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See Spot Heal

See Spot HealWhile veterinarians at Tufts are using innovative ways to save pets, they stress that preventive care is often the best approach for domestic animals. No. Grafton, Mass.

No. Grafton, Mass. [01.08.03] Last month, for the first time, Tufts veterinarians treated a cancer-stricken flamingo with radiation therapy, helping to control the spread of the bird's disease. The innovative treatment and others like it are growing increasingly popular as veterinarians continue to find ways to treat animals with procedures typically used on humans.

Tufts doctors performed the ground-breaking treatment on a 20-year-old Chilean flamingo from the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island. Attending veterinarians administered 17 radiation treatments in order to kill cancer cells on the bird's left eye. Tufts experts say the flamingo is responding well to the therapy.

This is not the only procedure which is making a successful transition from humans to animals.

"Tufts shares with two other animal hospitals a van that brings a $1 million MRI machine to its hospital three days a week, one of less than two dozen pet-only MRIs in the nation," reported NBC News.

Using MRIs to scan for ailments in pets, like many other high-tech animal treatments, was scarcely used just a few years ago. Today the procedure is increasingly performed by Tufts veterinarians.

"Even though Tufts is a leading veterinary school, doctors there -- until recently -- had to get up at 2 a.m. two days a week to scan ailing pets on a machine devoted to humans the rest of the time," reported CBS News.

Though more and more innovative treatments are becoming available for animals, Tufts experts caution that even the most advanced medical treatments have their limitations.

"People say to us, ‘I'll pay anything,' but that still doesn't mean we have the ability to do whatever they want," Dr. Steven Rowell - director of Tufts' veterinary hospitals - said in an interview with ABC News.

And some of the advanced treatments have certain restrictions, he told CNN.

"[Rowell said] A handful of animal hospitals offer feline kidney transplants," reported CNN, "but only if the sick cat's owner finds and adopts another cat suitable to donate one of its kidneys, ensuring the donor a good home."

Which is why Tufts experts say that preventative care is often the best way to keep a pet healthy.

"A thorough exam, even of young dogs and cats, is important," Dr. Alicia Z. Karas - a professor of clinical sciences at Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine - told Maryland's The Sun.

Karas said that while many pet owners skip them, regular check-ups with a veterinarian are an important way to help prevent illness.

"I've had people say they favor a certain practice because the vet doesn't charge for exams," Karas - who is also a board-certified anesthesiologist at Tufts Vet School -- told The Sun.

But, said the Tufts expert, skimping on pre-op exams isn't smart for an animal's long term health. Nor is letting technical procedures replace time with a vet.

Karas told the newspaper the some short-handed clinics use monitoring equipment as a substitute for lack of trained vets.

"Pulse-oxygen readings and EKG reports can give you misleading information," the Tufts expert told The Sun. "If you had a human being listening for heart and breath sounds, that would be best."


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