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​Calling to dog owners for canine CPR research study

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Do you want to learn life-saving skills for your dog?

Participate in our University of Melbourne U-Vet Hospital research study and learn how to perform CPR on your dog for free.
Dogs, like humans, may suffer from a standstill of their hearts, a condition known as cardiac arrest. The only treatment for cardiac arrest consists in compressing the animal’s chest and deliver mouth-to-snout breaths, a treatment called cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

As CPR needs to be administered immediately, dog owners need to be ready in an emergency and know how to provide this potentially life-saving treatment to their dog.

Luckily, veterinarians have developed a set of recommendations on how best to perform CPR on dogs, however, how can dog owners learn CPR in the most time- and cost-effective manner?

This research study seeks to find the most effective delivery method for canine CPR training to dog owners. Led by emergency and critical care vet and senior lecturer Dr Manuel Boller, the study will be held at University of Melbourne’s U-Vet Hospital in Werribee and is due to begin at the end of August 2018.

Eligibility criteria

This research study is for dog owners to participate. To be eligible for participation, please confirm you meet the following criteria.

Are you:
  • Over 18 years of age?
  • An owner of a dog?
  • Able to perform mild physical activity including the following? 
    - You will be required to kneel next to a dog manikin (models used for medical simulation) and bend over to deliver chest compressions. Do not participate if you foresee that this may be difficult or painful.
    - You will be asked to provide mouth-to-snout breaths to the manikin. You will use single use face shields for sanitary protection. Do not participate if you have an impaired immune system (for example, you need to take immunosuppressive medication). 
  • Never received previous CPR training in either humans or dogs?
  • Able to commute to U-Vet Hospital located in Werribee on two occasions?
  • Able to devote an initial 90 minute session and a follow up 15 minute session after 2 months?
  • Available during the week of 27 August 2018 and approximately 2 months later?

Enquire now

Please first ensure that you meet eligibility criteria above.

To enquire and register your interest, email dog-cpr@unimelb.edu.au and include the following details:
  • “Canine CPR Research Study” in the subject line
  • Your first name and last name
  • Your phone number
  • Your email address
  • Your preferred method of contact (phone or email)
  • Your preferred time of contact (if by phone).
A member of our research team will be in touch to provide more information and to arrange for a suitable time.

Riley the cat reaps the benefit of philanthropy

Friday, July 27, 2018

Image: Gail Thomas' cats, Millie (left) and Riley (right)

Riley the cat and his fellow fur-friends in need are reaping the benefits of owner Gail Thomas' generosity. Gail, a long-time supporter of U-Vet Hospital, and the small animal internal medicine service, in particular began her philanthropic endeavours with us in 2011 when she helped us obtain our glucose monitoring equipment after her cat, Millie, was diagnosed with diabetes.

Gail continues to support this area and has since helped many animals over the years, having contributed to purchases of new and improved equipment for animals with diabetes to have their blood sugar continuously monitored at home rather than in hospital. 

In 2017, Gail had generously donated to help establish our new ward for housing of cats and dogs treated with radioactive iodine.

Image: Riley the cat

Coincidentally her cat Riley was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism early this year and with her generosity in contributing to the new ward, he was able to be treated and cared for in that same ward, spending eight days there following his treatment. We are very happy to report that Riley loved the new accommodation and responded very well to the treatment!

Gail's support and that of others like hers over the years has been invaluable to U-Vet Hospital, helping us to care for more animals. We would like to take this opportunity to thank her, and all our clients, for supporting our work. All of our clients support the work we do – in some cases through donations but also through trusting us to care for their beloved pets.

If you would also like to help us in providing improved care for animal patients, you can become a Friend of U-Vet or donate.

Making the carrier cat-friendly

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Does your cat run and hide as soon as the cat carrier makes an appearance?

Getting cats used to the carrier and making it a safe place for them can reduce the stress of vet visits.

Here are some top tips to helping your cat be comfortable in a carrier:

  • Ensure the carrier is suitable for your cat. It needs to be large enough to sit or lie down comfortably, clean, have holes for breathing and looking out and a door for your cat to enter voluntarily. Carriers where the entire top can be removed makes is easier for your vet to examine your cat without fuss.

