As society as a whole becomes more concerned with the welfare and health of their pets, more and more research is done to provide treatment for conditions that previously either weren't treated or were considered to be untreatable. A good example of this is the standardization of vaccinations within different countries that have helped to eliminate diseases such as rabies, parvovirus and other previously deadly health concerns.
In more recent times increased understanding in genetics has greatly assisted vets and researchers in being able to identify the genetic markers that signal a potential problem in breeding a dog within a specific breeding line. Conditions such as hip dysplasia can now be genetically tested prior to breeding, even if the dog doesn't have any physical symptoms of the condition. This is essential to eliminating the condition as often hip dysplasia doesn't become an issue and get diagnosed until the dog is over five years old. Within breeding kennels that same dog may have produced several litters that all carry the genetic predisposition before the diagnosis is made if genetic testing is not completed.
Other conditions that are hereditary can also now be genetically tested before the dog is used in a breeding program. This genetic testing is voluntary for breeders at this time but more and more breed clubs and associations are moving towards standardized test requirements. One of the more problematic eye conditions in most breeds can now be tested for prior to breeding. PRA or progressive retinal atrophy is a gradual blindness that occurs typically as the dog gets older than five years. In some dogs it may not show up until much later while others can develop the condition as young as two years of age. By testing genetically all the confirmed carriers of the condition can be eliminated from breeding programs.
Besides genetics there are other advances in dog health and wellness issues. Perhaps one of the most traditional types of medicinal treatments, holistic or natural treatments, are become much more in demand and commonplace for typical canine conditions. Bach flowers, herbal lotions and creams and organic and natural foods have all become more popular in treating everything for low level anxieties to skin allergies and digestive disorders. In the United States the American Holistic Veterinary Medicinal Association assists pet owners in connecting with a holistic vet within their community or geographic area.
Treatments for chronic conditions including heart conditions, cancers, neurological and even metabolic conditions continue to advance and become more focused on long term treatment and management. This is important for dogs that have conditions such as heart murmurs, diabetes, allergies, respiratory problems or even chronic digestive problems. Through development of a broader spectrum of treatment options vets and the dog's owners can work together to design a treatment program that is effective for the individual dog. These programs are more focused on long term management and maintaining the quality of life for the dog rather than just short term treatments as have been seen in the past. In addition movement away from only using drug therapies and standard surgical procedures have included other types of diagnostic and treatment options that were previously only used on humans.
Hydrotherapy and other forms of rehabilitative therapy after surgeries and injuries are also much more routinely recommended for post medical treatment care. Hydrotherapy includes having the dog exercise in water, usually a shallow type of pool that is deep enough to allow the dog to touch the bottom but with the water providing enough support to take the weight off the legs, spine and skeletal structure. Hydrotherapy treatments are particularly effective with the longer backed breeds such as Dachshunds and Basset Hounds that can be prone to paralysis and spinal injuries. This treatment is also used for dogs recovering from hip surgery or even older dogs with arthritis and other joint problems. For any dog the water in the hydrotherapy pool is warm but not hot and this also helps to stimulate the muscles, circulation and general pain relief for the dog.
Senior dogs or even younger dogs with arthritis no longer have to live with the pain of this very debilitating condition. There are many different herbal formulations that may be effective in reducing the pain, inflammation and stiffness associated with arthritis, but there are only a very few medical treatments that can complete eliminate or reverse the effects of the disease. Some dogs respond very well to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can be prescribed for moderately long periods of time to many dogs. Unfortunately there can be significant side effects with prolonged use of the drugs, but newer options are now available for pet owners. Younger dogs that have arthritis within a joint may be eligible for complete joint replacement, just like a human can now receive. These procedures are costly but can be very effective with many dogs. Typically larger breeds are more frequently treated with this type of surgery.
Allergies can be very problematic for dogs and oral antihistamines and antihistamine shots are now available to cover a pet for a longer period of time. Corticosteroids are still prescribed to stop the immediate itching and scratching but then holistic treatment options, changes in diet or even the used of antihistamine medications can greatly reduce the irritation and health issues associated with allergies.
Preventative medicine has also come to the forefront and is actively promoted through most vets and clinics. This can include dental care for dogs through specific dental chew bones and toys or even routine brushing of your dog's teeth. Other hot topics with preventative care include having a regular blood test done at the yearly vaccination visit to check for any signs of irregularities through a spectrum of tests. For some dogs this helps to detect pre-diabetic blood sugar issues that may still be able to be controlled and managed through changes in diet and exercise. Other issues that vets may focus on as part of preventative medicine and treatment include advising owners on overweight and obese pets. Owners may need to seriously consider more closely monitoring food rations, cutting out treats and table scraps and increasing the daily exercise that the dog has put on more weight than he or she can carry and stay healthy.