Surrey-based North Downs Specialist Referrals (NDSR) reports that it has become one of the first in the country to operate on dogs and cats with tumours in the pituitary gland.

NDSR’s European Specialist in neurology and neurosurgery Niklas Bergknut is performing the surgery.

He said: "This type of surgery for dogs is not performed in many clinics across the country.

"The pituitary gland is, of course, a very small gland which is very close to the brain, so it requires considerable expertise to perform the operation, followed by a lot of after-care to help the animal recover properly after surgery.

"The pituitary gland produces hormones which are essential for life, so it is then vital to constantly monitor the dog, its blood, hormones and fluid levels both during surgery and for a longer period after surgery.

"Although surgery may be challenging, the aftercare can be even more challenging and requires very skilled internal medicine specialists to manage the patients after surgery.

"Our medics and nurses carry out various blood tests and manage the fluid balance every hour after surgery and all the way through to the dog going home.

"Every department in the hospital has to work closely together to ensure the best possible treatment and the best possible outcome."

Niklas, who learned the technique from Bjorn Meij, Professor of Surgery at the University of Utrecht, described how the operation is performed. He said: "We go in through the mouth, up through the soft palate and into the underside of the cranium. Then you drill a little hole to access the tumour that way.

"It is obviously essential to make sure you are in exactly the right place or the outcome could be disastrous.

"It is also important to operate as early as possible before the tumour gets too big.

"Trying to remove a big tumour is more difficult and holds greater risks because of the damage that can be done to the surrounding brain in attempting to remove the tumour."

Niklas says that if surgery is successful, the results are impressive, with most dogs making a full recovery and not suffering any recurrence of the tumours, a better outcome than treating the dogs with traditional methods such as radiotherapy.

He added: "Removing the tumour like this is the only way of permanently treating tumours of this type. Radiotherapy is very good too but there is a much larger likelihood of the tumour growing back."

For more information, visit www.ndsr.co.uk