Since we all consider our furry friends to be part of our families, it makes sense that we want them to be happy and healthy.
Married couple Dr. Madelyn Lloyd and Dr. William Lloyd, veterinarians and owners of Ridgetowne Animal Clinic in Ridgeland, agree that the continual medical advances in their field have resulted in important improvements in outcomes.
Ridgetowne provides a full range of medical care for cats and dogs – with dogs representing 70 percent of those patients. Much of their care involves everything from routine wellness services to the more complicated internal medicine workups and surgical cases.
Below, “Dr. Madelyn,” as she is known at the clinic, discusses several important trends that are helping the furriest members of our families live healthier, longer lives.
The number one reason most pets visit the vet, Dr. Madelyn said, is for wellness checks, which are scheduled visits that include a wellness exam, vaccinations, infectious disease testing, internal and external parasite prevention, and wellness bloodwork.
“I think most pet parents realize the importance of disease prevention via routine wellness care, so we definitely see more wellness visits than we did 10 or 20 years ago,” she noted.
Common ailments that require unscheduled visits to their clinic most often include allergic skin conditions, stomach issues, urinary tract infections, and lameness.
Dr. Madelyn said their staff is well aware of today’s strong trend to “humanize” - and spoil - our pets.
Dogs, cats, and other pets are now treated to gourmet foods, birthday parties, a closetful of their own outfits (including Halloween costumes) and more luxuries. Many pets today accompany their family members to work or vacations and routinely appear in holiday cards and family photos. (Even Santa can’t resist leaving them gifts!) They also enjoy more nutritious foods, expensive toys, and better health care.
“There really has been a shift over the last several years, and the human-animal bond is now stronger than it has ever been,” she said. “Pets have become more than just pets - they’re best friends and family members. Pet parents are investing more time and money in their medical care and enrichment at home.”
With pet insurance becoming more and more common, Dr. Madelyn said Ridgetowne supports this option for pet health care.
“There are several companies out there now with different options as far as deductibles, monthly premiums, and options for emergency/sick care only or all care - including preventative care,” she said. “This really helps fit what each pet owner might be looking for in a pet insurance plan.”
Mississippi has recently become the second state to sign a bill adopting pet insurance laws, she noted, making it easier for pets to get insured while it helps confirm that the providers will be more transparent and regulated in their policies.
Ridgetowne especially recommends insurance for certain at-risk breeds that are known for having congenital or hereditary issues. A good example, she noted, is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a breed that is predisposed to a congenital heart defect and developing congestive heart failure in their lifetime.
Dr. Madelyn concedes that overweight and obese pets are on the rise, with most pet parents not even realizing that their dog or cat is overweight.
“The most common cause is from overfeeding by not measuring out the food, or overfeeding treats and table food,” she said. “Some treats and table foods may not seem like a lot to us but might actually add a large portion of unnecessary calories for your pet.”
She added that obesity increases the risk for arthritis, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, hypertension, and some forms of cancer.
“If you're unsure if your pet is overweight, or if you're looking for guidance on how to help your pet lose weight, it's always a good idea to talk with your veterinarian,” she said. “They can perform a body condition score (BCS) to determine if your pet is at a healthy weight, and develop a weight loss plan, if necessary. By maintaining a healthy weight for your pet, you can help reduce their risk of these health issues and ensure that they live a longer, happier life.”
Dental disease, Dr. Madelyn reported, is considered the “silent killer,” with more than 85 percent of pets having some degree of dental ailments, although vets have become more likely to educate their pet parents about this illness.
“Untreated dental disease can be a very painful condition and it also can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause liver disease, kidney disease, or heart disease,” she said.
In addition to routine prophylactic dental cleanings, Ridgetowne vets routinely perform dental extractions and removal of some of some oral tumors.
“The veterinary industry has really just touched the surface with new technology and equipment - it’s an exciting time,” Dr. Madelyn said.
“For example, our clinic now uses a cloud-based software system, so we are able to access a patient's medical record from anywhere. We are also now using a company that provides a new cancer treatment in vaccine form that's created from that pet's own cancer cells. This has revolutionized the way we talk to clients about cancer therapy.
“There are more options now besides just palliative care or radiation and chemotherapy. Pharmaceutical companies are developing monoclonal antibody therapy to halt progression of disease processes like allergies in dogs and osteoarthritis in cats. We currently use both of these therapies in our clinic and have seen amazing results, usually after just one injection,” she said.
“When starting out in practice several years ago, we really only had the option to communicate with clients by snail mail or the telephone. Now we can communicate with our clients on several different platforms which makes it easier and quicker for our pet parents to get test results and updates from their veterinary care team,” she noted.
The clinic is also looking into newer technologies such as AI machines that can provide AI fecal, dermatology, blood smear analysis and digital cytology.
“We can only imagine what will come out next and are excited at how this innovative technology is helping our pets live longer and healthier lives,” she said.
Dr. Madelyn explains that pharmaceutical companies are constantly working on purifying their vaccines for fewer side effects and enhanced efficacy.
“We uncommonly see vaccine reactions, and they are very mild when we do see them,” she said, adding that there are numerous options now for heartworm prevention and flea and tick prevention.
“There is an injectable heartworm prevention that lasts for six months which makes it so much easier for clients, and it is also more effective against resistant heartworm strains than any oral preventative,” she added. “Preventing these diseases is much cheaper than treating them, and it is much better for your pet.”
The increased emphasis on pet nutrition mirrors that of their human “parents.”
“There has definitely been more emphasis on nutrition over the past several years,” Dr. Madelyn said.
“As people began educating themselves on their own nutrition, they also started paying attention to the things they were feeding their pets. The pet food industry has really taken off and there are so many foods out there it’s hard to keep track of them all!”
She recommends consulting your vet when choosing an appropriate food for your pet, to help you make an educated decision based on the nutritional needs and lifestyle of your pet.
“We don’t offer tele-health visits currently,” Dr. Madelyn said, noting that although it was “popular” during the pandemic, “We do believe it might become more commonplace in the future, especially for behavioral consultations or triaging pets after-hours.”
She advised that most sick pets will require physical exams at the clinic, as other problems may not be noticed in a visible assessment.
While visits to the vet may not be your pet’s destination of choice, the rewards for the whole family will make sure your dog or cat can live long and happy lives.
“Pets give us their unconditional love, so it’s no wonder we want to love and pamper them in return,” Dr. Madelyn said. “At our clinic we always say, ‘a spoiled pet is a loved pet!’”