SPITZER: Veterinary technology and innovation

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We live in a continuum of rapidly evolving technology and innovation in many aspects of our lives, including animal and veterinary care. 

Driven by consumer demand, innovative products range from proven science-based ideas, to cost prohibitive, to harmful, to fads, to unethical, and occasionally just ridiculous ideas. A few animal-related examples include pet activity monitors, remote command pet feeding stations, numerous apps and computer programs, robotic dairy milking machines, and veterinary telemedicine. While exciting, it can be challenging to assess and analyze which innovations are progressive health care tools that will actually enhance animal care. 

Veterinary care has changed significantly over the years as it reflects the advances and innovations in human medical care. Veterinarians and animal care providers are presented with a myriad of basic care, preventative care, diagnostic and treatment options. Modern veterinary practices use high tech diagnostics such as in clinic blood analysis, x-rays, and ultrasound routinely.  Referral centres provide MRI and CT scans and other specialized diagnostic testing.  Approved pharmaceutical drugs and products for veterinary use are being developed continually.  All the information and options can be extensive.

 So how do we choose appropriate veterinary care? Choose by starting with the basics. Remember the delivery of quality animal health care depends on human caregivers, whether the caregiver is a livestock producer, competitive animal sports enthusiast, pleasure horse owner, breeder, or beloved family pet owner.  Caregivers are the animal’s voice and conveyance when seeking veterinary attention for preventative health care and when medical issues arise.  The animal’s history is a critical initial step, followed by a thorough physical examination done by a veterinarian. These basic components are then used as the foundation for a discussion of other diagnostic and treatment options.

Remember technology and information are tools. Seek a veterinarian’s advice and recommendations. Veterinarians are trained professionals driven to problem solve and help the animals and people seeking medical advice and treatment.  Will further diagnostics change treatment options for the animal? How will more information benefit the animal’s health? What are the realistic treatment goals? What are the economic, time and emotional costs? Are there potential harmful consequences to particular diagnostics or treatment? Not all choices are the same for all patients or clients, but all good choices stem from seeking optimal health care and well-being.  Above all, consider the animal’s quality of life.

So, the answer is that we should embrace innovations after conscientiously selecting those that nurture well being. The scenarios will vary between companion and production animals, but the achievement of optimal health is achievable through a pursuit of knowledge utilizing many diagnostic and treatment routes.   Progress is driven by change and the quest for knowledge. Innovation and technology in animal care creates opportunity for the better health for all species. 

Dr. Corinne Spitzer is an owner and director of North Peace Veterinary Clinic Ltd. with her life and veterinary partner, Dr. Perry Spitzer.