With the number of US pet owners touching 70 percent, the need for quality veterinary services, coupled with advanced technological innovations for pets, is at an all-time high. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of technicians and veterinary technologists is expected to grow by 15 percent between 2020–2030.
Over the last decade, vets have been using technologies such as ultrasound, MRI, and laparoscopy, once solely meant for human use. The aim for using these innovations is to offer better care, outcomes, and medications to pets.
Here are the must-have technological innovations that increase life expectancy and improve the care of pets in the long run.
1. Wearable Devices
The use of wearable medical devices, such as GPS trackers, motion sensors, Bluetooth transmitters, accelerometers, and much more, is rising. These devices are used to keep track of heart rate, body temperature, pH levels, respiration rate, oxygen levels, sleep cycles, etc., thus, resulting in better treatment procedures for pets.
For instance, Whistle, a manufacturer of pet monitoring and tracking devices, announced the launch of the Whistle 3 product. This device keeps track of a pet’s exercise and can locate a lost pet, as well. The device tracker and mobile app create a safe space for the pet to wander around vacation spots, homes, or offices.
As per the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention, approximately 100 million cats and dogs are obese or overweight. Wearable fitness trackers equipped with temperature, pulse, and respiratory sensors collect data to measure a pet’s physical activity; therefore, aiding veterinarians to diagnose and recommend diet charts for pets.
According to a study, 52 percent of cats in the US have not been taken to a vet in the past year. This number can be reduced with virtual care through telemedicine platforms.
For implementing telemedicine, a vet requires a legal VCPR (Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship), as recommended by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association). VCPR enales vets to prescribe medication, diagnose, and treat any animal via telemedicine platforms. Note that veterinarian telemedicine laws differ from state-to-state.
As per a study conducted by the University of Tennessee, 50 percent of participants felt moderately positive towards veterinary telemedicine. A digital experience that aligns with the lives of pet owners is driving the need for telemedicine today.
Telemedicine services via email, website, or text messages enable vets to provide better advice, thus building relationships with clients. For instance, Chewy, an e-commerce platform, launched its telehealth services for pets, through which owners can get online guidance in real-time.
A telemedicine application furnishes better care post-surgeries. For example, an owner can send images of incisions, and vets can track the healing process, thus preventing infection or sepsis.
A veterinarian can use social media, messaging, or calls to inform clients about telemedicine services. Case-by-case method is used by vets to evaluate which animals require telemedicine consultation and which ones need treatment at clinics.
3. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
According to the National Academy of Medicine, AI can revolutionize medical care and provide opportunities to improve clinical outcomes, patient care, and decrease expenses. Vets use AI technology to detect certain diseases in pets and treat them accordingly.
Dr. Krystle Reagan, veterinary internist at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, helped to create an algorithm to diagnose Addison’s disease in dogs, with an accuracy of 99 percent.
Blood samples from over 1,000 dogs were used to train artificial intelligence algorithms to detect the complex patterns of the disease. This program was then used to detect Addison’s disease in new dogs.
“Radiography is another field where AI is successfully used. Complex algorithms are proving to be accurate in detecting patterns for imaging data,” says Erin Downes from Paoli Vetcare.
For instance, Vetology, a leader in veterinary teleconsulting, provides AI scrutiny of radiographs of organs such as lungs, heart, and thorax in dogs. The results are available in five minutes, and the accuracy rate equals that of a live vet radiologist.
4. 3D Printing
3D printing technology is useful for surgical procedures in animals. For example, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, Indiana, and UIUC College of Veterinary Medicine are utilizing 3D printing technology to educate the next generation of surgeons about bone fixations.
This technology provides real-time data on the muscles and bones of animals to be operated on. 3D printing creates animal bone models through data gathered from tomography scans. At Penn State, faculty and students are using 3D technology to make models that replicate deformities or injuries of animals.
Owners are educated through 3D models about their pets’ physiology and anatomy. Furthermore, this technology also aids the manufacturing of prosthetics for animals. For instance, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania used 3D technology to print a parrot’s prosthetic leg, which was torn by a fox.
Speed, unlimited designs, savings, and flexibility are reasons for the growing popularity of 3D technology. Nowadays, in addition to nylon, metal, stainless steel, and ceramics, vets can print using natural tissue, which is filled with fluid.
A biomarker (biological marker) is a quantifiable measure that indicates a biological process. It’s a growing trend in both veterinary and human medicine. A biomarker is a molecule such as a surface receptor or a hormone that’s detectable in tissues or blood, and reflects the disease or health of patients or animals.
Biomarkers are useful for monitoring diseases during and post-treatment, including early detection of diseases. For example, cardiac troponin is a sensitive marker for myocardiocyte injury, and high concentration of the marker can identify cardiac HSA (a blood vessels cancer) in dogs.
Biomarkers are essential for evaluating clinical responses, animal physiology, and therapeutic decisions. They can be obtained from sweat, urine, plasma, etc.
6. Laser Therapy
Laser therapy uses light waves of wavelength 600-1070 nanometers to alter tissues or cells. Laser therapy is used in veterinary practice to treat animals suffering from:
- Surgical incisions
- Chronic arthritis
- Traumatic injuries
- Tendon and ligament injuries
However, laser therapy works best for pets with few medical options such as:
- Pets allowed a few pain killer medicines
- Animals suffering from liver diseases that cannot take medicines
- Exotic pets where medications are difficult to administer
- Older animals with hampered organs
The medical community has struggled with philosophical and moral issues, and veterinary is not an exception. These technologies help to strengthen outcomes, care, client relationships, and detect diseases. In the coming years, it’s technology that will be most closely linked to the efficacy of a veterinary practice.