Vet Tech program to study health of cats treated with radioiodine
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
The Douglas College Veterinary Technology (Vet Tech) program is introducing a research study focussing on hyperthyroidism in cats. Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, typically affects the thyroid glands in the necks of middle-aged to older cats.
Hyperthyroidism in cats causes excessive amounts of thyroid hormones to be produced, which results in heart and additional organ complications. The disease is commonly controlled with medication but can be cured using radioiodine, commonly referred to as I-131. The research project will be focussing primarily on radioiodine treatments.
Heading the study will be Vet Tech instructor Jennifer Wakeling, a veterinarian with a PhD in feline hyperthyroidism. “I wanted to put together a research project,” said Wakeling. “We have one of the biggest radioiodine units for cats in Canada here in the Lower Mainland, which is North West Nuclear Medicine. They treat [around] 250 to 300 cats per year.”
Wakeling co-created the project with Dr. Teresa Hall, owner and operator of North West Nuclear Medicine, located in Vancouver. Funding for the research project was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), which allotted $67,000 to be spent over a three-year period. Additionally, IDEXX Laboratories will provide lab testing valued in the tens of thousands of dollars for the project at no charge.
“We’re looking at different parameters for health including thyroid and kidney health,” said Wakeling. “Most of what we’re doing is routine stuff that any cat would have done on an annual basis if they were to have a really thorough checkup … taking blood, taking urine, checking blood pressure, those kinds of things.”
According to a Douglas College press release, “Wakeling estimates around 100,000 cats over eight-years-old are diagnosed with or treated for hypothyroidism in Canada each year.” Over 100 cats will be examined for the project on and off campus, with some research taking place at Coquitlam-based vet clinics.
With 30 students per year admitted to the Douglas College Vet Tech two-year diploma program, Wakeling adds that some students will be involved in the project. “I’m hoping to involve both first- and second-years in the project, probably four to six students each year. So there could be up to 18 or 20 students involved over the three-year term.”
The I-131 feline wellness project will begin in the winter 2015 semester. The Vet Tech program runs at the David Lam campus in Coquitlam. Students with an interest in animals and veterinary work are encouraged to apply to the Vet Tech program, however, program space is limited.