Advances in Veterinary Techniques
A pet owner would be hard-pressed to find an individual more qualified to speak about advances in veterinary techniques than Dr. Kyle Kerstetter of Michigan Veterinary Specialists. Not only is Dr. Kerstetter a Board Certified Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, he’s also the owner of a 13-year-old Labrador named Remington.
Remington, a beloved member of the Kerstetter family, also happens to be suffering from bone cancer, a condition that Dr. Kerstetter himself is treating using some of the most advanced medical treatments available for pets today.
“I diagnosed Remington with a tumor in the non-weight bearing bone of her front leg,” Dr. Kerstetter explained. “I was able to remove it and administer radiation therapy and a course of chemotherapy to put the cancer in remission.” Today Remington spends her days curled up under the desk in Dr. Kerstetter’s office, comfortable, happy and cancer free.
New Treatments, New Life
Just a few years ago, the success of Remington’s treatment might not have been possible. There have been so many advances in veterinary care that illnesses that used to mean the certain end of a pet’s life are now often just treatable bumps in the road.
The vet’s office is still the place to take your pet for checkups, shots or a broken bone, but, increasingly, pets are just as likely to head to the vet for lifesaving advanced treatments and therapies as they are for a flea dip or routine vaccination.
“Veterinary care has benefited from overall advances in technology and science in general. As a result we can diagnose illnesses that would go unnoticed before and then treat them in a far less invasive way,” Dr. Kerstetter explains. “Illnesses that were once fatal are now quite treatable.”
The following is a list of some of the newest treatments being offered by veterinarians across the country:
Chemotherapy – Cancer is on the rise in both people and pets, and more dogs are being diagnosed with cancer each year. The good news is that many forms of cancer can be successfully managed with chemotherapy. On the upside, unlike humans, chemotherapy treatments usually don’t make dogs feel sick.
Hip and Joint Replacement – These procedures have been available for dogs for a while now, but new advancements in the way they are done have increased the success of these operations tenfold. The main difference is that doctors no longer require the use of “bone cement,” a compound that was once used to keep the replacement joints in place. This often led to infection which, in turn, led to the replacement being rejected.
Laser Surgery – Lasers are commonly used when very small, precise cuts are required for biopsies, eye surgeries, or as method of removing small tumors. Again, the procedure's biggest benefit is that laser surgery is incredibly precise and, therefore, minimally invasive.
Endoscopy - Endoscopy allows doctors to see an animal’s internal organs by inserting a long, flexible tube into the body. The tip of the tube contains a video chip and a light that captures images and sends them to a video monitor. This is a very useful and non-invasive way to diagnose internal injuries or tumors.
Ultrasound - In ultrasound, a device called a transducer emits very high frequency sound waves into the animal’s body and then measures the waves that bounce back. A computer interprets the pattern of sound reflection and creates a still picture or a moving image on a monitor. Ultrasound is painless and requires no chemicals, radiation, or entry into the body. This makes it safe to use on delicate tissue like the retina, the spinal cord or developing fetuses.
MRI - Magnetic resonance imaging systems utilize a combination of powerful magnets and radio wave technology to produce images of animals’ internal organs and structures. They are also used for detecting cancerous growths and tumors.
Of course, all these advances can be costly. In fact, most of these advanced treatments are very expensive. “Watching people who love their pets, but can’t afford some of these treatments, struggle with the decision to seek treatment or not is the most difficult part of my job,” Dr. Kerstetter admits. “At the same time, I’ve been shocked at the lengths people go to prolong the life of the pets they love. I’ve seen people sell their cars or take out second mortgages on their homes to spend another year of quality time with their animals.”
Dr. Kerstetter says that pet insurance can help when it comes to offsetting the cost of advanced treatments, but he warns that buyers need to be very careful to get a good policy from a reputable provider and, above all, make sure the policy is as comprehensive as possible.
Dr. Kerstetter also warns that just because a pet's life can be saved, doesn’t mean that it always should. “There are times when people try to prolong a pet's life longer than they should, but I don’t see that as much as you might think,” he says. Dr. Kerstetter says that most pet owners he meets know deep down on a basic level if their animals are still able to enjoy a high quality of life and make their decisions based on this knowledge.
“If someone asks me, I usually tell them that they know their animal better than anyone in the world, which makes them better suited than anyone to make that call. In my experience, most people make the right decision.”
And when the right decision is made, today more than ever, it leads to cases like Remington — a happy dog, living out her golden years in peace, asleep under the desk of her loving owner.
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