Veterinary Medicine: 7 Advances You Need to Know About

The dog health industry is changing rapidly.

Carol Bryant  |  May 17th 2013


Technology seems to change in the blink of an eye these days, doesn’t it? The same holds true in veterinary medicine. When I was a kid, when the family dog had an upset stomach, I never recall my parents taking her to the vet.

Today, dogs are treated like our children — they go to daycare, are walked by pet sitters, live indoors, sleep on our beds, and eat better foods. And veterinary medicine has kept pace. Here are seven exciting advances in veterinary medicine you can expect to find at a clinic near you (if you haven’t already):

1. Class IV cold laser therapy

Laser therapy has been used in physical therapy programs for at least 40 years on people, and it has nowbeen cleared by the FDA for use in pets. Laser therapy is effective in treating acute pain, chronic conditions, and post-operative pain.

My dog Dexter recently underwent six treatments to help speed the healing for his partially torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The laser machine itself reminded me of those mobile blood pressure units at the doctor’s office. No drugs or sedation is required, and the only equipment needed is a pair of protective laser-type doggles. (All parties in the room need to wear them.)

Dexter lay comfortably as the technician worked her magic, gently focusing the laser wand on various spots over his legs and back. Many people report their dogs receive nearly immediate relief; however, after six sessions, we did not see a major improvement. I would try it again, though.

2. Dual gene therapies to treat blindness in dogs

In 2010, a team from Michigan State University helped to restore day vision in dogs, suffering from a form of total color blindness called achromatopsia, by replacing a mutant gene.

As a dog mom who is involved with Cocker Spaniel rescue, this made me take notice. Cockers tend to have vision problems, and sadly for those who end up at shelters, vision issues are often a cited reason for relinquishment.

3. Home testing for allergies

A few weeks a year, Dexter scratches and bites at his paws until I just want to cry because nothing seems to help. When I heard about Nutriscan from the Hemopet lab, I had to learn more.

The test, which assesses allergies to food ingredients, is the brainchild of veterinary icon Jean Dodds. You can do the simple test at home (or with a veterinarian if you so desire), mailing a sample of your dog’s saliva to the lab.

Just think: No serum testing, no picking the dog via allergy testing, and no discomfort for your dog.

You can order a choice of two panel kits online and have them sent to you or your veterinarian. I used the first panel and found out Dexter has allergies to venison — which meant I could change his diet and stop that infernal itching.

4. Cancer treatment gets innovative

The sad fact is that more than one million dogs per year are diagnosed with cancer, so I was intrigued to hear about Immunocidin, a derivation of a drug that was successful in treating bladder cancer in humans and is now being tested for use in dogs.

When my dog Brandy had a mast cell tumor, we monitored with ultrasounds and completed laser surgery with clean margins.

5. In-office titer check

Speaking of cancer and mast cells, I am not anti-vaccine but I am anti-overvaccination. Because of Brandy’s skin cancer, which developed at the site of her yearly vaccines, I’ve made it my mission to become an educated, informed pet parent.

Vaccines aren’t one-size-fits-all for dogs, as I discovered when attending a webinar by famed veterinarian Jean Dodds, who has redefined vaccine protocols. She notes that smaller dogs and dogs who get multiple vaccines simultaneously tend to suffer more side effects and reactions.

Thankfully, titers — blood tests that assess immunity — are the answer to this dilemma. Dogster’s own vet, Dr. Eric Barchas, wrote about them in “Should I Euthanize a Happy Dog with Cancer?” Enter Vaccicheck, which I told my own dog’s veterinarian about recently. This test allows for in-office titer testing of canine antibodies to Infectious Hepatitis (ICH), Parvovirus (CPV) and Distemper (CDV).

6. Heartworm check

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the Witness HW heartworm antigen test kit designed for dogs and cats. The test does not require refrigeration, has a 12-month shelf life, and was recently released to veterinarians nationwide. This is important to us, as dog moms and dads, because vets can find out in approximately 10 minutes if a dog has heartworm disease. The faster these dogs can be diagnosed, the sooner they can be treated.

7. Canine lipoma treatment

Finding a lump on your dog can be a very upsetting experience; as someone whose dog has had more lumps than a unmixed batch of mashed potatoes, I can attest firsthand to this feeling.

Mast cell cancer is often called “the great imposter” because the growth looks harmless, and sometimes like lipomas. So I am always hopeful when a treatment comes out that seems safe for treating lumps, including lipomas.

Lipomas are benign, but they can be liposarcomas, which are rare but malignant. Lipomas can and do grow, and I know that even as I write this, my dog, Dexter, has a small lipoma on his underbelly. I watch it, measure it, but I just wish it would go away.

Xiaflex is a new collagenase-based injectable drug that has showed a massive reduction of 97 percent in canine lipomas.

As technology gets better and the bond we share with our dogs grows deeper, veterinary medicine is providing a wider array of preventative and treatment options. Have you heard of these treatments or been a part of them? Is your dog’s veterinarian keeping up with the changes? Let me know in the comments!

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