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.

Profender, from Bayer, is the first and only topical feline de-wormer that treats and controls ascarids (roundworms), hookworms and tapeworms. Profender combines powerful, broad-spectrum coverage of intestinal worms with the ease and convenience of a single dose treatment. No more struggling cats, no more stressed-out or injured owners, and above all, no more worms.

New Drug for Weight Loss

The Food and Drug Administration has approved Slentrol from Pfizer for the safe and effective management of canine obesity, making it the first and only veterinary-approved obesity drug for dogs in the United States.

About 50 percent of U.S. dogs are overweight or obese, and obesity is an important medical condition that puts pets at increased risk for heart disease, joint problems, skin disease, even cancer. Slentrol offers another option in weight management in dogs by giving veterinarians a tool when diet modification and increased exercise are difficult to implement successfully.

Slentrol decreases a dog's appetite, thereby reducing food intake. Slentrol is given once a day as an oral solution either directly in the mouth or with a small amount of food; the duration of treatment depends on how much weight needs to be lost.

New Breed Specific Food

Royal Canin and Iams are now making food for specific breeds of dogs and cats. At Royal Canin the details of each dog breed's unique physiology impact the formula for every one of their breed-specific diets. Not just protein, fat and nutrient levels, but kibble shape, kibble texture and more.

There are now breed-specific foods for boxers, bulldogs, Chihuahuas, dachshund, German shepherds, Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, poodles, Shih Tzus and Yorkshire terriers.

For example, Golden Retriever 25, launched in October 2007, supports and protects the health and longevity of adult and mature Golden retriever dogs. Sensitive skin, a tendency to gain weight and cardiac disease are three common problems cited by owners and veterinarians.

Golden Retriever 25 addresses each of these factors through a combination of nutrients such as borage and anchovy oils, vitamin B and sulfur amino acids for healthy skin and coat and L-carnitine for optimal function of the cardiac muscle. A larger, less dense kibble encourages slower food intake and results in greater satiety. Click here to visit Royal Canin's Web site.

Whole Meals

Meal time is the most enjoyable part of a pet's day, yet, most consumer canine food products are based on human behavior of putting food in a bowl for a dog to consume. Appeal to your dogs "inner wolf," and let biology trump the bowl.

Rather than feeding your dog dry kibble or canned dog food, you feed a biometrically designed, single-piece meal from WholeMeals Brand Food for Dogs (a bone shaped in four different sizes, that has a chewy exterior and a dense, meaty interior) that not only meets a dog's nutritional needs; it also addresses a dog's physiology, instincts and enjoyment.

Dogs fed an exclusive diet of WholeMeals over the course of four weeks had a 43 percent reduction in plaque accumulation and an 83 percent reduction on tartar buildup. When you go back to periodontal stats under #2, think of this as "edible toothbrushes."

New Pain Medications for Cats

Most people don't know cats can get arthritis or that there are powerful medications that can help treat pain in cats.

Buprenorphine is underused and works incredibly well in cats. In addition, you can use meloxicam in cats with proper monitoring of kidney function. For arthritis, Adequan can be used with other products and environmental management.

Click here for more information of pain management guidelines for your pet from the American Animal Hospital Association.

Genetics Test

Mars Veterinary's Wisdom Panel MX Mixed Breed Test for dogs is a breakthrough product that helps answer one of the most frequently asked questions by pet owners and veterinarians: "What's my dog?"

The DNA-based test, the most comprehensive on the market, identifies more than 130 breeds that may be present in a mixed breed dog, representing 99 percent of dogs registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC). But in addition to satisfying curiosity, it helps veterinarians work with pet owners to create health care plans (behavioral training, preventive health care, disease surveillance) specifically tailored to the unique needs of individual pets to help them live longer, happier, fuller lives.

Probiotics for Gastrointestinal Health

Most pet owners face diarrhea issues with their dogs and cats. Rather than just stopping the diarrhea, veterinarians are increasingly using probiotics to stop diarrhea and maintain good intestinal balance that leads to better health.

Purina's Fortiflora brand Canine and Feline Supplements are dry products, sprinkled on a pet's food once a day. Fortiflora contains probiotic microorganisms that are microencapsulated to protect them and make sure they travel through the stomach and into the small intestine where they do the most good.

Studies have shown that probiotics can help promote a normal balance of good and bad bacteria that live in the intestines. Microflora balance can be altered by health issues, stress associated with boarding and traveling, diet changes, and the use of medications, such as antibiotics. When microflora levels are not in balance, diarrhea or loose stools can occur. FortiFlora contains probiotic microorganisms -- proven to promote normal intestinal health and microflora balance in dogs and cats of all ages.

Neutraceuticals to Help Prevent and Treat Arthritis

Rejuvenate from Hannah Pharmaceuticals is an easy-to-give liver-flavored chewable tablet providing glucosamine, chondroitin, green-lipped mussel and hyaluronic acid balanced with omega-3 fatty acids, minerals and antioxidants to help maintain healthy canine joint function and connective tissue.

Healthy joints are not only important in the ability and willingness of dogs to perform well, but also for comfort in walking, climbing and just getting up and down. Joints consist of a joint cavity filled with synovial fluid that serves both as a lubricant and source of nutrition, a joint membrane and articular cartilage that acts as a shock absorber.

These components are continually being "rebuilt" to maintain strength and resilience. If any of the building blocks of these components are not available in adequate amounts, stiffness and soreness results — conditions commonly seen in large breeds and active or elderly dogs.

New Drug for Separation Anxiety

In more than 10 million homes in America, pet owners leave home in the morning only to return to a pet that has chewed shoes, torn pillows, soiled the carpeting or worse. Often times, pet owners assume the dog is "just being a dog" or the owner feels guilt for leaving the pet home alone. Other times, the pet is sent to an animal shelter when the behaviors become intolerable.

The bad behavior may actually be the result of a medical condition known as separation anxiety and it affects an estimated 17 percent of dogs. In 2007, Eli Lilly and Co. introduced Reconcile, the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) approved by the FDA for treatment of canine separation anxiety in conjunction with a behavior modification plan.

Reconcile is a once-daily, chewable, flavored tablet that reduces inappropriate behaviors, minimizes the pet's distress and increases receptivity to the BOND at-home behavior modification training program. The BOND behavior modification program is an easy-to-implement, at-home training plan developed by Lilly and a team of veterinary behaviorists as well as veterinarians.

The simple plan allows pet owners to take an active role in the treatment of their dog's separation anxiety. Dog owners whose dogs have been prescribed Reconcile receive educational materials to enable them to follow an easy four-step training plan to reinforce positive pet behavior which helps to reduce or eliminate inappropriate responses to anxiety.

Components include a take-home DVD, printed materials and in-home reminders so the whole family can reinforce behavior modification training for the dog.