petethevet.co.uk