Colorado State University Veterinarian in Beijing to Train Others to Care for Booming Pet Population in China

A Colorado State University veterinarian traveled to Beijing to training veterinarians there in specialty techniques to help care for the country’s booming pet dog and cat population.

This April, Dr. Ross Palmer, an associate professor for small animal orthopedic surgery at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, served as an instructor at the Orthopedic, Oncology and Cytology Workshops in Beijing. Palmer and fellow veterinarians, Dr. Darcie Palmer of Fort Collins and Dr. Alessandro Piras, a veterinary surgical specialist practicing in Northern Ireland, led an intensive workshop on orthopedic surgery with an emphasis on basic fracture management and joint stabilization in small animals.

The workshops, held at the Capital Medical University April 14-18, were sponsored by the European School for Advanced Veterinary Studies and were aimed at sharing expertise with the Chinese veterinary community. Nearly 60 veterinarians practicing throughout China, Singapore and Malaysia were in attendance. Workshops included sessions on orthopedic surgical techniques to treat animals with basic fractures and joint problems as well as oncologic surgery and cytology techniques for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

China has had a long history of caring for agricultural animals, yet the recent rise in pet ownership has created an increased demand for veterinarians to offer more advanced health care for small animal pets. Workshops of this kind are just one way the international veterinary community is reaching out to support this growing need.

"I was amazed by the level of appreciation that the Chinese veterinarians had for the workshops," Ross said. "They were like sponges. They wanted to learn everything we had to offer."

Palmer, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, is an expert in orthopedic surgery with a specialty in treating dogs with dislocated kneecaps, which is a common cause of lameness in dogs and an increasing problem in large breeds. His current research investigates the relationship between skeletal conformation – the degree of "bow-leggedness" – and knee dislocation in order to develop surgical treatment options that yield the best possible outcomes.  

The results of Palmer’s long-term retrospective study of his surgical patients, recently published in the "Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association," suggest that corrective surgeries, which address bowlegged skeletal conformation as well as stabilization of the kneecap, help dogs become more active and more comfortable, and improves their long-term quality of life.

Palmer and his team are currently investigating whether x-rays can be used to measure and diagnose conformational defects. The goal is to find a diagnostic tool for evaluating skeletal conformation so that veterinarians can recommend the best surgical treatments to return dogs to a normal quality of life. Palmer’s work is being funded in part by the generosity of private donors.

"Teaching in China was a very rewarding experience," Ross said. "And I look forward to returning. The need for orthopedic care for small animals is only going to grow in China and other parts of Asia, and there is great potential for collaboration in the future."