Veterinary medicine has always been at the forefront of technological advances. The medical care your dog receives today rivals that of most humans. Cutting-edge procedures and products promise not only to treat illness and extend longevity but improve our canines’ quality of life. Here are eight high-tech breakthroughs I think every dog parent should know about.
Cancer screening blood tests. | Canine cancer can be tough to diagnose early, and early diagnosis is essential for better outcomes. With an estimated half of all U.S. dogs over age 10 developing cancer, simple, low-cost screening tests are more important than ever. Your vet can now take a blood sample and search for evidence of cancer nucleosomes, the earliest sign of many tumors. I’m recommending this for my senior doggo patients, especially Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Flat-Coated Retrievers, Beagles, Bernese Mountain Dogs and others at highest risk of cancer.
Injectable cancer treatment
Mast cell tumor revolution in a syringe. | Speaking of cancer, mast cell tumors (MCTs) are the most common canine skin cancer and one of the most challenging to cure. That changed with the development of an innovative injectable cancer treatment called Stelfonta. Your veterinarian injects a tiny amount of this drug (derived from a plant discovered in the Australian rainforest) into the tumor site and, over a few weeks, the tumor dies. Researchers promise this is the first of many exciting pet cancer treatments to come.
Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy
Treatment for anxiety, pain and more. | For decades, humans have used electromagnetic energy to help treat a wide variety of conditions including PTSD, depression, chronic pain and bone healing. Your dog can now benefit from applying targeted electromagnetic wavelengths to help overcome separation, noise and general anxiety disorders, acute and chronic inflammation, arthritis and after surgery. My favorite instrument is the FDA-cleared Assisi Loop, a halo-like device you use at home and place over an affected area a few minutes daily. Numerous vets and pet parents swear by it, and the scientific evidence continues to grow.
Arthritis and inflammation therapy. | I’ve been using class IV laser therapy (“cold laser”) on my patients for nearly 20 years. To say I’m a fan is an understatement. Whether a dog has arthritis, hip dysplasia, wounds or nearly any inflamed tissue, chances are laser therapy can help. Modern therapeutic lasers are highly sophisticated and offer levels of precision that ensure your dog receives the safest and most effective treatment. Plus, you and your pooch get to wear those cool “laser glasses” during the procedure!
More accurate X-rays. | You’ve probably heard the terms “artificial intelligence” or AI, and now the power of advanced computing is being applied to your pet’s X-rays. Many vet clinics are able to transmit your dog’s digital radiographs to a veterinary radiologist equipped with cutting-edge computing to carefully screen for abnormalities potentially missed by humans. This “human-computer radiology” or “second set of eyes” approach has been used successfully for years in human diagnostic imaging, and now that the cost has been lowered, it is accessible to our pet patients.
Whether a dog has arthritis, hip dysplasia, wounds or nearly any inflamed tissue, chances are laser therapy can help.
Deciphering genetics to predict disease. | When doggie DNA tests were first introduced, they were more “Who’s your daddy?” than “What diseases are you at risk for?” Fortunately, we’ve now cataloged the genetic profiles of many diseases (and it’s growing!) and are able to use your dog’s DNA to assess the risk of many life-threatening diseases — before they occur. By knowing that your dog has the genetic characteristics of certain conditions, you can be more vigilant and make lifestyle changes to help reduce the chances of your pet developing them. I’m an advocate for every puppy (and kitten) to have their DNA analyzed and stored. This not only allows the identification of current potential problems, but future alerts as our disease DNA database grows.
Health apps get healthier. | I’ve long been a proponent of canine activity trackers, or “doggie FitBits.” Originally they did little more than “count steps,” but the current generation of wearable devices are capable of much more. For starters, integrating a GPS chip into a collar to help locate a lost dog is a gamechanger and an absolute necessity for any escape artist. Adding sensors to detect sleep, eating, drinking and breathing rates are transforming how we view our dogs’ daily habits. More recently, some smart collars are able to monitor body temperature, heart rate and even heart rate variability (HRV), an excellent way to detect stress or pain.
Vet visits at home. | Unable to take your dog to your vet? There’s an app for that. During the pandemic, many vets began “seeing” patients virtually using videoconferencing programs, and these remote appointments worked well. If you have an existing relationship with your veterinarian, known in legal terms as a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR), your vet can legally examine, diagnose, and even prescribe remotely, as long as they’re comfortable with the pet’s condition. I’ve found telemedicine incredibly helpful in re-check exams, allergies and arthritis, behavior consultations and minor ailments. As in-home monitoring devices improve, I foresee a time when most routine visits can be conducted remotely, freeing busy vet clinics to aid more serious ailments.
These are only a few of the exciting and innovative technologies available today to help your dog live longer and healthier. As science and computing advance, I predict the human-animal bond will only grow stronger. Thank you, science!