Wednesday, June 19

The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Opens Its Doors to Animals

Given the kind of patients The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine has recently admitted, one wonders whether the eponymous founder had any pets himself.

The Baltimore Sun reports that over the past couple of months, The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine has been treating animals in addition to humans. Veterinarians not affiliated with the school have been able to order cutting-edge diagnostics tests such as MRI scans and request special treatments for animals. So far, the school has mostly seen cats and dogs but has also admitted birds and other exotic animals to its Center for Image-Guided Animal Therapy (CIGAT).

Though The Johns Hopkins University is not affiliated with any veterinary schools, administration officials claim that the animal treatment fits in with its research mission. Doctors and researchers hope that treating these new patients will improve not only veterinary treatment but medical treatment for humans as well.

“There is a very long tradition of veterinarians and human doctors working hand and hand,” said Dr. Lorin Warnick, director of Cornell University’s Hospital for Animals. “We don’t draw such a strict dividing line between humans and animals.”

This partnering of human and veterinary medicine is known as “one health” and has been employed by a variety of medical institutions over the years, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when it monitors public health threats. “One health” has gotten more attention recently due to major outbreaks of animal-spread diseases such as bird and swine flue, Ebola, West Nile virus, and salmonella.

Cornell University has lead the way in this special field of medicine for years but with Hopkins and other institutions hopping on board, it is expected to expand even more.

“Pets have always been part of the family,” says Jeffrey Sands, DVM, CEO of Vetonvideo. “Providing cutting edge services to insure pets get the very best in veterinary care is always a goal by their family veterinarian. Now if we can make testing affordable for every pet owner, that would be terrific.”

Dr. Dara Kraitchman, a trained radiologist and the co-director of CIGAT, is primarily interested in treating animals but realizes the potential for human applications as well.

“Our primary goal is to get pets the advantages of our high-tech equipment,” Dr. Kraitchman said. “We also want to take pets that have diseases that we don’t have good therapies for in veterinary medicine, but there are things in the pipeline we want to develop.”

The costs of treatment limits the number of animals the center can see. Not open to the public, the center only takes animals referred by a veterinarian. Still, the amount of money pet owners spend on their pets is rising. The American Pet Products Association predicts that $60 billion will be spent on pets this year, including $16 billion in veterinary care alone.

In addition, there are now 22 specialties in veterinary medicine including internal medicine, surgery, ophthalmology, radiology, anesthesiology, and even dermatology.

As the one health field of medicine continues to grow and specialize, it gives PET scans a whole new meaning.

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