  • Make the carrier seem like home. Include familiar bedding and bring a familiar blanket or towel to cover the cage.

  • You can spray synthetic pheromones in the carrier to make it seem safe and soothing

  • Before your visit to the vet, have your cat become familiar with the carrier at home by having it out for them to explore, and reward your cat with stroking or treats.

There are also medications to help reduce stress. These can be given prior to a visit. Ask your vet if this could be something that helps your cat.

This video produced by International Cat Care shows some ways you can help your cat to be comfortable in a carrier. You can view further interesting cat advice videos on their website.

Dog blood saves sick cat's life before opening of new feline blood bank

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Watch the story from the 9News article
Russian Blue cat Rex has been given a life-saving blood transfusion from a greyhound called Alice, who is normally not a friend of cats.

Vets at the University of Melbourne’s U-Vet Hospital in Werribee said the emergency transfusion highlights the need to have cat blood on hand for cats like Rex, who would have died waiting an hour for the next available feline donor.

The U-Vet Hospital is now urgently seeking donors for its new cat blood bank, launched on June 1 st 2018.

Blood Donor Program Co-ordinator Kerry Bozicevic said cats require emergency blood transfusions in the same way humans do.

“If a cat loses blood due to trauma, surgery, immune system diseases, cancer or has a blood clotting disorder, it may require a blood transfusion to survive and to return to a meaningful life,” Mrs Bozicevic said.

“In Rex’s case he had eaten rat poison which made him bleed and lose a lot of blood. Rex went into shock, collapsed and stopped breathing. Only an immediate blood transfusion could save his life. We located a feline blood donor, but she was an hour away, so the only option left was to give dog blood readily available from our blood bank in the meantime.”

This last resort measure of giving blood from one species to another species is known as a xenotransfusion, where ‘xeno’ means foreign.

When no other options are available, and the patient will die without an immediate transfusion, a cat can receive a transfusion of dog blood – but it is not a long-term solution and the risks are not completely understood.

“The cat’s immune system will destroy the dog blood over just a few days, so the cat patient will still need a feline blood donation as soon as possible,” Ms Bozicevic said.

“Cats have three blood types – A, B and AB. Type A is the most frequent type with B being less frequent and AB very rare. Rex had the less common blood type B.”

“Like humans, cats have specific blood types, so we need to have blood of the correct blood type on hand to give a compatible transfusion. Otherwise they can develop severe life-threatening reactions when their immune system attacks the donor blood.”

After his transfusion of dog blood, Rex started breathing on his own again, his pulse stabilised and he regained consciousness.

The dog blood was donated by Alice, a three-year-old Greyhound. Alice is a regular blood donor, who is always accompanied by her older housemate Jimmy, the Golden Retriever. While Alice does normally not get along well with cats, she ironically gave Rex, the cat, the biggest gift: life.

Rex received a feline blood transfusion from feline blood generously donated by Dorothy, a one-year-old female Domestic Medium Hair cat that is one of the few donors that has blood type B.

“After a month of medication, Rex is recovered and doing well,” Ms Bozicevic said.

With the new capability to store cat blood for immediate life-saving transfusion, U-Vet now meets the highest standards for feline emergency and critical care.

Each blood donation is separated into its red blood cell component and its plasma component.

This allows the most efficient use the of blood donation, with red blood cells given to those cats that have a very low red blood cell count and the plasma component given to cats that are bleeding due to blood clotting issues.

“One blood donation can potentially save the lives of two cats,” Mrs Bozicevic said.

The U-Vet Feline Blood Bank collects blood from cats kept as pets and volunteered for donation by their owners. Donating cats need to be:
  • between one and five years of age
  • four kg or more in weight
  • healthy with a calm temperament
  • up to date with vaccinations and parasite control
  • a Victorian resident (never travelled out of the state)
  • not a blood transfusion recipient
All potential donor cats are tested to make sure that it is safe for them to donate blood and that their blood is of the highest quality.

In the blood bank, red blood cells can be stored for 35 days and plasma for up to 3 years.

For further information please visit www.u-vet.com.au/news/blood-donation-programs or email UOM-Blood-Donor-Program@unimelb.edu.au

U-Vet Hospital is home to one of the first centres for veterinary emergency and critical care in the country. Its emergency room is staffed to see sick pets 24 hours, every day of the year, with about 5000 patients annually.

