In the past few years, there has been a shift in the way people care for their pets. This change is reflected not only in the tools used by vets but also in the amount of research and new treatments developed.
The demand for high-quality veterinary medicine has led to the availability of a wide range of veterinary specialists, who are board certified in almost every field of medical and surgical care available in humans, says Dr. Ryan Cavanaugh. He is an assistant professor of small animals surgery at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, and a veterinary surgeon oncologist.
Cavanaugh says that veterinary science has been motivated to develop better technology to treat companion animals more efficiently.
The veterinary field is exploring 3-D printing and prosthetics, laser surgery and cannabidiol.
3D printing as an instrument for veterinary science
In the past decade, 3-D printers have become increasingly affordable and accessible to the veterinary industry.
The software required to operate 3-D Printers was expensive and complex ten years ago. Dr. Rory Lubold uses them in his practice Paion Vet.
Before 3-D printing entered the veterinary space, Dr. Lubold says that they used books or 3-D renderings of objects on the computer. But this has the limitation of being unable to see all the aspects of the object.
According to Dr. Lubold, there are many companies that offer complete printing solutions. The companies take CT scans from hospitals and create a model, then return it to the hospital. This makes obtaining 3-D models easy for any hospital that has access to a scanner (3-D, such as CT or MRI).
Today, 3-D models are used widely in orthopedics. This helps the surgeons have a tangible object to evaluate fractures, plan surgeries, and develop custom prosthetics,” Dr. Lubold says.
Dr. Lubold said that veterinarians also use 3-D printing to visualize normal and anomalous anatomy in soft tissue surgical planning and for vascular surgery. The 3-D renderings will be used to evaluate cancerous mass removal.
Advanced Prosthetic Veterinary Care
For decades, vets used only endoprostheses, which are external devices that look like splints and cover a part of the animal’s leg.
The splints are used either to stabilize the area or to provide length as an extension to the limb following partial amputation.
Cavanaugh says that the research undertaken by the veterinary community in the last five to ten years has resulted into significant advances with regard to prosthetics. Dr. Cavanaugh uses biomaterials and prosthetic engineering techniques to create implantable implants to repair bone defects that have been left after a tumor has been treated.
According to Dr. Cavanaugh, 3-D printing has greatly benefited the field of medical implants. Dr. Cavanaugh says that complex prosthetics can be created, printed, and manufactured as an implantable device. This is useful for reconstructing bone sections that have been lost due to trauma caused by accident or intentional removal during the treatment of a bone tumor.
The technology is still relatively new to veterinarians, but there are already reports that practitioners have been able to reconstruct skulls and face bones of patients after they have undergone surgery to remove tumors or save limbs which would otherwise have needed to be amputated,” explains Dr. Cavanaugh.
Use of Lasers for Surgery and Healing
The veterinary industry is rapidly developing laser surgery, with its usage increasing each year. However, the most rapid growth has occurred in the last decade.
According to Dr. Benjamin Colburn from Palm Springs in Florida, surgical lasers can be found at Veterinary Surgical Referral Centers such as university teaching hospitals and specialty surgery centers.
The surgical laser is used in many ways, but Dr. Colburn says that it’s mostly to relieve pain during elongated soft-palate surgeries. It can also be used to remove tumors from horses.
The laser therapy is a different kind of laser from the ones used for surgery. According to Dr. Colburn, this light emitted by the laser is not meant to cut into tissue but rather heal and change it.
Dr. Colburn says that the first therapeutic lasers appeared in medical journals in 1968. Laser therapy is a growing industry. There are now more laser companies making therapeutic lasers than ever before.
Dr. Colburn says that lasers have provided another option to relieve pain in animals. Laser therapy can be used in certain situations, such as when pets are suffering from comorbidities, like liver or kidney disease, and cannot take medication for pain relief due to contraindications.
Cannabinoids and Veterinary Care
There have been a few studies on the benefits of cannabinoids in veterinary medicine. However, this is changing rapidly.
Cannabinoids have evolved over the last decade, even though they’ve been used as medicine for centuries. Dr. Joe Wakshlag is an associate professor at Cornell University and recently completed a trial involving cannabinoids in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis.
The discovery that CBD (cannabidiol) can be used as a standalone treatment without THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, is helping to increase acceptance in veterinary medicine.
According to Dr. Wakshlag, cannabinoids have completely transformed the way veterinarians treat multi-joint and osteoarthritis in animals. I had a dog owner crying in Dr. Wakshlag’s office just two days after using the oil. Her pet came up her stairs, and she slept there for the first two years.
Dr. Wakshlag is of the opinion that CBD oil can be as effective or even better than some pet medications used today for pain relief. We are currently conducting three clinical studies in the areas of oncology and seizures, as well as post-operative pain. Our preliminary results in oncology show promise.