One of the many new things in veterinary practice at this time was embryo transfer. The genetic improvement of livestock and the resultant increase in dairy and meat production throughout the world has been the result. The picture to your left is from Ethiopia where this ordinary cow will deliver an exceptional calf who's real parents are from Canada. The calves below are the result of embryo transfer.
On This Page
I graduated from veterinary college in 1984... what an exciting time to enter our profession.
This is the decade when attitudes were changing, animal husbandry was changing and we were being introduced to lots of new technology that seems common place today but was awesomely new in the 1980s ... ultrasound machines, CT Scans, embryo transfers, laser surgery on the eye, Prozac, kidney dialysis, the permanent artificial heart, and the first MRI machine.
We'll briefly discuss all of these topics as well as a list some non veterinary timeline events for context. Enjoy.
There are links to our other history pages below on your left and a complete directory of links at the bottom of the page
Outlook and attitude changes in veterinary medicine: I started veterinary school in 1980 ...class of 1984 at Michigan State University and for the first time in the history of our school .... and similar to veterinary colleges across the nation... there were as many female students as male.
An even bigger change in outlook was in how both new veterinarians and the pet owning public at large were treating their pets.... more and more like family members than a commodity. It wasn't long ago that most people would simply get a new pet... they were readily available for free... rather than pay much to treat their present pet. Humane Societies have been around for a long time, but starting in the 70s and 80s social awareness, high rates of volunteerism, and drives to neuter pets, to stop cruel practices in the pet industry, and to adopt really started to take off. It became "not cool" to have a fur coat. Debarking and ear cropping and declawing all came under attack.
Farm vets were also seeing big changes. More and more dairy, beef, swine and poultry producers were forming cooperatives to buy supplies and services, as well as to market their products. This included veterinary services. Instead of each farmer calling his favorite vet to tend to an individual sick animal or to perform required herd testing, vaccinations and so forth.... the vet would now be an employee or contractor of the Co-op and would make scheduled stops at each farm to perform his or her contracted duties. Herd health as opposed to individual animal treatment became more common. Veterinary farm medicine was becoming highly organized and a good farm vet had to be highly competent in farm economics, large scale nutrition, fertility programs, food additives, sanitation, air quality, and waste management. Vets now had to take foot baths or even sanitizing showers and put on disposable booties or coveralls before entering a barn. Everything was starting to be computerized and we all had to learn or get left behind.
Invented in the 1970's, by the 1980's CAT SCANS are becoming available
Computed Tomography (CT) imaging is also known as "CAT scanning" (Computed Axial Tomography). Tomography is from the Greek word "tomos" meaning "slice" or "section" and "graphia" meaning "describing".
In a CT scan, thousands of x-rays are shot through the body at different angles, and a computer calculates and triangulates an image using that data. For some things, like checking the lungs for spreading cancers, CT scans remain the imaging method of choice.
In the late 1970s and 1980's, advances in computers (finally calculating fast enough to create a useful image) and superconductors (to make magnetic fields large and powerful enough) led to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology, which catapulted medical imaging into the Space Age with the first human MRI medical scan in 1977.
Just like radiographs, CT scans, and fluoroscopy, MRI images are 2-dimensional representations of the subject being examined. And that is where all similarities end.
MRIs use no ionizing radiation, no x-rays are shot through the body. The way in which an MRI creates an image involves placing the body in a magnetic field, which orients all of the atoms in the body so that they are facing one direction. A very brief electromagnetic pulse is applied, and the response of those atoms to this pulse is recorded by a sensor, create the image. Soft tissues like the brain and spinal cord all look pretty much the same on radiographs, because they absorb radiation to the same degree. This problem is overcome with MRI, which is excellent at showing subtleties in soft tissue.
Although MRI technology has been used in veterinary medicine since 1980, in the 80s and 90s it was still new, and not widely available. MRI machines (with their large, powerful magnets) were very large and very, very expensive. They were placed in specially-built trailers, and moved through the country on 18-wheelers, visiting the veterinary schools and a few private specialty clinics on a rotating basis.
Like all other computer- and super-conductor-based technologies, MRI units have gotten smaller, and less expensive with time.
System developed to hold, transport, and deliver broilers and turkeys from the farm to the processing plant.
Human medicine; W.H.O. (World Health Organization) announces smallpox is eradicated.
The first American patent for a genetically engineered organism, a bacterium used to clean up oil spills, is granted
World's first genetically engineered vaccine becomes available. It's for Foot-and-mouth disease, one of our most economically important diseases in livestock. This particular vaccine, made by splicing genes of viral subunits would make a major impact on large animal veterinary practices and the beef industry.... and this new technology would have an even bigger impact for other diseaes in both animals and humans in the future.
