9 human health trends that have gone to the dogs (and cats)

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Happy, a Labrador mix, jumps into the swimming pool at a pet hotel in Taipei October 29, 2009. Happy's owners are in China and left him at the pet hotel which is one of the few places in Taiwan that uses swimming as part of a weight loss program and physical therapy for post-surgery dogs. Nicky Loh/REUTERS

Happy, a Labrador mix, jumps into the swimming pool at a pet hotel in Taipei October 29, 2009. Happy’s owners are in China and left him at the pet hotel which is one of the few places in Taiwan that uses swimming as part of a weight loss program and physical therapy for post-surgery dogs. Nicky Loh/REUTERS

Editor’s note: PBS NewsHour is a partner with STAT, a new national publication reporting from the frontiers of health and medicine.

Oh, what we wouldn’t do for our animal companions! Dogs and cats, in particular, can develop many of the same illnesses, injuries, and disorders that people do. And increasingly, they can get also the same kind of care.

Not without expense or controversy, more professionals are offering our animals health and medical treatment options normally reserved for their human companions. Here are some notable examples:

1. Medical marijuana

Fluffy and Fido getting on in years? Losing their appetite? Aching and whining? Dog treats containing cannabidiol and even the psychoactive chemical THC have grown in popularity in recent years. The Food and Drug Administration has expressed concern over these products, saying research is lacking. Still, some states are going ahead: Nevada has considered a billto allow people to obtain medical marijuana for their pets.

2. Costly cancer treatment

Cancer treatment for humans has been advancing by leaps and bounds, and some of those advanced techniques are now being offered to pets, as well. At the cancer institute in Manhattan’s Animal Medical Center, pets get chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and even immunotherapy, a recent approach of activating the body’s own immune system. Treatments can run into the five figures, the AP reported.

3. Telemedicine

Getting your companion a checkup does not have to involve making an appointment with the v-e-t and hoping your p-e-t doesn’t know how to spell. Instead, fire up the laptop or smart phone for a virtual vet visit. New apps allow live texting and video-chatting with licensed vets, allowing convenient access to pet medical care.

4. Acupuncture

A dog undergoes acupuncture therapy for a facial spasm at a vet clinic in north China's Tianjin municipality. The treatment is administered daily for six days and cost about 50 yuan ($6.50) for the whole course. Vincent Du (CHINA)/REUTERS

A dog undergoes acupuncture therapy for a facial spasm at a vet clinic in north China’s Tianjin municipality. The treatment is administered daily for six days and cost about 50 yuan ($6.50) for the whole course. Vincent Du (CHINA)/REUTERS

The ancient Chinese therapy of acupuncture is gaining more acceptance to treat everything from pain to behavioral disorders in pets. Several veterinary schools and organizations certify vets in the practice of acupuncture. Dogs are the main acupuncture patients but cats, horses, and even birds have gotten the procedure.

5. Fitness trackers

Corpulent calicos and pudgy poodles run the risk of developing hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disease. And the solution is the same one many out-of-shape humans are using. Exercise trackers, like Fitbark, track dogs’ rest, activity, and playtime. A similar device allows remote medical monitoring of the vital signs of sick pets.

6. Physical therapy

Sometimes it takes more than exercise to get an animal back in top form. Sprains, arthritis, and other problems can sideline even the most active, playful pet. Physical therapy uses equipment like balance boards and heated swimming pools to rehabilitate hurt dogs, and a wheeled walker lets a dog or cat keep moving while she’s healing.

7. Antidepressants

Dogs have different sources of anxiety than humans, but they respond to a common treatment: Prozac. A recent study found that dogs with separation anxiety were less distressed when given the antidepressant along with behavioral therapy.

8. Health spas

Some pampering might also help de-stress a cranky pet. Pet spas are cropping up in luxury condo buildings, offering pet treadmills, bone-shaped pools, and cots for nap time. After that, a nice bath, a good brushing, and a cute haircut can make all the difference in a pet’s attitude.

9. Raw food diet

The raw food trend for animals, like its equivalent for humans, claims to be based on the way their ancestors ate in the wild. Brands such as BARF Dog Food push these diets as the best for pets. However scientists have cautionedthat sometimes homemade raw diets don’t include all the nutrients animals need.

This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Feb. 12, 2016. Find the original story here.

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