GOING HIGH TECH

(LAS VEGAS, Feb. 20,2000) — Wayne Newton and Seigfried and Roy are about to meet their match. A laser light show of unrivaled proportions will dazzle in Las Vegas. Veterinary surgeon Dr. Ken Bartels will perform the most amazing opening act ever, explaining how dancing laser lights can kick cancer cells right out of the body. This isn’t show biz, it’s real – and it will be unveiled at the 72nd Annual Western Veterinary Conference February 20 through 24, held at the Las Vegas Hilton and the Riviera Hotel.

More than 7,000 pet care professionals will attend the conference. Some of the nation’s most renowned researchers and Board Certified specialists are included among the 180 presenters. “This conference is like going back to vet school,” says Dr. Stephen Crane of Las Vegas, conference executive director. “Our profession is changing so remarkably fast. For the pet owner it means new cutting edge treatments and even new cures are available. If your vet keeps informed, it sure helps.” There are 850 potential hours of continuing education credit for veterinarians and their staff, making this conference the country’s largest learning convention of its kind.

Bartels will reveal a new way to treat, and potentially cure some kinds of cancer without conventional surgery and without chemotherapy. Bartels says a photosensitizer drug can be injected intravenously into a pet. Then, a veterinarian points the laser light at the tumor and shoots. The laser activates the drug, which ultimately delivers a fatal kick to cancer cells (while sparing tissue not being illuminated with the laser).

The laser treatment has been used successfully on cancer of the nose in cats, and dogs with skin tumors and esophageal cancer. However, research continues to find ways to utilize this treatment with other kinds of cancers.

If there’s a downside, the animal actually can’t go outdoors for 48 hours or even several weeks in some cases after being injected with the photosensitizer, since the drug can also be activated by sunlight.

Bartels, who is from Stillwater, Okla., will also divulge a technique only seen by most vets as used by Dr. McCoy on an episode of Star Trek. A laser is delivered through narrow fibers in a hypodermic needle to actually repair damaged discs (backbones). There is no incision. It’s a technique Bartels himself would have called science fiction back when he went to vet school. “Of course, conventional surgery on a pet’s disc may be somewhat risky, not to mention the pain it causes the pet post surgery,” he says. “Certainly, this laser technique is very exciting.”

Lasers are increasingly being used as a method to de-claw cats. Bartels will also discuss recent improvements to this controversial option. When laser de-claw first became available about five years ago, what was possible didn’t matter much since there were fewer than 50 lasers being used in veterinary practices around the country. Today, there are about 700 lasers.

There’s less inflammation in laser de-claw, and the cat’s suffer less post surgical pain. One reason this technique is so controversial is it’s very effectiveness. Laser de-claw is now typically only about $50 more than traditional de-claw, and as it becomes more available some vets fear owners will opt for laser de-claw as a sort of an easy way out, somehow rationalizing, now the cat won’t be in pain, so it’s okay. Of course, it’s not okay. Even utilizing a laser technique – de-claw surgery is still de-claw, cutting the cat’s digits.

Advances in using laser techniques won’t be the only news unveiled at the conference. An all-new disease, affecting both dogs and cats, will be discussed. The disease was first identified in Dr. Ed Breitschwerdt’s lab at North Carolina State University’s Department of Clinical Sciences in Raleigh, N.C. Breitschwerdt has since written several papers on the Bartonella, and is dubbed the father of Bartonella. “Well, it’s not like I created this disease – it’s been around for a long time,” he says.

(begin ital) Bartonella quintana (end ital), well known as Trench Fever, was a real threat to members of armed forces during WWII. Trench fever is transmitted to people by a kind of louse.

In 1996, Breitschwerdt, who is also a veterinary specialist in internal medicine, positively identified Bartonella in dogs, and subsequently learned it is probably transmitted by the deer tick (like Lyme Disease) and also the brown dog tick. But other ticks may or may not also transmit this disease. In cat, he says, Bartonella is transmitted by fleas. “In the south, it could be 50 percent of all cats have Bartonella.”

In dogs, the symptoms begin subtly, and mimic symptoms of Lyme Disease, including arthritis and general stiffness and intermittent bouts of fever. Often times, owners don’t know something is wrong until the dog goes into sudden heart failure. At this point – it’s too late. What’s more animal autopsies (necropsies) aren’t able to easily identify Bartonella, so no one knows how often it occurs.

In cats, the disease may be just as insidious, potentially leading to sudden heart failure.

Veterinary reports have indicated over the past several years the incidence of sudden heart failure in dogs and cats is on the rise. Until now, researchers have assumed that a genetic predisposition to heart problems and feline heartworm must be contributing factors. Now, for the first time, Breitschwerdt will postulate that an undiagnosed Bartonella is a major contributor to these increasing incidents of younger and seemingly healthy pets having sudden heart failure.

In the future, when discoveries such as Breitschwerdt’s are made, vets may be able to communicate that sort of information with pet owners via the Internet. Dr. Kent Kruse, chief operating officer at Anaheim, Calif.- based Veterinary Pet Insurance will host a round table discussion on how the Internet will help vets and their clients with fur, scales or feathers. Kruse predicts that five years from now, most vets will have their own websites and e-newsletters, and will send e-mailings out about reminders for physical exams and vaccine boosters.

Dr. Larry Tilley of Santa Fe, N.M. will explain how X-rays and other diagnostic images are being sent on the net so a veterinary specialist hundreds of miles away can offer a consultation. What’s more, even audio can be transmitted on the net. For example, Tilley, who is a veterinary cardiologist, can listen to a pet’s heartbeat and identify the severity of a heart murmur.

Other topics and reports will include the diagnosis and treatment of aggression in cats, news on several hard to detect diseases in birds, details of a new study observing the social nature of house cats, a report on why people give up dogs and cats to shelters, advents in diagnosing and treating hypothyroidism in dogs; and the latest on several diseases which are fatal to ferrets.

Note: This article is copyrighted by Steve Dale and can be used as source material and for reference only. It cannot be reprinted verbatim. Please contact Steve Dale at [email protected] if you have any questions.

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