The Best Veterinary Breakthroughs of 2007

Americans now spend more than $41 billion a year on their pets, according to Business Week magazine.

This year much of that money has been spent on a wide range of exciting breakthroughs in pet care. Marty Becker, veterinarian and author of two new books, "Bow Wow" and "Meow Wow," joined "Good Morning America" to talk about 2007's innovations in pet veterinary medicine.

Melanoma Vaccine

The canine melanoma vaccine from Merial is the first therapeutic cancer vaccine approved in the United States for any species, human or animal.

We all knew you could vaccinate for viral diseases, such as distemper and rabies, but for bacterial diseases, such as periodontal disease, or some cancers? Wow!

The vaccine was developed through a partnership between Merial, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the Animal Medical Center of New York. As an adjunct to traditional therapies, initial trials using this vaccine show significantly longer survival times for dogs with melanoma.

Note: There's also a vaccine for melanoma being jointly developed by the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania and its School of Veterinary Medicine. If this vaccine continues to work well in dogs with lymphoma, it would eventually be tested in children with the human equivalent, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Dental Disease Vaccine

The new Porphyromonas bacterin dental vaccine from Pfizer targets the three kinds of Porphyromonas bacteria that cause most of this disease. Periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed disease in veterinary medicine with almost 85 percent of dogs older than 3 having the disease. It is seen most often in small-breed and brachycephalic breeds (like Pugs or Pekinese).

Common signs of the disease include bad breath, bleeding gums, tooth loss, ulcers in the mouth, gum recession or a poor appetite. Most pet owners only notice bad breath until very advanced stages of the disease. Besides being painful, the bacteria from the disease get into the bloodstream and have been linked to diseases of the heart, kidney and lungs.

Dogs that have good oral health live 15 percent longer or an average of two years. While brushing is the gold standard of good oral care, most pet owners are unwilling or unable to do it (less than 25 percent of dogs receive in-home brushing). The vaccine is given as two doses, three weeks apart, then repeated as recommended by the vet.

New Vaccine Delivery System

No needles! Rather than the typical injection of a vaccine into a blood vessel via a syringe, the new Canine Transdermal Device from Merial allows the vaccine to be injected directly into the muscles, simplifying the procedure. The immune response of the animal is better and it may be more comfortable for them as well.

Giving cats medicine is difficult even for people who work at a veterinary hospital. Too many feline preventive health-care products and meds end up on the cupboard and not in the cat because of this difficulty. While there have been chewable products for dogs for years, nobody paid much service to cat meds. But now there's good news for cats as well.

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