Foot-and-mouth disease is an infectious and soften fatal viral disease that affects cattle of all types including water buffalo, sheep, goats, pigs, antelope, deer, and bison. It has also been known to infect hedgehogs and elephants, llamas, and alpacas . The virus causes a high fever for two or three days, followed by blisters inside the mouth that hurt too much to eat, and on the feet that rupture and cause lameness.making the poor beast lame.
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has severe implications for animal farming, since it is highly infectious and can be spread by infected animals through aerosols, through contact with contaminated farming equipment, vehicles, clothing, or feed, and by domestic and wild predators. Its containment demands considerable efforts in vaccination, strict monitoring, trade restrictions, and quarantines, and occasionally the killing of animals.
There were many attempts to make a safe and effective vaccine for this disease prior to the 1980s, but those early vaccines sometimes caused real outbreaks. In the 1970s, scientists discovered that a vaccine could be made using only a single key protein from the virus. These became known as sub unit vaccines and tiny amounts could be made in the lab for testing purposes. The challenge was how to produce enough quantities of these extracted proteins to make enough vaccine to use on millions of cattle. This became reality in the summer of 1981. This would positively affect the economics and food supply of millions of people... especially in the poorest regions of the world where the disease was endemic.... and veterinarians were proudly involved.
Before the 1960s, there were some vets that only treated "small animals", and quite a few vets that worked exclusively on horses, but most vets worked at "mixed animal" practices spending the majority of their time going from farm to farm treating a pony with lameness here, a sow having trouble delivering there, pregnancy checking a bunch of dairy cows at another place, and examining a "downer" cow at yet another. And somewhere in their busy day, there would be a few hours devoted to "small animal clinic" for treating and vaccinating dogs, cats, rabbits, and anything else that people might bring in.
But by the 1980s, small family farms with profitable livestock operations were no longer common and neither were mixed animal practioners that "did it all". Exclusively small animal vets now outnumbered farm vets and farm vets were becoming more and more specialized.... into those that specialized in swine, others in beef production, others in dairy, and a smaller, highly specialized number of vets in poultry diseases. And of course, the rock stars of our profession specialized in horse or zoo/wildlife practices.
By 2000, small animal (now called "companion animal") practice had become highly specialized too. Most cities of any size had cat only practices, and more to the point, referral practices that specialized in ophthalmology, orthopedics, heart diseases, oconolgy, bleeding disorders, internal medicine, dermatology, animal behavior.... and the list goes on and on. This trend started in the 1980s.
There were now all kinds of environmental safety laws, government regulations, and herd health co-op forms and paper work that now had to be neatly filed and organized. For the first time, it seemed, we all had to start fearing lawyers and lawsuits for any mistakes, mishaps, or anything that wasn't properly and fully recorded.
In our small animal hospitals, we were getting computerized, and we now had sophisticated lab equipment, dental machines, and other complicated machines in our surgeries. Our anesthetic machines and methods were constantly being updated ... and instead of hiring animal loving teenagers as assistants, more and more of us were hiring graduate veterinary technicians that knew how to work all this new stuff.
Kidney disease is the number 1 cause of death in older dogs and cats, and the picture above is a veterinary dialysis set up. Dialysis is NOT commonly available yet in veterinary practices as I update this page (2014) but this technology that has extended so many human lives was developed in the 1980's.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Both pictures taken in 1983. The development of personal computers and the software to run them would soon change the world. It certainly changed veterinary medicine. This website you're reading was one of the first veterinary websites about the treatment of pets when I began writing in the early 1990's.
Cat Scans (on your left being used to diagnose a horse) and MRI's (taking pictures of the spine of a dog on your right) are now commonly available for pets at veterinary colleges and veterinary specialty practices including Upstate Veterinary Specialists in Greenville, SC. The MRI machine represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in medicine since the invention of radiographs.. Both Cat Scan and MRI imaging was first developed in the 1980's.
Dr Ben Carson, now a conservative possibly running for President of the United States in 2016 was a neurosurgeon in 1987 leading the first surgical team to successfully separate twins with co-joined at the head. One of the techniques he pioneered was deliberately putting the twins into controlled hypothermia to minimize bleeding during this high risk procedure.
Dr Carson is a few years older than I am and grew up in the Detroit area very close to where I grew up. He graduated from Yale (a few years after George Bush), earned his MD from the University of Michigan, and went on to become professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics, and director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. I'd be proud to have this exceptional man as our President.
