Over the past 20 years, there have been tremendous changes in veterinary medicine. Advances in science and technology have enabled us to treat our animal patients with the same quality of medical care as humans. Many diagnostic tools we now take for granted simply weren’t available in the past: Ultrasound, in-house labs that allow us to perform intricate diagnostic tests and get almost immediate results, computerized radiography, endoscopy. Medical records are computerized. MRI’s are commonplace.
Along with the technological advancement has also come a shift in the profession towards “specialists” – veterinarians concentrating on one specific aspect of animal care, and, in some cases, one specific species. In the past, most veterinarians were like the family practitioner. You took your new puppy or kitten for an initial exam, vaccinations, spay or neuter and usually didn’t go back again until something traumatic happened such as an accident or major surgery. Now, it’s possible for your pet to not only have his general practitioner, but a dermatologist, internist, surgeon, an ophthalmologist, and cardiologist! Most clients today consider their pets to be members of the family and give the same importance to choosing their veterinarian as they do their own internist or pediatrician.
With these advances in medicine have come amazing opportunities to serve our clients and their pets. Just as in humans, advances in the treatment of diseases such as diabetes, cancers, and heart conditions have dramatically increased the life expectancy of most of America’s cats and dogs.
And while this is all good news, there are also some disturbing trends to report. The State of Pet Health 2011 Report comprises medical data from 2.1 million dogs and nearly 450,000 cats. The report analyzes pet health trends over the past five years, highlighting preventable and medically important diagnoses affecting cats and dogs. The data revealed that parasites have been on the rise in cats and dogs for the last five years; the prevalence of fleas and ticks on pets has increased; dental disease and ear infections are up; there has been a 46 percent increase in canine diabetes since 2005; and there is disturbing data showing that cat owners wait far too long to seek veterinary care for their felines.
Every veterinarian I know chose this profession because of his or her love of animals and a desire to care for those animals to the best of our abilities. Beyond the medical aspect, we see our role primarily as being animal advocates. It’s up to us to partner with and counsel pet owners about all of the options available for treatment, and come up with a plan that keeps the animal’s best interests at heart.
Today’s veterinarian can accomplish so much more than in times past but we can’t do it alone. We need the cooperation and consent of the pet owner. With that partnership, the day may come when every companion animal can anticipate living a life with little or no disease or pain. It’s a lot to ask and we are doing our best to live up to that potential.
, DVM, has been practicing in Flagstaff since 2008. She and her husband Chris purchased Canyon Pet Hospital in January, 2011. (928) 774-5197 or canyonpet.com