Pet Health Care 2.0

Pets can be an amazing addition to any family, providing companionship, comfort and laughter.

In return, we buy them gifts, take them on vacations, and in some cases, feed them food fancier than our own. To make their lives as long and pain-free as possible, pet parents seek out the best health care that they can find. In fact, the American Pet Products Association reports that U.S. pet owners spent over $17 billion on veterinary care in 2018, representing a seven percent jump from 2017 and the second-highest source of spending (trailing only food) in the $70 billion pet industry.

In response to this demand, the U.S. vet care industry has expanded to offer pets many of the same diagnostic and therapeutic services that their humans enjoy. Chesapeake Veterinary Referral Center (CVRC), a Mid-Atlantic veterinary emergency and specialty care hospital, has been specializing in these services for over 25 years. CVRC opened the doors of its new, innovative facility in Annapolis in December 2018.

The 28,000 square-foot building offers referring primary care veterinarians throughout Maryland a centrally located medical center where they can send pets requiring specialized diagnoses and treatment. CVRC provides cardiology, oncology, internal medicine, ophthalmology, radiology, surgery, neurology, and rehabilitation services.

“We are thrilled to offer our referring providers and, by extension, our very large community of pet owners, a full slate of specialty options under one roof,” says Kris Evans, DVM, DACVS, CCRT, and CVRC administrator and surgical director of CVSS. “The interdepartmental collaboration that this space fosters enables us to form a complete picture of a pet’s health.”

CVRC has added 10 specialists to further boost its ability to meet these needs, along with a brand-new underwater treadmill and hyperbaric oxygen chamber. This cutting-edge rehabilitation equipment is not only eye-catching but greatly appreciated. “From the new state-of-the-art equipment down to the non-slip floors, the new facility is beyond impressive,” says Beth Miller, a longtime CVRC customer whose dachshunds, Willow and Mickey, have undergone a combined eight surgeries—and accompanying physical therapy—at CVRC. “CVRC’s new facility, with its advanced equipment and phenomenal veterinarians, will truly be one-of-a-kind.”

To learn more about CVRC and its new Annapolis facility, visit cvrc.com.
—Steve Adams with CVRC Staff Input

Underwater Treadmill for Dogs?

What is an underwater treadmill?

The underwater treadmill is a form of hydrotherapy that involves a tank filled with water that has a treadmill in the bottom. The advantages of using an underwater treadmill versus a land treadmill is that it decreases pain and weight bearing stressors, offers generalized muscle relaxation in a warm water environment, challenges coordination and balance, and increases strength.

How does the underwater treadmill make rehabilitation easier?

The water provides an upward thrust that reduces the weight of the dog’s body. The amount of upward thrust depends on the volume of the water displaced. As the water depth increases, weight bearing decreases and allows decreased impact force from gravity as the legs are supported by water’s buoyancy. Buoyancy also allows us to maximize passive and active range of motion.

What are the indications for underwater treadmill hydrotherapy?

The underwater treadmill can be used for the recovery of most orthopedic and neurologic conditions, and is a useful addition to many postoperative therapy plans. It can also be used for conditions that do or do not require surgery. It can also be used in healthy animals to increase strength.

How do dogs adapt to the underwater treadmill?

Usually the first two sessions require an assistant to be in the treadmill with the dog. The concept is foreign to our canine companions and what they see is a glass box that fills with water and then the floor moves! Most dogs will adapt after two sessions and be able to perform on their own.

When and how often is hydrotherapy indicated?

Your dog’s rehabilitation therapist will decide when and how often hydrotherapy is indicated. Usually dogs can be treated 2-3 times a week. The time spent on the treadmill usually starts slowly (5 minutes) and increases gradually to 20 minutes. The speed of the treadmill and the level of the water are determined by the therapist.

What are the contraindications?

Cardiac disease, skin lesions or wounds, uncontrolled seizures, respiratory infection, fever, pregnancy, and hydrophobia are contraindications for hydrotherapy. Some canines do not like the environment, and if they are resistant to entering the treadmill or constantly trying to climb out of the treadmill, the treatment should be discontinued.

Dr. Krista L. Evans, DVM, Dip. ACVS, CCRT
Chesapeake Veterinary Surgical Specialists

How Do I Know If My Pet Needs to See a Surgical Specialist?