Hyperthyroidism in cats

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Hyperthyroidism in cats is the over-production of thyroid hormone usually caused by a benign tumour that grows in the gland.

Signs and symptoms

It a disease which causes a variety of signs, including hyperactivity, weight loss, excessive drinking and urination, increased (often ravenous) appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea.

If untreated, the disease will eventually lead to serious heart disease, kidney disease, emaciation and death.


We have been using radioactive iodine to treat hyperthyroidism in cats since the late 1980’s. The treatment is not at all painful and does not cause any serious side effects. It is considered the most effective way of treating this disease as 90-95% of cats are permanently cured with a single treatment.

The treatment is simple, but because it involves the use of a radioactive compound, there are strict laws in Australia relating to how it is given and the subsequent management. The radioactive iodine is given by mouth in a capsule by specially trained and licenced staff.

We sedate your cat lightly to help them take the medication without stress and to minimise the chance of accidental spillage of the radioactive iodine.

We check carefully that the dose has been swallowed properly, and then the cat is placed in a cage in our special isolation room, here at the Hospital.


By law, cats must remain in isolation for at least one week following treatment, until radiation levels decline to a specific low value, as measured by a Geiger counter.

Although it is a larger one-off cost, it is more cost effective than giving oral medication for life, and certainly less stressful for you and your cat.

Riley was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and before treatment with radioactive iodine he was only 3.6kg. He is eating well now and is now over 5kg!

New grant to search for solutions for inflammatory bowel disease in dogs

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Researchers at the University of Melbourne’s U-Vet Animal Hospital are working to identify new ways to diagnose and treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in dogs by looking at changes in gut bacteria that stimulate the immune system.

IBD is a common chronic intestinal condition of dogs, causing vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss.

Previous studies have suggested specific intestinal microbiota – the community of bacteria and other microorganisms in the digestive system – can drive or exacerbate intestinal inflammation, but this mechanism has not been well-studied in dogs.

Associate Professor Caroline Mansfield is the chief investigator of the project and an internal medicine specialist and Director of U-Vet Animal Hospital. She says that IBD, or chronic enteropathy as it is now called, can cause serious and life-threatening disease in some dogs.

Even dogs mildly affected have impacts on their quality of life, and if not treated they may face chronic and recurrent bouts of diarrhoea, discomfort and lack of appetite.

“Normal dogs should tolerate their normal bacteria, but in dogs with IBD it seems that the bacteria either causes an excessive immune response and therefore inflammation or that the immune system goes a bit haywire and starts attacking bacteria that are normally innocent bystanders” Associate Professor Mansfield says.

Over the three-year study period, she and her team will assess stool samples of dogs with IBD for the type and numbers of bacteria that interact directly with the gut immune system during the dogs’ treatment and recovery.

The study allows the researchers to determine if changes in fecal bacteria can be used to monitor improvements in intestinal health in dogs with inflammatory bowel disease, and may reduce the need to directly examine the intestine via a biopsy to establish a definitive diagnosis.  
It will also lead to a better understanding of how the gut microbiome can be manipulated in dogs with IBD.

Researchers will evaluate bacteria that are coated with immunoglobulins (also known as antibodies) in stool samples of dogs with IBD as these represent the bacteria in the intestine of dogs that are causing or stimulating an immune response in affected dogs.

New analytical tools will be used to establish whether the changes detected in bacteria are functionally important, and how treatment modifies the findings.

Morris Animal Foundation’s Acting President and CEO Tiffany Grunert says the organisation is proud to fund research to help dogs live longer, healthier lives.

"Dogs are, as the saying goes, man's best friend," she says.

"They enrich our lives so much and deserve the best care we can provide."

This study is funded by Morris Animal Foundation.

Contact us for further information.

Feline ureteral obstruction – the need for multiservice management

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Image: Lateral abdominal radiograph of a cat with the SUB system in place. This cat had bilateral ureteral obstructions and therefore both ureters have been bypassed, so there are three catheters total – one from each kidney to the port, and one from the port to the bladder. There is a needle in place in the port (used for urine collection and flushing the system).

