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5 Cutting-Edge Therapies in Veterinary Medicine that Could Change Your Cat’s Life

Advanced treatments mean cats can recover from diseases or injuries once thought fatal.

 |  Jan 29th 2014  |   11 Contributions


Veterinary medicine has come a long way since I adopted my first cat in the early 1980s. Along with that, so have people’s attitudes about cats’ role in the family and their right to care that improves the quality of their lives. Put the two together and you create an equation that results in everything from feline kidney transplants to veterinary chiropractic care to the integration of holistic healing techniques like acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine into the treatment of whatever ails our beloved kitties.

The incorporation of cutting-edge technology into feline medicine has done even more to change our cats’ lives. Here are five of the most advanced -- and yes, most expensive and hardest to find -- treatments for difficult and painful diseases.

1. Cold laser therapy

This treatment is designed to alleviate chronic pain and speed wound healing by reducing inflammation, boosting the immune system and increasing blood flow. It is done through the use of low-level laser or LED light. It’s often used in conjunction with other therapies such as medication.

2. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy

ESWT is a non-surgical method of treating chronic injuries such as ligament damage, arthritis, and bone and nerve damage with the use of high-energy mechanical pulses directed at an injured area. The pulses stimulate the breakdown of scar tissue, which improves blood flow and starts the damaged tissue on the road to healing.

3. Gamma knife therapy

Also known as gold seed therapy or sterotactic radiosurgery, gamma knife therapy allows veterinary oncologists to treat cancerous tumors in places that are not easily accessed by surgery or that are too risky to operate on. It involves administering high doses of radiation in a very small and precise area, so that cancer cells are killed and there is minimal damage to the surrounding normal cells.

4. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

In this treatment, a cat is placed in a small capsule in which he breathes oxygen-rich air at high pressure, which reduces swelling and speeds up healing from traumatic injuries. Veterinarian and professor Justin Shmalberg told the Associated Press that HBOT has been used to treat animals with conditions including rattlesnake bites, injury from being hit by a car, and infections that won’t heal.

5. Stem cell therapy

In stem cell therapy, immature cells are implanted in an area of damaged or diseased tissue, where they “learn” what kind of cells to be from the tissue that surrounds them: They can develop into muscle, nerve, bone, cartilage, and other types of cells. Stem cell therapy has been approved by the FDA to treat tendon and ligament problems, bone fractures and arthritis in pets.

It's possible that stem cell therapy could have repaired some of the arthritis and ligament damage in my cat's knee. This X-ray, taken about a month before her ill-fated surgery, shows how messed up the joint had become.

Have you tried these or any other advanced therapies to treat your cat? Have you seen these techniques at work? Would you use these treatments on your cat if you could afford to? Is it sane or ethical to treat cats with these therapies? What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.

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