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Cloning Pets

Cloning Pets

Ever wanted an exact copy of your favorite pet? Well, now it’s possible – but is it smart?

Most pet owners have suffered the loss of a very dear and special pet. And while owners would like to keep their dear friend with them forever, very few would actually go so far as to entertain the idea of cloning.

To most pet lovers, that cherished “once-in-a-lifetime” dog or cat should remain just that. But new technology and creative business opportunities are giving some pet owners new options. Genetic Savings & Clone, a gene banking and cloning service for “exceptional pets”, is currently offering to store a treasured pet’s genetic material in the hopes that the owner will take advantage of cloning that pet in the future.

In February of 2004, the AAVS (American Anti-Vivisection Society) commissioned Opinion Research Corporation to conduct a national survey to assess public opinion about cloning pets. Eighty percent of the respondents were not in favor of cloning companion animals or the selling of genetically altered animals as pets. But for the 13% of respondents that are in favor of pet cloning, financial issues may well be the obstacle.

Currently the cost to “bank” a pet’s DNA, or genetic material, with GSC (Genetic Savings & Clone) varies from $295 to $1,395 plus $100-$150 annually for storage fees. The cost for cloning is a different story. According to the GSC website, expect to pay $32,000. And to date they have only been successful with cloning cats.

Strong opinions on both sides of the cloning issue seek to educate the public about the benefits, or lack thereof, of pet cloning. While tremendous publicity accompanies cloning successes, the public rarely hears about animal cloning failures.

The greatest publicity surrounds the cloning of pets when actually; the majority of cloning is concerned with agriculture, biomedical research, and propagation of endangered species. But in all cases, there are potential commercial applications.

The cloning science is similar in most species, although there are some challenges with the cloning of dogs. Dogs have poorly understood reproductive physiology compared to other species and fewer estrus cycles.

While moral and ethical issues of cloning pets continue to be argued, both sides seem to be closer concerning the problem of endangered species. Betty Dresser, Director of the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species in New Orleans says, “Saving habitat may not be enough. Any tool for saving endangered species is important. Cloning is just another reproductive tool, like in-vitro fertilization.” The first endangered animal to be cloned was a guar named Noah who survived only two days before succumbing to dysentery. Since then, cloning of other species has been successful, including a pair of cloned Javan bantengs, an African wildcat aptly named “Ditteaux”, and a European mouflan, one of the smallest wild sheep in the world.

Opponents of cloning endangered species site the loss of biodiversity as their primary concern, stating that all species of living things play important roles in the regions in which they live. Environmentalists say that cloning should be the last line of defense for these animals after habitat preservation, poaching control, and captive breeding.

Fresh Breath and Straight Teeth

Fresh Breath and Straight Teeth

Although many of us dread it, we visit our dentist routinely to insure our mouth stays healthy and our smile bright. Our pets also benefit from a visit to their dentist and advanced dental care is quickly becoming more common. That’s right…braces for Boxers, crowns for kitties and a root canal for a Rottweiler is just a typical day at the Veterinary Dentist!

When we go to the dentist, we are not surprised when the doctor tells us that we need to have dental x-rays done. But, hearing the same thing from your veterinarian might shock you. After all, how does the pet know to stand still?

Digital dental x-rays are becoming more common at veterinary practices across the country. Since a large percentage of our pets suffer from gingivitis or even more advanced periodontal disease, this tool is vital for veterinarians and veterinary dentists.

Most people don’t realize it, but most of the pet’s tooth lies under the gumline where you can’t see any disease. Dr. Jan Bellows, a Diplomate in the American Veterinary Dental College explains, “Sixty percent of the tooth lies under the gum line. Since companion animals don’t talk (to tell us where the pain is), x-rays help the veterinarian see what’s below.”

Dr. Brett Beckman, past President of the American Veterinary Dental Society concurs. “42% of cats and 28% of dogs have hidden dental problems that we would never find without x-rays.” So, while you might think that your pet’s teeth are just fine, the odds are that he or she is actually losing bone and other important structures that help hold the tooth in place. The best way to determine this is the use of x-rays, done while the pet is under a general anesthetic.

Beyond checking for disease, dental x-rays are also important when it comes to breed specific issues. Many toy breeds end up with crowded teeth or even adult teeth that never erupt above the gumline. Boxers, Bulldogs and other short faced breeds also suffer from conformation issues that misalign teeth.