Genetic engineering is scary. But it's also fantastic and the new products, seeds, chemicals, vaccines, and medicines.... including the medicine that saved two American Aid workers in Africa that contacted Ebola (as I write this update in Sept 2014) are the result of this technology developed in the 1980's.
Developing a bacterium that breaks down oil was a major breakthrough in our modern world that still runs on oil. And just in time... The notorious Valdez -Exxon oil spill was fated to happen in the late 1980's.
Determined that locoweed poisoning, in combination with high altitudes, could cause congestive heart failure in cattle.
Human medicine: First vaccine for hepatitis B.
Ioannis Yannas, professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, collaborates with John Burke, MD, chief of trauma surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, to develop artificial skin. The membrane is successfully implanted onto Mark Walsh, saving his life from injuries sustained in an explosion in an aerosol-can factory.
Gay cancer," later called GRID, (Gay Related Immuno Deficiency) claims 121 deaths in the U.S. since the mid-1970s To be called AIDs in 1982 The HIV virus discovered in 1983
New infectious agent, "prions," discovered; proposed as cause of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy diseases.
Genetically engineered human insulin produced. This is a BIG DEAL
First genetically engineered crop plant developed (tomato).
Human medicine: Dr. William DeVries implants the Jarvik-7 artificial heart into patient Barney Clark. Clark lives 112 days.
American Medical Association lifts ban on physician advertising after losing court battle with Federal Trade Commission.
Growth hormone developed
Dr. Luigi Mastroianni, Jr., performs the first successful human in-vitro fertilization
Dr Ross, author of this site graduates from Michigan State Veterinary College
South Korea had an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2002 due to not vaccinating. This country also earned the wrath of animal rights organization by burying over a million animal alive (picture of piglets on your right) trying to contain the spread of this terrible disease. The picture on your left is of South Korean veterinarians vaccinating dairy cattle (2011) using imported vaccine. As many as 10 million cattle, sheep, and swine were destroyed in an outbreak in Great Britain (2001 and 2007) I'm not sure why the vaccine wasn't used in these cases or if the problem is a viral strain resistant to the vaccine.
First patent for genetically engineered animal issued.
The Mac Apple computer is launched
First transgenic farm animals born (sheep and pigs).
Human medicine; Leprosy Vaccine made
ASPCA called for a boycott of Ringling Brothers after it tried to pass off goats w/horns surgically implanted in their skulls as "living unicorns."
Hole in Earth's ozone shield discovered over Antarctica.
Discovered that chemicals produced by aquatic microorganisms, geosmin and BIV, cause off-flavors in catfish.
USDA scientists indicate that agricultural chemicals infiltrate ground water more than previously thought
First surgical robot
The first robot assisted surgery was performed in the 1980's
The pictures above and below are of the author of this website taken in 1984, the year I graduated from Michigan State Veterinary School
2007 update; Thanks to Idexx Labs, our profession now has an inexpensive and reliable test that screens dogs for anaplasma as well as Lyme Disease and Ehrlichia.... two other tick borne diseases that cause a wide variety of vague symptoms.... and well as heartworms
Like many medical breakthroughs, ultra sound machines were tested on animals so it was natural that veterinarians would start using ultrasound technology in their practice. I remember our veterinary school getting an"echo machine" in my senior year of vet school (1984). They are now fairly common in veterinary practice and used on a daily basis in human medicine. It all started in the 1980's
This picture of the author, on my farm in the mountains of South Carolina was taken about 10 years after graduating. I was raising 4 sons and Simmental cattle but also kept rescued horses like the 2 in the trailer. That was the first brand new truck I ever had. There are a couple pictures of me taken in 1984 above to your left. And I think another of some of our Simmental cattle below.
First genetically engineered vaccine for pseudorabies in swine.
Discovered that pyrrolizidine alkaloids--natural chemicals found in hundreds of plants--kill livestock by causing cumulative and irreversible damage to the liver.
England saw its first cases of mad cow disease. This disease of the brain can be passed to humans that eat the meat of infected cows and this outbreak, few in number though it was, lead to world wide panic about the meat supply. Huge economic impact involving trade restrictions and intense meat inspection efforts by veterinarians at borders of countries around the world.
Discovered that boron is a nutritionally necessary trace mineral.
Revlon agreed to stop animal testing and contributed millions of dollars to alternate research.
Ben Carson performs the first successful brain surgery separating Siamese twins
Virus genes transferred to chickens to impart resistance to avian leukosis virus.
