Content reviewed by Preston Turano, D.V.M.
Our pets aren't just pets – they're family. And as with any family member, their health and well-being are paramount. As parents of dogs and cats, it's our responsibility to ensure they receive the best care possible.
Thankfully, the pet health industry is continuously evolving, striving to bring the latest innovations to our soulful sidekicks. With advances in medicine, technology, and treatment options, our pets are living longer, healthier lives. We had a chat with Preston Turano, D.V.M. to get his insights on the future of pet health.
The latest innovations in pet health
Before we touch on upcoming trends and predictions for the next several years of veterinary medicine, we should acknowledge a few of the current emerging innovations that have taken pet health to the next level.
Telemedicine: Just as humans have turned to virtual consultations, so too are pets benefiting from online vet visits. These provide a convenient way for pet parents to get quick advice without the stress of an in-person clinic visit. Note that Rules around prescribing medications from virtual visits vary by state and some may require an in-person visit.
Advanced diagnostics: From high-definition imaging to rapid-result blood tests, the diagnostic tools available today are far more sophisticated than in previous years.
Tailored nutrition: Personalized pet diets based on breed, size, age, and health concerns are now a reality, ensuring our pets get the exact nutrition they need.
Gene therapy: There's increasing interest in using gene therapy to treat inherited diseases in pets, potentially paving the way for longer, healthier lives.
Wearable tech for pets: Think Apple Watch but for your pet. These devices can monitor vital signs, and activity levels, and even provide early warning signs of potential health issues.
Sustainable pet products: As the world becomes more eco-conscious, we have seen a rise in sustainable, eco-friendly pet products, from toys to bedding.
The future of pet health: A vet’s perspective
Figo reached out to one of our resident vets, Dr. Preston Turano, to get his take on the following big advances and innovations:
Q: Are there any new treatments or therapies on the horizon that have you particularly excited? Why?
A: There are many novel treatments being investigated such as gene therapy, cell therapy, blood product therapy, and even nanotechnologies. We shall see how and where these will help in veterinary medicine.
For now, an exciting new treatment is being investigated for the fatal disease known as Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). Research has shown good results that the antiviral GS-441524 can be used to treat affected cats. This is excellent news for cat parents who may be dealing with a disease that previously did not have any treatment options.
Q: How do you see technology further integrating into veterinary care in the next 5-10 years?
A: Tech integration inside the practice has changed and will continue to change the way veterinarians practice for the better. Our ability to perform lab diagnostics in the clinic has vastly improved over the last 30 years.
It used to take 24-48 hours to get bloodwork results from the lab. Now we have the ability to get lab-quality blood panels run in the practice in under 12 minutes!
Coupled with digital radiography, results for critical patients can be obtained rapidly allowing for quicker diagnosis and treatment plans. With digital integration, these results can be shared immediately with board-certified specialists to help with a diagnosis or treatment. Not all practices have these capabilities, but as tech costs become more accessible, their usage should increase over the next 5-10 years.
Q: With many pet parents turning to holistic and natural treatments for their pets, do you foresee this becoming more mainstream in veterinary care?
A: Yes! Integrative veterinary care, combining holistic options into conventional treatment plans, is becoming more mainstream every day. Treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic therapy, physical therapy, and homeopathy are gaining popularity, and are available across the country in many veterinary hospitals.
Herbal formulas, nutritional supplements, and whole food diets or enhancements to diets are now frequently recommended alongside conventional medicine recommendations. As more pets benefit from these integrative therapies, I think the word will continue to spread and popularity will continue to rise.
Q: As pets are increasingly being treated for conditions that were once considered rare, do you think there will be a rise in specialists within the veterinary field?
A: It's not that these conditions were previously rare, it's more that access to care and diagnostic capabilities have exploded in the last 30-40 years. This is especially true when it comes to specialists in veterinary medicine.
It used to be that pet parents had to travel to a university to find a specialist in oncology or cardiology. But since the early 2000s, access has become much more common in cities throughout the U.S. Pet parents can now more easily find oncologists, internal medicine specialists, orthopedic surgeons, dermatologists, and neurologists to name a few!
Q: With the increasing focus on sustainability, how do you see the pet health industry adapting in terms of treatments, products, and care?
A: Many in the veterinary field support the "One Health" concept - that humans, animals, and the environment are all connected. There is a focus on reducing and managing waste by making sure that not everything ends up in the landfill.
As vets, we have to be responsible when disposing of medical waste and expired medications in order to do our part to be eco-friendly. And when we look at all definitions of sustainability, we need to be aware of the mental health of our veterinarians and support staff so that their roles are sustainable.
Last, for our animal’s sustainability, we need to focus on preventive testing to help identify potential medical concerns early. This testing also includes infectious diseases that are emerging in areas of the country or the world, where they were previously not found. With environmental changes, plus the increase in the movement of people and animals from place to place across the globe, infectious diseases are spreading. That means the risk is increasing for both humans and animals alike!
In some cases, these diseases are zoonotic (able to spread from humans to animals or vice versa). Investigating and managing zoonotic potential is another focus of the "One Health" model.
Q: Human medicine is increasingly focusing on personalized or precision medicine. Do you see a similar trend emerging in veterinary medicine?
A: This is a trend that more veterinarians are embracing as well. Instead of blanket recommendations for all pets, many veterinarians are tailoring vaccination recommendations, diets, supplements, and parasite prevention based on lifestyle.
Q: There's been a growing emphasis on the mental health of pets. What advancements or changes do you predict in this area?
A: Ideally, we will see more public awareness around the fact that even animals can have issues with mental health. We see issues with OCD, depression, and anxiety in pets all the time in veterinary medicine.
If you have concerns about your pet or are not certain if there is an issue, be sure to talk with your veterinarian. There are treatments and even board-certified veterinary behaviorists that can help.
Global health trends
Q: Have there been any global health trends or diseases that are impacting pets, and how is the veterinary community preparing for these?
A: As I mentioned earlier, people are traveling more and more with their pets. They are also adopting pets from different states, even different countries! This has shifted infectious disease patterns and as a result, veterinarians have become more focused on screening.
The more frequently these screenings are done in our field, the easier it will be to see where new diseases are emerging. Data is reported from positive lab results and available to veterinarians and human health officials.
The exposure rate of something like Lyme disease in dogs, for example, can help early recognition of the expansion of the disease and determine if there is an increased risk for infection in people and pets.
Education and awareness
Q: How do you see the role of vets changing in terms of educating pet parents about pet health and wellness?
A: While treating sick pets will always be a huge part of veterinary medicine, veterinarians are becoming more focused on educating pet parents about the importance of preventive options. I predict we will see even more discussions with clients on preventive lab screens and parasite tests. Cancer screening and genetic disease testing will become a common discussion in the near future as well.
Q: Are there any new tools or equipment that you believe will revolutionize the way vets diagnose or treat pets in the near future?
A: For humans, CT scans or MRIs are commonly used to aid in diagnosis. Pets, until recently, were only able to utilize these aids at big referral institutions such as universities. These are not “new” tools per se, but are becoming more accessible to the pet population at large. They enhance the ability to create targeted treatment plans to improve outcomes for the patients.
Some other exciting new tools include smart collars for health tracking, 3d printing for custom prosthetics, and even robotic surgeries.
The future is furry
The realm of pet health is an exciting frontier, with innovations emerging at an unprecedented rate. As we look ahead, it's clear that the bond between humans and their pets will only strengthen, fueled by advancements that ensure our curious copilots are by our side for many years to come.
Lizz Caputo is the Manager of Content Strategy at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.