Finally, dental issues can hinder, or even end the careers of working and show dogs. X-rays can help veterinary dentists find the fractured tooth of a working police dog or locate a tooth that has delayed erupting in a show dog.

Thankfully, your veterinary dentist is also equipped to help resolve many of these issues. Fractured teeth can be repaired with the use of crowns and root canals are often replacing extractions. As Dr. Kenneth Lee, a veterinary dentist in Colorado explains, “Dog’s canine teeth extend well below the gumline and often are closely associated with the jaw bone. Extracting these teeth has the potential for causing serious damage to the jaws.”

For conformation issues and hereditary problems, corrective oral surgery and even braces are now available. It’s even possible to help offset the damage of severe dental disease.

Understanding the importance of your pet’s dental health is a great first step for most pet owners. Your pet doesn’t have to suffer from dental disease and you don’t have to tolerate “doggy breath”. Making a dental plan with your veterinarian will not only prevent dental disease, but may stop other health problems as well.

The first step is to have your veterinarian do a complete oral exam on your pet. Note any areas of excessive tartar build-up and any other concerns, such as fractured teeth, bleeding gums or ulcerations in the mouth.

Next, if appropriate, schedule a complete dental cleaning with your veterinarian. Done under a general anesthetic, cleaning will remove the tartar and plaque, reducing bacteria that cause serious illnesses, such as heart disease. Using digital x-rays allows the veterinarian to see under the gumline, a crucial step in preventing future dental problems.

After the cleaning, your veterinarian may apply a barrier sealant to help repel plaque-causing bacteria. This high tech – low cost – sealant gel is easy to continue at home and will help prevent further build up of plaque and tartar.

Home care is a vital part of maintaining your pet’s dental health. From routine brushing to special water additives, chew toys and even a barrier sealant like OraVet, your veterinarian can help make caring for your pet’s teeth easier. Some foods are even designed to help remove plaque build-up! The best news? These products not only remove plaque and freshen breath, they just might help your pet live a few years longer.

Pet Microchips

Pet Microchips

Essentially, microchips are computer chips about the size of a grain of rice. Easily implanted under your pet’s skin by a hypodermic needle, microchips provide permanent identification that won’t wear out, fade, or get lost if the pet runs away. Special scanners find the microchip and can translate into a specific ID code. These unique numbers can then be found on a database and, with luck, the owners can be contacted and the family will be together again.

A lost microchipped dog named Romie almost lost her life because there are multiple chips being marketed today with at least four different types of frequencies. The ISO Conformant Full Duplex type of chip is considered to be the international standard and is used in many countries, but there are at least three other types of chips exist, which are especially common the the United States. In the case of Romie, one type of chip was implanted but the local animal shelter was using a scanner designed for a different type and actually missed Romie’s chip!

Luckily, a shelter employee recognized Romie and was able to contact her owner promptly. This confusion of frequencies has caused a storm of controversy. According to Dr. Dan Knox of the AVID Company, these multiple frequencies will continue to put pets at risk by confusing the system. “Adding new frequencies will only cause more work for under-staffed shelters and will potentially be dangerous to pets.”

Another major issue is that many pets are not properly registered. In fact, Michael Gendreau, product manager for the ResQ® ISO chip manufactured by the Bayer Company states that less than half of microchipped pets have been entered accurately into any database – a major fault with this system. Ms Lutz agrees and adds that it is common for people to move and change addresses, “With everything that happens in a move, how many people will remember to change the address and phone number for their pet’s microchip?” This is why old fashioned methods, such as ID collars or the free “get me home tag” (www.getmehome.com) should be used along with the microchip.

Facts About Microchips

  • Microchips are small computer chips about the size of a grain of rice. They have unique ID numbers that can be read by electronic scanners.
  • While there is the ISO international standard for chip frequencies, there are three additional frequencies of microchips in use, especially in North America, and unfortunately not all scanners can read all 4 types of microchips..
  • Leading veterinary organizations and animal welfare groups are calling for the use of “universal” scanners to help prevent these issues.
  • Beyond incompatibility of scanner and chip, another major problem is that many pets with microchips are never registered properly in an easily accessible database. When pets are not registered properly, it can lead to delays or even prevent reunions with the pet’s family.
  • Microchips are wonderful and powerful tools to help keep our pets safe, but until certain issues are resolved, this high tech pet ID is not fool-proof and should be supplemented with additional forms of identification such as old fashioned collars with ID tags.
Laparoscopic Surgery

Laparoscopic Surgery

Surgery is a scary thought for anyone, but advances in human medicine are helping to make patients more comfortable and shortening stays in the hospital. Even our pets are now benefiting from these improvements as cutting edge innovations are making their way into veterinary offices, providing a higher level of care for our pets.

Laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive type of procedure, was first performed on a dog in 1902! In the intervening years, human surgeons have perfected techniques to removal gall bladders, relieve the discomfort of endometriosis, and even help individuals with morbid obesity. Many of these techniques have been adapted by veterinary surgeons as well. A laparoscope consists of a telescoping rod and lens system connected to a video camera and light source. The surgeon inserts the laparoscope into the patient through a tiny (less than 1 inch long) incision. The abdomen is then filled with carbon dioxide to create space to work. Additional attachments, such as scissors, retractors, and devices for placing sutures are introduced and manipulated to complete the surgery.

The biggest benefit to laparoscopic surgery is the reduced need for a large incision in the abdomen. In the case of human gall bladder removal, traditional surgeries would create an incision about 8 inches long. With the latest laparoscope, 4 incisions, all less than ½ inch, will suffice to remove the gall bladder. Smaller incisions mean shorter recovery time, shorter hospital stays, and, above all, less pain. Veterinarians have seen these benefits and are anxious to export them to our pets. Laparoscopic surgery is becoming a viable alternative for pet owners wanting to provide a human-level of surgical care for their pets.

Surgeries that are considered “routine” by pet owners and veterinarians, such as spaying a female dog or cat, are now considered good candidates for the laparoscope. A surgical center in Colorado performed a small study in which 10 dogs were spayed via traditional surgical methods and 10 dogs were spayed with the laparoscope. The results of this study show that 90% of the traditionally spayed dogs needed additional pain relief medications after surgery whereas none of the dogs in the laparoscopic assisted group did. Blood concentrations of cortisol, a good indicator of stress levels, increased only in the traditional group.

These findings, as well as her own observations, have led Dr. Kuschel, a veterinarian at Deer Creek Animal Hospital in Colorado and her associates to eliminate traditional spays at their hospital. She stated that, “The price was significantly higher for the laparoscopic assisted procedure, but we actually did the same number of spays from one year to the next. We increased our level of care and now pet owners actively seek out our services because they know and understand the benefits of this cutting edge technology.”

Veterinarians are not only using this revolutionary new tool for spays, but as an aid to help diagnose disease. Surgeons are able to biopsy internal organs with laparoscopic surgery and the procedure often requires no more than sedation and a local anesthetic. Previous protocols for biopsies demand general anesthetic and a prolonged recovery time. With some laparoscopic biopsies, the patient is often ready to go home in less than two hours! Although this technology is truly leading edge, don’t expect it to show up in all veterinary offices immediately. Although this is all good news, laparoscopic surgery is not very common in most veterinary hospitals. If you are planning a surgery for your pet, ask your veterinarian about the potential for laparoscopic assisted surgery in your area.

High Tech Pet Surgery

  • Laparoscopy is a type of minimally invasive surgery. These surgeries provide a higher level of comfort when compared to many traditional procedures.
  • Laparoscopes use a telescoping rod and lenses that are attached to a camera and lights to view inside the body cavity.
  • The biggest benefit to laparoscopic surgery is that surgeons can utilize much smaller incisions, meaning that your pet will experience less pain and discomfort.
  • Veterinary surgeons report better visualization of the internal organs and reduced chances of hemorrhage when laparoscopes are used.
  • Laparoscopic surgery is used for routine spay surgeries, internal organ biopsies and for helping to prevent “bloat” in large breed dogs.
  • Veterinary surgeons report better visualization of the internal organs and reduced chances of hemorrhage when laparoscopes are used.
  • Small studies have shown that dogs spayed with a laparoscope experience less pain and need fewer pain medications after surgery.
Hi Tech Veterinary Medicine

Hi Tech Veterinary Medicine

Advances in human medicine seem to occur on a daily basis as research and new technology bring new possibilities and hope of healing. And veterinary medicine and surgery continues to follow closely behind. Within the past twenty years, new technologies in diagnostics and surgical techniques have made it possible to greatly extend a family pet or animal athlete’s life and competitive career. But while these new technologies bring hope, they often come with a high price. And some veterinarians and pet owners are concerned that “hi-tech” with its high cost has taken away from the “hi-touch” that has been a cornerstone of what many deem “the compassionate profession.”

