Predictive Analytics Is the Future of Pet Healthcare

Dr. Angela Hughes, DVM, PhD, described veterinary medicine as “kind of like a maze, where you’re trying to find your way through, and you’re working with a tour guide that doesn’t speak your language.” Fortunately, new technology is here to help lead the way.

Predictive analytics is a method of testing that uses artificial intelligence models to look at large amounts of data to help anticipate and diagnose health problems in patients earlier than usual. The more data that is fed into these models, the smarter they become. Many experts believe this has the potential to spark a paradigm shift throughout the veterinary industry, leading to more personalized healthcare for pets.

One example of the technology already being put in place is a new AI-driven diagnostic tool from Mars Petcare’s Antech Diagnostics that can detect chronic kidney disease in cats. By using six common feline health measurements (creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, white blood cell count, urine specific gravity, urine protein, urine pH–along with approximate age), the tool, called RenalTech, can predict CKD two years earlier than a traditional diagnosis.

RenalTech arose from a 2019 study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine that analyzed the electronic healthcare records of 106,251 cats “to build a model for CKD risk at a given point in time based on current and past EHR data.” Research concluded that, with health screening information collected through routine veterinary practice, “this model can be rapidly implemented into hospital practice or diagnostic laboratory software to directly support veterinarians in making clinical decisions.”

As the study notes, CKD is the leading cause of death in cats over the age of 5. Although there isn’t a cure, early detection and the right treatment can increase the quality and duration of a cat’s life. Unfortunately, today’s diagnostic practices are often unable to pick up on the disease until irreversible damage has already been done, which is why predictive analytics could be a game changer.

 

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Your Pet Getting COVID-19

Are you worried that your pet will get COVID-19? After seeing several reports in the news of animals testing positive—from tigers in a Bronx zoo to a pug named Winston—you might think that there’s cause for concern, but don’t panic just yet.

The CDC says that “there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19,” and the few studies that have come out so far seem to confirm this.

One study, for example, looked at 102 cats from animal shelters and pet hospitals in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated, and found that only 11 tested positive for antibodies of the virus, suggesting a low rate of transmission between felines, and from humans to cats. Furthermore, the researchers concluded “there is no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from cats to humans.”

Another study found that, while the disease does transmit efficiently among cats and ferrets, “it replicates poorly in dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks.” In the case of Winston the pug, to date the only dog in the U.S. to have tested positive for the coronavirus, it’s believed that he picked it up from one of his owners, and he did not pass it along to the family’s other two pets, a cat and a dog.

In summation, the odds of your pet contracting the coronavirus are very slim, and there’s no reason to believe that they would pass it on to you. In most cases, animals that have tested positive have exhibited mild or no symptoms, and none are believed to have died from the virus.