CORVALLIS - Hip replacement is never easy, but it has increasingly become a common operation that greatly improves the quality of life and general health of many elderly patients.

And sometimes, those patients get a big hug from their owners and a doggie biscuit for a treat.

The evolving world of veterinary medicine and a growing affection for companion animals has brought many medical and surgical procedures that used to be confined to humans to the veterinary hospital, experts say, and is one of the reasons that Oregon State University's new educational programs in small animal medicine should be of special interest to the Oregon pet owner.

"Companion animals are no longer thought of just as property, an animal that will face euthanasia if it has a serious medical or surgical problem," said Dr. Howard Gelberg, dean of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. "An increasing number of people think of their pets as part of the family and are perfectly willing to spend significant amounts of money for advanced medical and surgical care."

That is also posing new challenges for the training of veterinary students, Gelberg said, who 20 years ago might not have been prepared to do surgical repair of congenital heart disease. It also highlights the value of the more complete small animal medical training that OSU veterinary students will now be able to gain in Oregon, through the recent legislative funding for expansion of that program.

According to Gelberg, about 70-80 percent of veterinarians spend the bulk of their practice on small animals, mostly pet and companion animals. One recent survey suggested the United States now has about 59 million cats and 53 million dogs, and almost 60 percent of American households have one or more companion animal on which they collectively spend billions of dollars a year on veterinary care.

These days, a veterinarian might specialize in dermatology, ophthalmology or neurology, and some of these specialists might do anything from implanting a pacemaker in your ailing dog to treating it for Lyme disease or prescribing a regimen of cancer chemotherapy.

"Modern veterinarians increasingly treat many of the same diseases that face human medical doctors," Gelberg said. "With the changes being made, the new doctors emerging from the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine will soon be able to get all of the training they need for their small animal practices right here in Oregon, and the pet-owning public will be far better served."

Click photos to see a full-size version. Right click and save image to download.


Dr. Howard Gelberg, 541-737-2098