A surgical specialist is a veterinarian who, in addition to having finished undergraduate requirements and four years of veterinary school, has received advance training in veterinary surgery. This training consists of another four-year commitment, with the first year being a rotating internship, and the next three years being an approved surgical residency program. Following completion of all the requirements of the outlined program, this veterinarian is then qualified to sit for the board examination, administered by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). Only after passing this rigorous multi-day examination can a veterinarian be called a veterinary surgeon, or surgical specialist. The designation Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (DACVS) is then used to identify these highly trained individuals.

Frequently, your veterinarian will recommend referral to a veterinary surgeon when your pet has a condition that is difficult to diagnose without extensive experience or specialized equipment, or when the treatment requires advanced techniques or instrumentation. Some of these procedures require vigilant anesthetic monitoring and intensive post-operative care, necessitating round-the-clock staffing of veterinarians, registered technicians and assistants. Registered technicians have a 2 or 4 year degree in veterinary science & often have years of experience with anesthesia & critical care when working for a diversified surgical practice. Many common procedures, such as most orthopedic surgeries, are potentially very painful; having doctors and technicians in hospital at all times, to administer timely pain medication can minimize needless suffering as your pet recovers from surgery. Other common reasons for referring more “routine” surgical procedures include pets that have other complicating factors in their medical history, which could benefit from the higher levels of pre- and post-operative care typically available at these institutions, such as heart disease, kidney disease, bleeding disorders, etc.

There are many regular veterinarians who offer a variety of surgical services, with varying levels of experience and expertise. When deciding how best to meet your pet’s needs, you should ask your veterinarian about their experience and success rate with the surgical procedure, it’s potential complications, and if there are alternative procedures available that might have a better outcome. You should also discuss the post-operative care that will be needed while in the hospital and at home. Pay careful attention to pain management, and if not specifically addressed, ask about it. The old lines about animals not needing pain medication, or that by providing pain relief, animals will only hurt themselves, is outdated and unacceptable.

Lastly, when discussing your pets surgical needs, you should feel comfortable asking your veterinarian if your pet would benefit from the services of a specialist in veterinary surgery. Common procedures for which animals are referred include orthopedic surgeries such as fracture repair, cruciate ligament injuries, and joint replacements to name a few. Soft tissue procedures such as many cancer surgeries, bowel resections, foreign bodies, urologic surgeries and procedures in the chest cavity are frequently referred. Most neurologic surgeries such as spinal fractures and herniated discs require the expertise of a veterinary surgeon or neurosurgeon.

As the procedures and diagnostics available in veterinary medicine become more advanced, the need for specialists in every discipline becomes more pronounced. A veterinary surgeon should work in close cooperation with your veterinarian to insure that your pet receives the best possible care. For more information, or to search for a surgical specialist in your area, visit the American College of Veterinary Surgeons at www.acvs.org.

My Dog Has Been Diagnosed With Hip Dysplasia What Do I Do?

Well, first, don’t panic. Having hip dysplasia does not necessarily condemn your dog to a life of crippling debility. The fact is, most dogs with hip dysplasia are minimally affected and can lead active lives with little or no treatment. For those dogs with significant lameness, a good quality of life can often be achieved with medical or surgical therapy.

Hip dysplasia is an inherited disease. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred because they will pass the genes onto their offspring. Hip dysplasia is an incongruency in the hip joints that is present when dogs are young puppies. This causes the hips to subluxate (partially dislocate) as the dog walks. As they age, this tends to cause cartilage damage, resulting in arthritis. The arthritis usually starts before one year of age and progresses throughout their life. However, the degree of lameness that this arthritis will cause is extremely variable.

If your dog has hip dysplasia and is not lame, treatment other than a high quality Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplement to preserve cartilage health and slow arthritis may not be indicated. If your dog’s lameness is mild, he will likely respond well to the addition of an anti-inflammatory pain medication. Most over the counter pain medications are too harsh for dogs, but many “dog safe” varieties are available from your veterinarian. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture have also been known to help in mild cases.

If your dog is severely affected and medical treatment alone is ineffective, there are several surgical options available that can keep your dog happy, active, and comfortable. These include corrective surgeries for puppies such as pubic symphodesis and triple pelvic osteotomies, as well as salvage procedures for arthritic dogs, such as hip replacement and femoral head ostectomy.

In short, hip dysplasia does not have to be a heartbreaking disease and many options are available to maintain a happy, active lifestyle for your dog. Please discuss these options with your dog’s family veterinarian or, if recommended, a local surgical specialist.

Dr. Joseph M. Prostredny, DVM, MS, DACVS
Chesapeake Veterinary Surgical Specialists