Our gut plays an important role in our overall health. It is also a tricky part of our body to understand.
Traditionally, vets are only able to explore a patient’s Gastrointestinal tract (GIT) through invasive methods that require general anaesthesia. Even then, it is not possible to look into the whole length of the tube at once.
That’s no longer the case with ALICAM!
The Animal Ark vet clinic is the first in the region to bring in this revolutionary device. It is basically a set of cameras in a vitamin pill-sized capsule that your dog can swallow easily.
It will travel down your dog’s digestive system and get naturally passed out hours later. This means we can now see high-res images of the entire GIT, from the mouth to the anus without surgery or endoscopy.
1. Safe, painless, and fuss-free
Before ALICAM, the two options available at The Animal Ark for exploring the GIT are: (1) pursuing an exploratory surgery or (2) employing flexible endoscopes (minimally invasive).
Both options require general anaesthesia that comes with its own risks.
With ALICAM, the single-use capsule is fed to your dog by the vet. After which, she can go home without disruption to her daily activities.
Using 4 cameras mounted on a 360-degree axis, Ambulatory Light-based Imaging (ALI) capsule can capture thousands of images as it travels down the GIT, from the mouth to the anus.
Bright LED lights ensure that clear and high-resolution images are taken. The capsule would be passed out 3-30 hours later. The owner will then bring it back to the clinic.
The data from the capsule will be extracted and delivered to a specialist in the United States for analysis. The specialist will then send over a detailed report as soon as the following day, providing prompt diagnosis and recommended treatments.
2. Common uses
While ALICAM is safe and useful in showing valuable insights to your dog’s GIT, it is quite costly.
Hence, vets will only recommend it for chronic or refractory conditions, or when they have exhausted conventional diagnostics (e.g. ultrasound and radiography).
Dr. Eugene Lin (BVSc), Founder of The Animal Ark Veterinary Group says that he occasionally uses ALICAM as a part of health screens in geriatric dogs especially when he suspects that they have higher risks of cancers. It is akin to humans undergoing colonoscopy when they are in certain age groups.
Some examples of detectable GI diseases include, but are not limited to:
- Erosions or ulcers
- Masses or cancers
Unless the masses/cancers in the GIT are large, without ALICAM it would be difficult to diagnose. Dr. Eugene suspects that many cases in animals go undiagnosed because access to the gut is difficult and risky without modern equipment like ALICAM and flexible endoscopes.
3. Cutting edge diagnostic imaging
“No modality is perfect in GIT diagnostic imaging but I think ALICAM comes close. Also, it does not require general anaesthesia and the animal can be discharged immediately upon swallowing the pill,” advises Dr. Eugene.
Surgery is very invasive and a relatively risky procedure that is usually carried out if a specific cause and problem area of the GIT is known. Examples of that would be a foreign body in the intestines or a mass or cancer that is causing obstruction. The surgeon is unable to see the “inside” (lumen) of the GIT.
While flexible endoscopy is minimally invasive and is able to obtain biopsy samples for histopathology, it can only access about 1.5m of the GIT from the mouth and/or from the anus. The average length of a dog’s GIT is about 4-6m. Therefore, there is quite a length of it that the scope is unable to reach.
4. Eligible dogs
ALICAM is suitable for dogs who weigh above 5.5kg. However, Dr. Eugene shares that he prefers to administer it to dogs who weigh at least 7.5kg. This is because the capsule may not pass through the tract if the dog is too small. It also may not be recommended if the dog is pregnant or has obstruction or stricture in the intestines.
The cost of ALICAM, inclusive of the specialist’s report from the U.S. with diagnosis and recommendations, is $1,000.
The correct diagnosis is essential in ensuring prompt treatment. With technological advancement, more and more conditions that were difficult to diagnose in the past are now easy to detect.
Hence, it’s always good to learn about the latest technology that can help with your dog’s diagnostics whether now or in the future.
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