Medical Advances Impact Veterinary Care

Beach Metro News

By Dr. Nigel Skinner • September 20, 2011 • Print This Article
THE FIELD of medicine, both human and veterinary, continues to move forward at remarkable speed. New approaches to old problems, new techniques and new medications are developed almost daily. In many cases advances in human medicine give rise to advances in veterinary medicine, in a few it has been the other way around. Either way, as research becomes reality, we are able to implement better and better ways to care for our patients.

One of the challenges for the veterinary profession is keeping up with these advances and knowing which can be practically extended to our patients. When these advances are introduced and become part of the armoury at our disposal to provide care for our patients, our obligation is to at least make our pet owners aware that these options exist. We also need to be able to discuss their advantages and disadvantages if any. In many cases these advances can increase the cost of vet- erinary care, but it is worth keeping in mind that there is real value in these newer techniques and products when they have been shown to be of measurable benefit to your pets.

A good example of this would be one of the vets most common elective surgical procedures the ‘spay’, the procedure of removing the ovaries as well as (in the past at least) the uterus from female cats and dogs, preventing unwanted pregnancy and certain dis- eases. Not that long ago the cost of a spay included the anesthesia, the surgery and perhaps an overnight stay. Now most clinics will at least offer pre- anesthetic blood testing and intravenous fluids, for many these things are not optional but part of the whole package.

If you or I were undergoing abdominal surgery, there would be no question. Both bloodwork and surgical IVs have been shown to reduce the risk of anesthetic and surgical complications; they are a must.

Spays can now also be performed using a minimally invasive laparoscopic technique. Again this is the gold standard of abdominal surgery in people. Laparoscopic spays have already caught on in many vet clinics in the US and will undoubtedly become more available here in the future. Of course there’s nothing wrong with the traditional abdominal surgery, but, in both people and pets, a laparoscopic technique has been shown to greatly reduce pain and speed recovery, as well as reduce the risk of certain complications. It is a good example of where cur- rent standards in human medicine can be extended to our pets, offering a very real benefit to them.

Of course the advance of veterinary medical diagnostic and treatment options following closely behind our ‘human medical’ counterparts also applies to non elective procedures. Many vet clinics now offer ultrasound, endoscopy and other advanced diagnostic modalities, not to mention the numerous options now readily available at specialty referral clinics such as MRI and CT scanning, radioactive iodine therapy, advanced physiotherapy and rehabilitation to name a few.

In fact, as Macleans Magazine reported earlier this year, the wait times for pets for these high end diagnostics and treatments are in many cases short to none while frighteningly long for people. For things like MRI, the difference comes down to the simple fact that the cost of the equipment keeps the number of available machines and experts to operate them far below the demand for people needing them. Unfortunately, some of the newest, safest and most effective medications also carry a heftier price tag.

The bottom line is that as we move forward, veterinarians as medical professionals are obliged to be able to offer their patients the best of what our current understanding has to offer. We still all need to be able to deal with each individual’s reality, whether that is their financial situation or just their personal beliefs, and be able to offer all alternatives for any given situation when perhaps the ‘best’ is not an option.

Don’t be afraid to discuss all the options and associated costs with your vet when dealing with any elective or non-elective procedure or treatment. Part of our job is to present you with all the options available for any given situation.