When veterinarians treated pets for many illnesses 20 years ago, success was definitely a crap shoot. Today, the odds have shifted. This is the message of the 73rd Annual Western Veterinary Conference, February 11 through 15 in Las Vegas.
"Overall, anything that can be done for people can be done for your pet," says Dr. Stephen Crane, the conference executive director.
And when he means anything, he's means pretty much anything - even physical therapy. Once perhaps a subject for a cartoon: A dog getting into an accident with a cat, and is suing the cat - as directed by a sleazy lawyer he's wearing a neck brace and gets physical therapy. But that's not quite how veterinary supporters of physical therapy envision use of this technique.
Dr. Peter Schwarz, a Board Certified surgeon in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says he treated a Lhaso apso with a herniated disc. Twenty years ago, this dog would have been euthanized. Today, surgery is a viable option, but complete mobility is not always regained following this serious procedure. Schwarz says that indeed, at first, the Lhaso was not recovering well. However, after three weeks of electrical stimulation and hydrotherapy (physical therapy in water), the dog not only walked again - but recovered fully.
"Veterinary conferences aren't open to the public - but they do impact all pet owners," says Crane. "This is where the cutting edge stuff is revealed, where veterinarians learn new ways to help our pets."
The Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas is arguably the oldest and most prestigious in America, attended by more than 8,000 pet care professionals. Some of the nation's most renowned researchers and Board Certified specialists are included among the 220 presenters offering 850 hours of programming, much of it presented here first.
Physical therapy for pets may sound over-the-top for some, but Schwarz believes it will soon be routinely offered following many orthopedic surgeries. "I'm convinced that it can speed the rate of recovery, and in some cases make recovery possible in the first place," he says.
Schawrz will speak about physical therapy for pets at the conference. He says the biggest obstacles to overcome are pragmatic obstacles. For example, currently physical therapy on pets is practiced by human therapists, or an elite group of veterinary technicians with special training. He thinks techniques in physical therapy will soon be taught to vet techs at conferences, and in school, which will quickly double the number qualified to practice these techniques. As for hydrotherapy, the pets can't share the local YMCA pool, so veterinary surgeons are having built-in pools installed.
Just as dogs with herniated discs were once euthanized, so were dogs who suffered seizures. That's no longer true, of course. However, some dogs have seizures so severe that medications provide limited effectiveness, or create severe side effects. Dr. Michael Podell, a Board Certified Neurologist and associate professor of neurology at Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine - Columbus will present new data on treating cluster or continuous seizures. He'll reveal that instead of rushing an epileptic pet to an emergency clinic, a shot of Valium (Diazepam) can be given by the owner at home using a plastic syringe; the concentration is greater than the pill form, which is slow to act or ineffective.
For dogs who suffer side effects from Potassium Bromide used in conjunction with Phenyl Barbital to control seizures, Podell's research may reveal an alternative. He says, so far, there's been side-effect free success with one day of intense Potassium bromide offered intravenously, followed by daily Potassium Bromide pills. The intense day long intravenous treatment makes a huge difference. Podell will also talk about new research to explain genetic influences causing epileptic dogs.
In fact, genetics is now a huge issue as the canine gene map becomes better understood. Veterinary dermatologist Dr. Wayne Rosenkrantz of Tustin, Calif., will discuss how 31 dog breeds have been positively identified to have a genetic predisposition for skin problems. These include many terriers, akitas, cocker spaniels and most kinds of retrievers. He'll also talk about new shampoos for the most common skin problem in all dogs, seborrhea. A new spray/rinse, makes its debut at the show to treat bacterial and yeast infections (called Advance PH Formula).
This conference covers large animals, such as cows and horses, as well as alternative pets such as reptiles and birds. Avian behaviorist Liz Wilson of Levittown, Penn., reveals research about birds who develop a phobia of their owner. "I'm not just talking about a slight fear here," she says. "These birds really think they're going to die when they're once beloved favorite person walks into a room."
Research on exactly how this phobia is created is ongoing, although she does point out that African birds (except lovebirds) and cockatoos are far more prone than birds from the Western Hemisphere. She speculates early forced weaning might contribute in already predisposed birds. The phobia is fixable, but it takes months, incredible patience and sometimes Prozac.
Last year, Dr. Ed Breitschwerdt, professor of infectious diseases at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine - Raleigh, created a stir at the conference when he postulated that "Bartonella quintana," a disease transmitted by ticks, causes far more deaths to dogs and cats than anyone previously considered.
This year, Breitschwerdt, who is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, drops another disease bomb. He'll suggest that a disease in dogs - called Leishmaniasis - once unheard of in the U.S. - is now alive and well. This disease can cause kidney failure and a prolonged death in dogs, what's more, people can get it too. The good news is that, so far, the only cases among the U.S. are from people who caught this disease overseas. However, there are dogs who have Leishmaniasis who have never been overseas. His worst fear is that he'll discover a kind of insect carries the disease. He's specifically looking at sand flies and ticks. Without treatment, this difficult to identify disease can cause an infected person to slowly waste away, lingering until finally succumbing. The good news is that treatment in humans is even more effective than it is for dogs. Meanwhile, run like heck from sandflies and ticks.
information about the conference, visit their web site at www.wvc.org.
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