Ureteral obstructions are more common in cats than dogs.

Most often, ureteral obstruction is caused by intraluminal disease (ureteroliths, clots, or other debris in the ureter), less often by intramural disease (stricture, neoplasia, inflammatory disease) and uncommonly by extra-mural (such as retroperitoneal masses or bladder neoplasia).

Feline ureteral obstruction can be difficult to detect, as no signs might be present until there is bilateral obstruction or unilateral obstruction with reduced contra-lateral kidney function. Often, signs can be very vague such as decreased appetite or abdominal pain. Most of the time, no clinical signs will be recognised by the owners. However, if there is bilateral obstruction, acute kidney injury will develop.

In the presentation known as “big kidney-little kidney”, clinical disease can be seen when there was previous ureteral obstruction in one kidney leading to hydronephrosis, followed by end-stage kidney disease (small kidney, irregular and fibrotic) with compensatory hypertrophy on the other side (large kidney). Typically, these cats present acutely when the large (healthy) kidney function is reduced (for example with a new obstruction or development of partial obstruction).

Detection and recognition
The detection rate of renal obstruction or partial obstruction has improved with the advance in abdominal ultrasound imaging in cats, though in some cases a contrast study (after pyelocentesis) is needed to further assess for partial obstruction.

Early recognition is key. After 7 days of obstruction renal function is reduced by one third, and after 40 days of obstruction no return of function is expected.
In the case of partial obstructions, the development of dysfunction is slower. In terms of decision making, the aim is to make a surgical decision within days in cases with either partial or full obstruction (rather than as an out-of-hours emergency procedure).

Although medical management can be attempted, such as the use of diuresis, amitriptyline and prazosin, this is typically not effective, with an estimated overall response of approximately 13%.
Surgical intervention with ureterotomy to remove obstructions (+/- stent placement) can be attempted in some cases. A nephrostomy tube can also be placed to decompress the kidney and improve renal function, but is not typically an option for long-term management. More recently, a subcutaneous ureteral bypass system (SUB) was developed. This involves two separate catheters, one from the renal pelvis to a port placed in the subcutaneous tissue, and the other from the port into the bladder. Urine flows from the kidney to the bladder via the catheters and port, bypassing the ureteral obstruction. 

Following SUB system placement regular rechecks and ongoing management is required as complications including secondary infections are possible. However, long-term outcomes can be very good, with median survival times of over 2 years reported.

At U-Vet, management of feline ureteral obstructions and SUB placement is a collaborative effort, including specialists in diagnostic imaging, surgery, internal medicine, and critical care. SUB placement is not necessarily the best option for every case of ureteral obstruction, or for every owner, but can be life-saving in many cases.

Image: SUB system 

Medical problems to watch out for in older cats

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Like us, as cats age they can be more likely to develop problems.
Some of the more common diseases in older cats include kidney disease, diabetes and hyperthyroidism.

If you are seeing changes in your cat such as weight loss, change in appetite or thirst, lethargy, vomiting or diarrhoea, the first step is to make an appointment with your vet for a thorough evaluation.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease in cats do not often have a specific cause, but screening for underlying problems that may be treated (such as infection) is important.

Signs of kidney disease in cats include:

  • increased thirst and urination, which may include having accidents in the house or incontinence.
    If you notice you are having to fill the water bowl or change the kitty litter more often, this may be an indication that your cat is drinking more.
  • a reduced appetite
  • weight loss
  • vomiting

Diagnosis is usually made on blood and urine tests, and monitoring blood pressure is also important in cats suspected of having kidney disease.
An ultrasound of the abdomen is often done to look more closely at the kidneys themselves.

Although most types of kidney disease cannot be cured, they can often be managed for long periods of time.
A prescription diet is often recommended, and other medications may be used in some cats.


Diabetes in cats is thought to be similar to type 2 diabetes in people. Cats who are overweight may be more likely to develop diabetes.

Signs of diabetes are:

  • increased thirst and urination (as for kidney disease)
  • weight loss (despite an increased appetite).

Diagnosis is typically made on blood and urine tests.
In some cats, diabetes may be reversible (temporarily or permanently), depending on underlying conditions.
In other cats, lifelong treatment with insulin injections is required.