First authorized release of genetically altered bacteria outdoors. I think because of the Valdez Exxon oil spill...you may recall from above that a genetically altered bacteria that could break down oil was invented in 1980
1987 Mad Cow disease breaks out in Great Britain.
Despite the common misconception, the most common symptom of a cow with "Mad Cow" disease is not crazy aggression but rather the inablility of not being able to get up.
Science and technology made terrific strides in the eighties. Large numbers of Americans began using personal computers in their homes, offices, and schools.
Columbia, America's first reusable spacecraft was launched in 1981. A sad day in our history was January 28, 1986, when space shuttle Challenger exploded 74 seconds after liftoff at Cape Canavaral, Florida killing all seven astronauts, including school teacher Christa McAuliffe.
Research money allowed for studies and new treatments for heart, cancer, and other diseases. Major advances in genetics research led to the 1988 funding of the Human Genome Project. This project will locate the estimated 80,000 genes contained in human DNA.
Total population: 227,020,000; farm population: 6,051,000; farmers 3.4% of labor force; Number of farms: 2,439,510; average acres: 426; irrigated acres: 50,350,000 (1978)
For the first time since the 19th century, foreigners (Europeans and Japanese primarily) begin to purchase significant acreages of farmland and ranchland
The Southeast's worst summer drought on record takes a severe toll on many farmers
Farmland values bottom out after a 6-year decline, signaling both a turnaround in the farm economy and increased competition with other countries' exports
Scientists warn that global warming may affect the future viability of American farming; one of the worst droughts in the Nation's history hits Midwestern farmers
1986 Country singer Willie Nelson organizes first of the Farm Aid concerts to benefit indebted farmers
I couldn't find a picture of the first robot used in surgery, but it was called the heart throb and developed by Canadian James McEwen and used for the first time in Montreal in 1983. The picture above is of a much more modern model and in 2006, the first heart surgery done completely by an artificial intelligent robot was performed. The results were rated as better than an above-average human surgeon. The machine had a database of 10,000 similar operations, and so, in the words of its designers, was "more than qualified to operate on any patient. As far as I know, robots are not available to veterinarians yet, but at the last conference I attended, there was a company displaying a minimally invasive surgical device controlled by a joy stick being promoted for abdominal surgery.
Dr James McEwen, developer of the first robot used to perform surgery 1983
In 1986, Dr Patricia Bath invented the Laserphaco Probe, which used a laser to remove cataracts. This has transformed eye
surgery and laser eye surgery is not common in human and veterinary medicine.
Dr. Bath was the first African-American
female doctor to receive a medical patent,
and now holds four.
Discovered that lactose significantly reduced Salmonella bacteria in infected chickens.
Developed anaplasma probe used to detect infected ticks.
Note: Anaplasmosis is a tickborne disease caused by the infectious bacterial organism transmitted through bites of ticks. Anaplasmosis has been reported worldwide in a wide variety of animals.
It damages platelets in the blood and causes lameness, joint pain, fever, lethargy, and inappetance.
Less common clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, and labored breathing.
Human medicine; Patricia Bath became the first African American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical invention... a method for removing cataract lenses and has transformed eye surgery, using a laser device making the procedure more accurate.
Scientists warn that global warming may affect the future viability of American farming; one of the worst droughts in the Nation's history hits Midwestern farmers
Successfully separated living sperm into male- and female-producing batches.
Identified a new parasite, Neospora caninum, as a cause of birth defects in cattle and sheep.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hype leads to record numbers of pet turtles being released into the wild.
The idea of genetically engineered animals is
a little scary. And genetically modified
anything is controversial. But it's now a fact
life, and many seeds, crops, vaccines, and
medicines are now the result of genetic engineering. So far, the scientific community has been very careful about safety and government oversight has been fairly stringent. But the potential for disaster or the technology being used in evil ways is certainly possible. The pictures of the cattle above, (the Simmental heifer and calf from my own farm) are the result of genetic improvement done the old fashioned way.... through selective breeding. The heavily muscled bull above left is called a Belgian Blue and I noticed many of these on a recent trip to the Netherlands. I'm a fan of Simmental cattle which are gentle, great moms, and produce calves that grow faster and produce more lean meat at a younger age than Angus or Herford breeds. Alas, meat packers aren't set up for the larger carcass' and there is a fair amount of pressure for cattlemen to produce a uniform beef product. The trend now is to produce all black or black with white face beef. Packers like the size and Americans still like their meat to be fatty. Angus tend to be mean and ornery beasts. Just saying.
Most of the transgenic animals produced so far have been in lab mice. There's a diagram of the process further down on this page.
