Case Study: Hip Screenings may Help Improve Quality of Life

Case Study: Hip Screenings may Help Improve Quality of Life

Jul 15, 2005
By staff

During a continuing education meeting held by local orthopedic specialists, Dr. Mike McLaughlin, owner of Animal Medical Center of Cumming, in Cumming, Ga., was intrigued about a surgical procedure called TPO, or triple pelvic osteotomy. He heard the specialists say that some large-breed dogs with hip dysplasia can enjoy an improved quality of life, or at least a slowed disease progression, by undergoing TPO.

"To screen pets for signs of hip dysplasia, we need large puppies to remain still for proper positioning while we take a radiograph and palpate the hips," says Dr. McLaughlin. "That requires sedation or anesthesia. I recognized that between four and six months of age, most pets are presented for a neuter or spay--and that's an optimal time to take a radiograph to check the pet's conformation. If the pet is going to be used for breeding, a screening radiograph can provide helpful information as well."

Evidence shows that dogs with signs of hip dysplasia at six months can benefit from TPO, and 85 percent of pets that don't show signs of the disease at six months still are free of the disease at two years, Dr. McLaughlin says. "That makes doing these screenings at six months, during spays and neuters, the perfect time," he says.

Dr. McLaughlin has been screening large-breed dogs for about two years, and during that period, he has referred three or four pets for TPO, and he has talked to many other pet owners about nutritional changes and supplements to help ward off or manage hip dysplasia.

The team at Animal Medical Center prepares clients for screenings by talking about them during early puppy visits and by putting an explanation of the screening on their presurgical form for spays or neuters. Dr. McLaughlin says at least half of clients with large-breed puppies elect to complete the screening, which costs $70. And if the pet is diagnosed with dysplasia early, then the owners have more options in the treatment of their pet's condition.

"With this approach, we help pets enjoy a better life, and we bring in a little money--about $2,000 in the last two years," says Dr. McLaughlin.

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In regards to the June 2005 Growth Bulletin, "Sharing Saturdays Benefits Everyone," when I opened my new practice three years ago, I knew I couldn't work six days a week. As a concession, we're open one hour later on Thursdays to accommodate clients who have difficulty coming in during regular hours. This schedule hasn't been a problem. Another practice in the area agreed to see my clients if need be until our area-wide emergency service kicks in at noon on Saturdays.

We recently hired a new veterinarian and surveyed clients to ask whether they'd like us to provide additional hours. Most say they're satisfied the way things are and would only ask for one more evening hour a week. Surprisingly only a minority would like Saturday hours. Doctors and dentists in our area aren't open on Saturdays, so I think people are used to this approach.

Marcia Izo, DVM
Traverse City, Mich.
Michigan State University '79

I frequently read that practitioners feel their service on Saturdays is not as good as service on other days of the week. And the June 2005 Growth Bulletin mentions that staff members and doctors are tired and overtime is expensive.

There's no reason for Saturdays to be any different than weekdays if you schedule appropriately. Schedule the same doctor-to-staff ratio as you would normally. Hire enough staff members, and work Saturday hours into their schedule so there's no overtime.

My hospital is open until 5 p.m. on Saturdays with two to three doctors and the appropriate number of staff members. It's one of our most profitable days--the appointments are in demand and the appointment book is generally full.

Nancy Willerton, DVM
University of Illinois '91

In response to the May 2005 Growth Bulletin, "Laparoscopy and Thoracoscopy Equal Better Pet Care and Happy Patients": Cut to the chase. Many new techniques and specialized procedures and equipment are great to keep the interest of the veterinarian in veterinary medicine. Eighty percent of what we do is not rocket science. The other 20 percent only some of our clients will appreciate. In growing the practice, the focus on 20 percent of the procedures that produce 80 percent of the income should be exploited to their fullest extent.

Mark Mayo, DVM
Brandon, Fla.
University of Missouri '80
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