The vet’s office: The evolution of technology in veterinary medicine
By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Thirty-five years ago in my first years of veterinary medicine, the only diagnostic tools available were a primitive radiograph machine, a microscope, and a stethoscope. Pet ownership did not have the family bond that now exists, so pets with difficult medical conditions were often euthanized instead of being treated.
With the strengthening of the human-animal bond, there has been an ever increasing expectation for veterinary medicine to provide better medical care.
I look back at being one of the first animal hospitals in Wisconsin to be computerized. That IBM PC was a major investment at the time but greatly facilitated keeping track of vaccinations and appointments. Tracking vaccinations greatly improved disease prevention. That was the first of many technical additions to my practice.
Technology has since advanced tremendously. At a recent national meeting, there was a display area for vendors that took a day and a half just to see all of the new equipment available. For a joke, I had my picture taken with the General Electric representative by a $250,000 pet MRI unit and then told my hospital manager that, “I went shopping at the meeting.” I do not have an MRI unit yet, but now these diagnostics are available at Madison’s veterinary hospital and several emergency centers.
There have been significant technological advances available to the general practitioner. Many practices now have complete in-house diagnostics for blood chemistries and blood counts. Test results can now be obtained within a half hour versus being sent out to an overnight referral laboratory.
Also helping with the diagnostic process are computerized ECG and digital radiographs. This eliminates x-ray film as all the images are uploaded to a computer. They can then be sent anywhere by email if needed for further analysis. Ultrasound technology has also improved, allowing for early detection of pregnancies or even some abdominal diseases, resulting in earlier diagnosis and treatment.
I would never have thought in those early years of practice that I would be trading a surgical scalpel for a surgical laser, but it is used routinely for certain procedures. Kittens can now go home the day after a declaw surgery in much more comfort and with no stitches or bandages. These surgeries can be followed by a separate laser as a form of therapy that reduces postoperative inflammation and facilitates healing.
An important part of animal health continues to be dental health. Now with digital dental radiographs and refined oral surgery instruments, the common dental cleaning can help prevent future disease. Portable dental units have been designed to provide ultrasonic scaling, polishing, and high-speed drilling for oral surgery. It has been proven that bacteria from dental disease can decrease health by attacking internal organs.
With this technology comes increased overhead expense and higher cost of service but a better level of medicine for these pets that are members of their family.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.