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(Courtesy University of Pennsylvania's
School of Veterinary Medicine)

Pet owners spend big on imaging services

by Loren Bonner , DOTmed News Online Editor
Most Americans are guilty of treating their pets like humans. One telling example might be the recent switch in terminology from "pet owners" now calling themselves "pet parents."

But there's another telling example that highlights our desire to treat our furry friends like family members: It's the human-quality health care that's now available for pets.

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Not only are more dedicated veterinary imaging centers popping in the U.S., but as a field, veterinary medicine is spreading into new terrain with more advanced procedures, like interventional radiology, becoming the norm.

"Starting off, we'd do an X-ray and hope we saw what was going on. Now we can actually have a better plan before we go into surgery," Dr. Kim Agnello, assistant professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, told DOTmed News.

Across the country, interventional radiology procedures are being performed on animals. Beyond treating congenital vascular diseases, interventional radiology procedures are used to take out tumors in animals. Using advanced imaging, like CT angiography, veterinary radiologists guide a probe to the tumor area where they inject glue-like material to clog the vessels that are feeding the tumor. This prevents the tumor from growing.

"We can now make smaller incisions and get animals back to their normal activity time sooner. Recovery is better too," said Agnello.

As the technology has evolved, so has veterinary radiology. Beyond radiography, UPenn's veterinary radiology program incorporates CT, MR, radiation therapy and of course ultrasound (a popular imaging modality in veterinary practices due to the low cost of the device). Currently, UPenn is training five residents, a relatively large number considering that only about 400 veterinary radiologists exist in the United States. Besides the veterinary school, UPenn is also an integrated veterinary hospital. In 2007, it built the Rosenthal Imaging and Treatment Center, which serves animal patients from the veterinary hospital as well as providing animal imaging services for the greater Philadelphia area.

"The center initially had MRI and radiation therapy. Then a few years ago we added a new CT machine. We also have staffing and rooms to provide our own anesthesiology," Dr. Wilfried Mai, chief of the section of radiology at the Rosenthal Imaging and Treatment Center, told DOTmed News.

Depending on the market for a particular area, integrated veterinary imaging centers are easy to find. Palm Beach Veterinary Specialists, a $7 million, 33,000-square-foot facility constructed in 2011, is one of many in Florida alone offering all diagnostic specialties, even PET/CT.

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