Capsule endoscopy has come a long way since being invented in 1985. Cornell and a few other veterinary schools, especially in Asia, are now (2014) starting to use self propelled capsules with bright LCD lights and high tech cameras to record it's trip through the gi tract. Pretty amazing.
Some information about the 80s not directly related to veterinary medicine:
U.S. Population: 226,546,000
National Debt: 1980 - $914,000,000,000
National Debt: 1986 - $2,000,000,000,000
Average salary: $15,757
Life Expectancy: Male 69.9 Female 77.6
Minimum Wage: $3.10
BMW was $12,000; Mercedes 280 E was $14,800
The 1980s became the Me! Me! Me! ... a generation of status seekers.
During the 1980s, hostile takeovers, leveraged buyouts, and mega-mergers spawned a new breed of billionaire. Donald Trump, Leona Helmsley, and Ivan Boesky iconed the meteoric rise and fall of the rich and famous. If you've got it, flaunt it and You can have it all! were phrases of the day.
Forbes' list of 400 richest people became more important than its 500 largest companies. Binge buying and credit became a way of life and 'Shop Til you Drop' was the watchword.
Labels were everything, even (or especially) for our children. Tom Wolfe dubbed the baby-boomers as the 'splurge generation.' Video games, aerobics, minivans, camcorders, and talk shows became part of our lives.
The decade began with double-digit inflation, Reagan declared a war on drugs, Kermit the Frog was very popular, hospital costs rose, we lost many of our finest talents to AIDS which before the decade ended spread to black and Hispanic women. Unemployment rose.
On the bright side, the US Constitution had its 200th birthday, Gone with the Wind turned 50, ET phoned home, and in 1989 Americans gave $115,000,000,000 to charity. And,on the international scene ... at the very end of the decade ... the Berlin Wall and the yoke of communism that it represented was removed, making way for great changes in the decades to come!
Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman Supreme Court Justice.
52 hostages were released from their 444 days of captivity in Iran, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial inscribed with 57,939 names of American soldiers killed or missing in Vietnam was dedicated.
Average income climbed more than 20 percent, and the stock market tripled in 7 years, although it suffered a big correction in 1987.
Televangelist Jim Bakker was sentenced to 45 years for selling bogus lifetime vacations.
The sexual revolution encountered a temporary breaking from fear of getting AIDS, sybolized when famous leading man actor Rock Hudson died of this disease in 1985.
Prisons overflowed and violent crime rates which, in 1980, had tripled since 1960, continued to climb with the appearance of crack in 1985.
From 1985 to 1990 the use of cocain addiction was up 35 percent, though the number of users had declined. Nancy Reagan's Just Say No campaign had great influence. Well, maybe.
Toward the end of the decade, President H.W. Bush called for a kinder, gentler nation and volunteerism and contributions reached an all time high.
Families changed drastically during these years:
The 80s continued the trends of the 60s and 70s - more divorces, more unmarrieds living together, and a lot more single parent families.
Abortion became especially common in the 1980s ... between 1 and 2 million every year (United States) ... about 1 out of 3 or 4 pregnancies are aborted. (abortion rates have come down slightly since 1989. Also note; statstitics on abortions vary quite a bit and are probably underestimated as reporting is not mandatory)
The 2005 book "Freakonomics" will make the case that that the biggest reason crime rates declined significantly in the 2000's is not because Mayor Rudy Giuliani was tough on crime but rather because there were so many abortions in the 1980s ... resulting in many fewer young men in their teens and twenties 20 years later.
The two-earner family was even more common than in previous decades, more women earned college and advanced degrees, and women had fewer children.
Cardiology Heart disease in Cats, Cardiac Hypertrophy, Valvular disease, Cardiac Insufficiency, Congestive Heart Failure, Heartworm Disease, and a little history about the milestones in treating heart disease
Cats: general information page and directory of diseases and problems specific to cats including vaccine recommendations, leukemia, feline viral infections, feline upper respiratory disease and cats that just aren't feeling well.
The illustration above depicts the using genetically modified mice to produce milk that contains a protein used in a medicine to break down blood clots. This saves thousands of human lives each year.
Another major life saving delevlopment in the 1980's was the the intravascular stent which keeps blood vessels open preventing heart attacks ... this being one of the top causes of death in the United States. Remember that most all new medical developments are first tested on animals so veterinarian scientists are frequently a part of the team.
Another major medical breakthrough in the 1980's was the development of insulin made not from swine pancreas but from synthetic DNA. This is a much superior product for controlling diabetes... a major problem in pets as well as humans in the United States.