By Gary Richter, MS, DVM, Holistic Veterinary Care
This article is the second of a two-part series on some of the latest and greatest canine medical innovations.
In the last DogTrekker.com newsletter, I addressed two medical innovations that have been both rapid and effective in providing better quality and quantity of life for pets – stem cell therapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In this article, I will address arthroscopy, joint replacements, orthotics and prosthetics, as well as general integrative health care.
Arthroscopy, Joint Replacements, Orthotics, and Prosthetics
One of the most prevalent issues we see in dogs is orthopedic disease. Fractures, trauma, dysplasia, arthritis and other conditions are common amongst canine patients. In the past, when a dog had a damaged or unstable joint, suffered neurological damage, or lost a limb there was not much to be done.
Surgeons are replacing hip and elbow joints in dogs in much the same way as it is done with people. In addition, the widespread use of arthroscopic surgery allows surgeons to “clean up” an arthritic joint in a minimally invasive approach.
From a non-surgical perspective, we routinely create orthotic devices such as knee braces for cruciate ligament injuries to stabilize the joint and allow it to heal while maintaining the ability for the pet to walk on the leg. Appropriate bracing and physical rehabilitation can be viable alternatives to surgery.
Dogs who have lost part of a limb can now be fitted with prosthetics, which allow them to move more comfortably and effectively. Just as in people, canine prosthetics are custom created for the individual and require time and effort to train the wearer how to use them. That said, a prosthetic limb in the right patient can make a huge difference in quality of life.
Integrative Health Care
Although it may not be a technological advancement, the acceptance of an integrative model of veterinary health care is worthy of mention. Rather than viewing health care as either “conventional” or “alternative," the concept of “one medicine” is gaining acceptance in both the human and veterinary medical fields. Science and technology have incredibly advanced medicine treatments, but the infinite complexity of the canine biological machine should never be overlooked. When properly supported through nutrition, supplementation, and other natural methods, the body can do things technology can only dream of. There are miracles of medicine to be found everywhere and thus it is always to the patient’s benefit to explore all treatment options. The acceptance of this philosophy is a welcome change in the medical field.
What the Future Holds
There are so many medical advances on the near horizon. Within the next few years, veterinary medicine will have access to science fiction-like technologies such as nanomedicine, personalized cancer care through gene therapy, and anti-aging therapy through telomerase activation. Thirty years ago, who could have imagined the treatment options for dogs that are now routine? The rate at which medical technology is progressing makes the future of veterinary health care options almost unimaginably bright.
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