Biggest Breakthroughs in Veterinary Medicine: Veterinarians Answer

Are you curious about what veterinarians consider the biggest breakthrough in veterinary medicine? 

I broke the question into two parts for them to answer what they consider the biggest breakthrough:

  1. of all times
  2. in the last decade
Biggest Breakthroughs in Veterinary Medicine: Veterinarians Answer

Are you ready to find out?

Dr. Daniel Beatty, DVM
Dr. Daniel Beatty, DVM
Dog Kinetics
Dr. Dan on Facebook
and Twitter

I believe that the biggest breakthrough in veterinary medicine of all times is the distemper, parvo and rabies vaccines. Hands down these have saved more lives for puppies and dogs than anything else.

The biggest breakthrough in veterinary medicine in the past decade is a toss-up. Interestingly, considering my all time breakthrough, one of my choices is the realization that we have been over-vaccinating our pets and we have changed vaccine protocols.

Equally as important is the more widespread acceptance of complementary and alternative medicine and therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine, nutritional therapies, and equine and canine rehab.

Dr. Laci Schaible
Dr. Laci Schaible, DVM

I think that the spay and neuter (surgical and the new chemical) procedures have been the biggest breakthrough in vet med if you can call it that. I do believe the procedures are more of a game changer to the health of pets and the pet population worldwide than anything else.

As for this decade, the increasing prevalence of generic drugs available for pets. The barriers to allow pets access to non-brand name drugs have been extensive and still are. Many vets have dug in their heels, and the bill requiring vets to provide prescriptions didn’t get passed  (it did have some flaws indeed), but there are hundreds of generics now available for pets.

More importantly, attention has been drawn to this area and many vets are embracing this. Imagine that—veterinary medicine where vets get to practice medicine and not push Rimadyl off their shelves before it expires. I believe in another 10 years veterinary medicine will have advanced leaps and bounds in this regard, and I can’t wait!

Dr. Rae Worden of Fergus Veterinary Hospital
Dr. Rae Worden, DVM
Fergus Veterinary Hospital
Dr. Rae on Facebook
and Twitter

Vaccines have to be the biggest medical breakthrough of all time for animals be it those on 2 or 4 legs. It has caused the fading from the collective memory of the diseases that vaccination has pushed to the periphery of our awareness. This has somewhat unfairly left issues related to side effects, real or imagined, more forefront in the current lexicon than they warrant.

However standing back and considering the effect on the individual, the population, and the economy of the diseases that vaccination has controlled more than overcome the negatives, real or perceived. Diseases that vaccination has controlled include, Rabies, Tetanus, Distemper, Parvovirus,Kennel Cough, Brucellosis, Smallpox ,Polio, Equine Rhinopneumonitis, Atrophic Rhinitis, Feline Leukaemia, Infectious Laryngitis-Tracheitis , Newcastle’s Disease, Infectious Bursal Disease, Erysipelas, Leptospirosis, Measles, Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis ,Anthrax, Botulism, Rinderpest., and many many more.

Not only have these listed diseases been managed, currently and in the future, there are vaccine solutions being pursued for types of cancer, parasites like malaria, and therapies derived from vaccine technology are being adapted to deliver gene therapy for inherited diseases.

The big leap forward recently would be the general improvement in parasite management. With rare exceptions, parasites can be readily controlled with the products available now. Fleas, Heartworm, Hookworms, Roundworms, Strongyles, Warbles, Lice, Whipworms, Tapeworms, Sarcoptes, Ear mites and so on are parasites that succumb to the currently available products..  Admittedly some parasite diseases also require rigorous management of population densities, care in mixing different generations and identification of those individuals lacking in innate resistance. That being said the impact of parasites on the development of other secondary diseases such as allergies, anemia, hypoproteinemia, starvation, intestinal obstruction, heart-lung disease, and so on is now a rare rather than a common event.

Dr. Krista Magnifico, DVM
Dr. Krista Magnifico, DVM
Diary of a Real-Life Veterinarian
Dr. Krista on Twitter

I thought long and hard on this one.

I decided to narrow down the list by just sticking to veterinary exclusive products, (those designed for pets only… Because so much of our products have trickled over from the human side).

I think the biggest breakthrough in vet medicine of all time is vaccines. Can you imagine where we would be without a rabies vaccine? Or distemper? Or any if the rest of them. I am lucky enough to have not had to practice during the times before “routine vaccines” were available. I don’t know if my heart could endure watching whole litters of  puppies die from what we now consider “preventable diseases.”

I think the last ten years biggest breakthrough is micro-chipping. At my clinic, I provide them for free to every patient because I have witnessed first hand how many lives it saves. Tragically many pets never find their homes if they end up at a shelter. Those with microchips have a considerably better chance of being reunited with their family if they have a microchip. I tell my clients that it costs me $12 bucks to give it to them for free and that I hope they never need it, but if they do it will be there for both of them.

If I could answer part B with the greatest breakthrough in the last 25 years I would say flea & tick and heartworm preventatives. They to have saved millions of pets lives AND provided a safe, effective, and easy way to control the parasites our pets face daily.

Dr. Nancy Kay, DVM
Dr. Nancy Kay, DVM, Speaking for Spot
Dr. Kay on Facebook and Twitter

In my mind, the biggest breakthrough (the one that has had the greatest impact on the largest number of animals) in the last decade was the discovery that taurine deficiency was the major cause of dilated cardiomyopathy (a uniformly fatal disease) in cats.

Perhaps I am biased because Dr. Paul Pion who was one year behind me in veterinary school at Cornell made this discovery. With the addition of taurine to commercially prepared cat foods, dilated cardiomyopathy in cats has virtually disappeared.

In terms of all times……. I would say vaccinations have saved more lives than anything else.

Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

I think the biggest breakthrough in veterinary medicine of all times is when (many) animals made the transition from being tools to companions. This freed veterinarians from being something akin to mechanics (e.g., why pay to fix the mouser when I can get a new one for less) to actually practicing medicine because the individual in question has inherent value.

The biggest breakthrough in the last ten years is regenerative medicine, in other words, the use of the patient’s own stem cells to repair damaged tissue. I think we are on the cusp of something truly revolutionary and am beyond excited to see where this field of study is going to take us.

The biggest breakthrough in veterinary medicine…in my opinion would be the use of diagnostic imaging such as MRI, ultrasounds and digital radiography.  Allows us to get a better appreciation of what is going on with our patients while minimizing the invasive nature of many procedures.

The biggest breakthrough in veterinary medicine over the past decade….in my opinion, it would be proper and adequate pain recognition and treatment.  There has been a lot more research recently on how to assess pain in our patients and how to adequately treat the animals level of pain.

Dr. Greg Magnusson, DVM (Leo’s Daddy), Leo’s Pet Care
Dr. Greg on Facebook and Twitter

The biggest breakthroughs in the last 30 years are the parvo vaccine and ivermectin.

In the last 20 years would be Frontline / Advantage and/or Rimadyl.

In the last 10, social media. 🙂

Dr. Shawn Finch, DVM
Dr. Shawn M. Finch, DVM, Riley & James 
Dr. Shawn on Twitter

The biggest breakthrough of veterinary medicine of all time is the concept of vaccination. If you made me choose the most important veterinary vaccine of all time, it is the rabies vaccine.

The biggest breakthrough of the past ten years is more difficult! My top one in advances in anesthetic safety.

Also big are the melanoma vaccine and other cancer prevention and treatment advances, heartworm treatment advances, digital radiography and improved nutrition for dogs, cats, and small mammals.

Is that what you expected or did the answers surprise you? What do YOU think has been the biggest breakthrough in veterinary medicine?

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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