Dietary management and weight control are also important parts of management of diabetes in cats.


Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone.
In cats, this is typically caused by a benign growth of the thyroid gland, though in rare cases it may be due to thyroid cancer.

Signs of hyperthyroidism include:

  • increased appetite,
  • weight loss
  • sometimes behavioural changes such as agitation or restlessness.

Other signs can include:

  • increased thirst and urination or
  • vomiting and diarrhoea may also be seen.

High levels of thyroid hormone in the blood can cause changes in the heart, so a heart murmur is common in hyperthyroid cats.


Diagnosis is usually made with blood tests.
Other tests may be recommended for some cats (e.g. further evaluation of the heart).

Treatment options for hyperthyroidism in cats include lifelong medication, surgical removal of the thyroid gland, or treatment with radioactive iodine (I131), which is also used in people.
Here at U-Vet, we treat many cats with I131 with good results. 

What is a Veterinary Specialist?

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A veterinary specialist is a highly trained veterinarian who is board certified and has completed advanced training in various veterinary medical or surgical disciplines. To be qualified as a veterinary specialist, they must have completed at least four years at a veterinary school, a one-year internship or equivalent time in practice, two to three years in a residency program that meets the standards of a recognised specialty college or board, publish at least one paper and pass a series of rigorous examinations. Not all vets with a ‘special interest’ have completed this training.

Most veterinary specialists work at large hospitals or referral centres with access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, advanced training, support staff and other veterinary specialists.

Veterinary specialists are often leading in veterinary research, clinical trials, diagnostic imaging and treatment options while also provide education to veterinary students and the veterinary community.

At U-Vet we have specialists in small animal medicine, small animal surgery, neurology, oncology, diagnostic imaging, anaesthesia, emergency and critical care, clinical pathology, equine surgery, equine medicine and equine sports medicine. We also have visiting ophthalmologists, cardiologists and dermatologists.

Do you need to see a veterinary specialist?

Similar to the human health care industry, where you may be referred to a medical specialist by general practitioner, in the veterinary industry, animal conditions would usually be evaluated by a general practice (primary care) veterinarian. Your general practice veterinarian may then refer the animal to a veterinary specialist, if the advanced care and procedures are required. The veterinary specialist will work closely with you and the general practice veterinarian to ensure best quality of care.

Call for donors: cats to help other cats at new feline blood bank

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A new feline blood bank is being launched at the University of Melbourne’s U-Vet Animal Hospital in Werribee.

U-Vet’s ability to store cat blood for life-saving transfusions means the animal hospital now meets the highest standards for feline emergency and critical care.

Veterinarians are calling for owners to volunteer their cats as blood donors to provide urgently-needed transfusions for other felines.

Blood Donor Program co-ordinator Kerry Bozicevic said cats require emergency blood transfusions in the same way humans do.

“If a cat loses blood due to trauma, surgery, immune system diseases, cancer or has a blood clotting disorder, it may require a blood transfusion to survive and to return to a meaningful life,” Mrs Bozicevic said.

“Time is critical when in need of a life-saving blood transfusion, and having blood products readily available may make all the difference.”

Each blood donation is separated into its red blood cell component and its plasma component. This allows the most efficient use the of blood donation, with red blood cells given to those cats with a very low red blood cell count, and the plasma component given to cats that are bleeding due to blood clotting issues.

“One blood donation can potentially save the lives of two cats,” Mrs Bozicevic said.

The U-Vet Feline Blood Bank collects blood from cats kept as pets and volunteered as donors by their owners.

Donating cats need to be:

  • between 1 and 5 years of age
  • 4kg or more in weight
  • healthy and with a calm temperament
  • up to date with vaccinations and parasite control
  • a Victorian resident (never travelled out of the state) and already not a blood transfusion recipient

All possible donor cats are tested to ensure that it is safe for them to donate blood and that the blood is of the highest quality. In the blood bank, red blood cells can be stored for 35 days. Plasma can be stored for up to three years.

For more information and to donate:

Enquiries and more information

or email UOM-Blood-Donor-Program@unimelb.edu.au

U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital is home to one of the first centres for veterinary emergency and critical care in the country. Its emergency room is staffed to see sick pets 24 hours, every day of the year, with about 5000 patients annually.