When veterinarians began practicing just twenty years ago, the scalpel was their main tool in the operating room. Today, laser technology can make it possible to reduce surgical pain and bleeding and shorten surgery time. Endoscopy can retrieve objects from a pet’s gastrointestinal tract and bypass surgery all together. Arthroscopes and laparoscopes make joint and abdominal surgeries almost seem like minor procedures.

Advances in diagnostics such as ultrasound, echocardiography, and even MRI’s are becoming more and more accessible in veterinary medicine and detect disease processes much earlier. This means that illnesses such as cancer that once carried a grim prognosis for pets are now considered treatable and often with a good outcome. Tendon and bone problems that once spelled the end of a career for equine and canine athletes can be diagnosed much sooner, often before the animal has any pain, so that treatment begins before devastating trauma occurs.

Laser surgery uses a very intense beam of highly focused light that can cut through tissue. It is especially useful for very small, precise cuts for biopsies, eye surgery, and tumor removal. Because the lasers automatically seals blood vessels and nerve endings as it cuts, there is much less bleeding and pain. Many pet owners don’t mind the additional cost of laser procedures and ask that laser be used on their pets for more routine surgeries such as spays and neuters.

Ultrasound or “sonography” is another advancement that was once found only at university veterinary hospitals or referral practices. Now the technology is considered a mainstream tool in many veterinary practices. A device called a transducer sends high frequency sound waves into an animal’s body and measures and interprets the patterns reflected. A still or video picture is created on a monitor. Ultrasound is painless and is very safe on such delicate tissues like the eye, spinal cord, and fetuses. A special type of ultrasound called echocardiography allows a veterinarian to precisely measure heart chambers and view heart valve function which means much better diagnosis for common pet heart problems and more precise treatment.

Radio waves are even helping veterinary dermatologists identify and treat skin conditions in pets. Mainstream surgical techniques with a scalpel can alter or damage delicate skin tissue, making diagnosis difficult.

For more information on these and other technology advancements contact us.

The Cutting Edge… Laser Surgery for Pets!

The Cutting Edge… Laser Surgery for Pets!

It’s doubtful that anyone would picture their family veterinarian swinging a light saber on the bridge of some galactic cruiser, but he or she may just have a similar technology available to help keep your pets comfortable during surgery.


For more than 30 years, human doctors have used various types of surgical lasers to help people heal faster and with less pain. Lasers are now used routinely to help correct eyesight, remove skin blemishes, and even destroy unwanted hair. But, it has only been within the past 10 years that veterinary medicine has started to utilize this same technology to provide a similar level of comfort for their patients.

Using a laser during surgery instead of a scalpel blade provides many advantages to the surgeon. First, due to the precise nature of lasers, the veterinarian is able finely tune the amount of tissue that is affected by the surgery, thereby reducing the damage to any of the surrounding area. Second, lasers will actually help to control bleeding by sealing off the tiny capillaries and vessels that may leak and ooze during normal surgeries. Third, lasers help to reduce the amount of swelling that is associated with any sort of surgery. By avoiding bruising and tearing of body tissue, lasers help the veterinarian to minimize inflammation. Fourth, since lasers vaporize cells, any latent bacteria that might want to start an infection will also be vaporized, helping to minimize potential post-operative infections. And finally, lasers reduce the amount of pain involved in surgeries by actually sealing the ends of nerves in the affected tissues. This stops the propagation of the pain impulse and will actually help the pet to heal faster!

By far, one of the most common uses of the surgical laser in the veterinary hospital is to perform declawing of cats. Although this elective surgery has many proponents and opponents, almost everyone would agree that the advent of using the laser for declawing procedures has helped minimize the trauma associated with the surgery. As mentioned above, lasers will actually seal small nerves, keeping them from transmitting painful impulses. Cats that have been declawed with a laser are often running and playing within hours of surgery. In contrast, older techniques of declawing cats have potentially kept a cat uncomfortable for several days afterwards.