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Sources: Dakota Chambers, codic@k-state.edu;
and Laura Armbrust, 785-532-4273, ljavet@k-state.edu
Photo available. Contact media@k-state.edu or 785-532-2535.
News release prepared by: Kristin Hodges, 785-532-2535, media@k-state.edu

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

K-STATE RESEARCHERS FIND A SCREENING TEST TO BE USEFUL IN DETECTING THORACIC DISEASES IN OLDER PETS

MANHATTAN -- Pets need regular veterinary check-ups as they age, and Kansas State University researchers have studied a certain test that proves to be useful in these visits in order to maintain health in older cats and dogs.

K-State's Dr. Laura Armbrust, veterinarian and associate professor of radiology, and Dakota Chambers, LaCygne, a sophomore in biology, studied the effectiveness of thoracic radiographs, which are chest X-rays, as a screening measure to detect nonclinical disease in geriatric dogs and cats. The study showed that the test helped identify significant abnormalities in the observed pets.

"Screening tests are an important part of health care," Armbrust said. "However, it is important to know the benefit of a particular test to determine if it is indicated in a certain population."

Armbrust said information about the importance of thoracic radiographs as a screening test for older cats and dogs is lacking in the veterinary literature. A thoracic radiograph looks inside the chest cavity and is particularly useful for finding heart and lung disease.

The researchers wanted to determine the incidence of disease detected on thoracic radiographs of dogs and cats undergoing geriatric screening. The geriatric age for dogs in the study was 7 years and older and for cats who were 11 years and older.

"Pet owners often bring their animals in for regular checkups," Chambers said. "Geriatric screening tests provide a means of early treatment in hopes of curing or slowing the progression of disease."

At K-State's Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, senior animals can be enrolled in a program that includes screenings every six to 12 months. Chambers said the exam includes a thorough physical examination, blood work, urinalysis and fecal examination. A thoracic radiograph is included in the 12-month screening.

For their study, Armbrust and Chambers reviewed medical records from the teaching hospital of all dogs and cats that had undergone geriatric screening from May 2005 to September 2009. The data included results from the screening tests, with their main focus on the results from thoracic radiographs. The researchers were most interested in looking for thoracic disease in animals that did not have signs of clinical disease.

"Thoracic radiographs may be helpful in identifying thoracic diseases, even if the animal does not present with any symptoms," Chambers said.

The researchers found that significant thoracic radiographic abnormalities were present in 17 percent of the cats in the study and 4 percent of the dogs. Chambers said examples of diseases that were identified were cardiac enlargement and lung disease.

"These findings provided information that was useful in the management of these cases," she said.

Chambers presented the findings at K-State's Developing Scholars Research Poster Symposium in April. She plans to get a master's in biology or zoology and focus on the study of animals. A 2009 graduate of Prairie View High School, Chambers is the daughter of Tom Chambers of Amsterdam, Mo., and Marla Chambers, LaCygne.