Can Surgery on Cats and Dogs Save Human Lives?

I have always loved cats, but now there’s even more reason to appreciate our feline friends.

Veterinarians at the Royal Veterinary College’s Queen Mother hospital for animals (QMHA) in England believe that the time has come for animal and human medicine to start learning from each other.

They are not alone. In 2007, the American Veterinary Medicine Association announced that they wanted to “unite human and veterinary medicine to improve animal and public health.” That’s because many diseases are shared by humans and animals.

Stijn Niessen, lecturer in internal medicine at QMHA, explains how the two groups can profit from each other’s experiences.

From The Guardian:

“Around 80% of diabetic cats have Type 2 diabetes the condition that’s costing the NHS 1m an hour,” he says. “There are similarities between inflammatory bowel diseases in dogs and Crohn’s disease, and between Cushing’s disease and hyperthyroidism in cats. Cancers: lymphoma, leukemia. I could name you 100 diseases humans and animals share and the list would not be complete.”

Human medicine, Niessen continues, puts “a lot of money and effort into trying to replicate these diseases, in mice for example. That can certainly help. But at best they’re basically models not the naturally occurring disease. And yet in cats and dogs we have those very diseases, occurring naturally.”

The idea that human and animal medicine are vitally connected and should work together is not a new one: Sir William Osler, for example, a founding professor at John Hopkins hospital, promoted it eloquently in the 1800s. But it is only recently that it has begun to gain popularity.

Here’s one example of how humans might benefit from animal surgery.

Again, from The Guardian:

A neurosurgeon called Patrick Kenny is about to insert two stainless steel pins into Harry’s skull. To these he will fit a clamp, immobilising Harry’s head. His jaws will be wedged open. Then Kenny will cut a tiny hole through the back of the roof of Harry’s mouth and, in an operation that will last more than four hours, set about removing a pea-sized tumour from a vital gland at the base of his brain.

Harry is a cat. A 12-year-old maine coon, in fact. He’s a big old fella, as maine coons generally are, but Harry is considerably bigger than he should be, because the tumour on his pituitary gland is causing it to produce far more growth hormone than it should, a condition known as acromegaly. This has led to one of the disease’s most common complications: uncontrolled diabetes, as the excess hormone counters the effects of insulin.

Henry’s need for a large number of insulin injections has made his life miserable, and his tumor has continued to grow despite the injections. Radiation therapy and a drug program bring their own complications, which is why it was decided to try this operation, a brand-new approach.

After the operation, the tumor cells are to be scrutinized in an attempt to understand why this tumor has grown. And the hope is that the knowledge gained from this will shed new light on how to deal with this disease in humans.

On a happier note, Henry’s operation has been a success: he is recovering well, and almost back to his old pre-illness self.

What do you think? Does it make sense that human and animal doctors pool their resources, and start working more closely together? Or do you see veterinarians and human doctors as two different species?

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Photo Credit: thinkstock

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Alicia Guevara
Alicia Guevara2 years ago

Agree, as long as there is no testing and abuse on animals!

Hayley Cruze
Hayley C.2 years ago


Sheri D.
Sheri D.2 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra2 years ago

Thank you Judy, for Sharing this!

Evelyn B.
Evelyn B.2 years ago

This is another word for vivisection...this is abuse on animals..and if you believe otherwise get your head out of your butt..

Andrew C.
Andrew C.2 years ago

Interesting article. Thanks.

Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright2 years ago

I'm with Magdika, no testing and abuse on animals. And with Ryan B. as well....

Diane L.
Diane L.2 years ago

" hope all you readers can begin to recognize that this is the vivisection gang attempting to condition your minds to accept their lie"......Sandra B., Judy Molland is a Care.2 staff writer, and from the other articles she writes, she's an animal rights advocate. Where are you coming up with this "conspiracy theory"? Get a grip.

Deb S., no horses are not dogs, dogs are not people, cats are not birds, but we're all living, breathing ANIMALS, and if research on one species can benefit another, why not? Diabetes in humans is basically the same disease as it is in dogs, cats and horses. Cancers are still cancers.

Diane L.
Diane L.2 years ago

Cindy L., there doesn't have to be "abuse" and testing is a necessary thing to develop any new procedures, medications or treatments, both for humans and for animals. It's sad when people are so emotional about animals' welfare that they can't see beyond that to helping others in any way. If your animals were "in need" and the only thing that would save their lives was a medication or a surgical procedure that had been developed BY perfecting them with animal use/testing, would you then just let your pets die rather than take advantage of those products/procedures? I've lost animals over the decades to cancers and other diseases which, if there had been medictions or surgical procedures available to save them, they WOULD have been my options. Years ago, they had no vaccine for feline leukemia and Iost several cats to that. Now there is a vaccine. Where do you think it came from?