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“Here comes the wire up the artery!” said Dr.. in Chick Weisse, who infused with dog liver cancer chemotherapy through a catheter in the century-old Animal Medical Center in Manhattan in an effort to “buy him some time.”
Brute homes today, the cancer bay while – maybe eight months. The cost: $ 2,000.
Throughout the country, veterinarians are practicing ever more advanced drugs to 77 million dogs in the country, 90 million cats and a myriad of other animals – treatments that vie with the best of human medicine. The driving force is “the changing role of pets in our society,” said Dr.. In Patty Khuly, a veterinarian at Miami of Sunset Animal Clinic.
The bottom line for many people, she said, is that investing in the life of a pet “improve the quality of a person’s life immeasurably more than, say, buying a luxury car.”
In a radiation suite at The Animal Medical Center, a black cat named Muka was undergoing a CT scan for a lung problem. A medical team hovered over the tranquilized animal, injecting contrast dye and poring over digital readouts to assess the problem: chronic pleural fibrosis.
The new, half-million-dollar Toshiba Aquilion – one of the newest, fastest 3-D imaging scanners – was a gift from an owner whose pet was saved at the AMC, a not-for-profit research facilities and teaching. The AMC offers 24-hour emergency care using once-unthinkable procedures like heart surgeries, MRIs and ultrasounds. It has a staff of 81 vets, including 27 certified in fields such as radiology, endoscopy, neurology, cardiology and oncology.
They train 18 interns and 24 residents, including two from Italy and one from Croatia this year.
Khuly, with an MBA and a veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania, says more people came to believe that investing in the health of their pets’ enriches their own lives. And, he says, has prompted the young vets to enter specialty medicine.
The result is the kind of cutting-edge care the AMC gives a Bernese mountain dog of mammoth named Alpha for his mug-sacral disease, marked by excruciating back pain. He receives electrical neuromuscular stimulation via a light laser, is exercised on an underwater treadmill and staying under the heat of a pack.
Alpha comes in twice a week with his owner, Dr.. Paul Greengard, winner of a 2000 Nobel Prize for research on human nervous system.
Although many Americans are not the kind of care their pets do, there is often no limit to what they’ll do to save the animals – spending $ 12 billion last year paying veterinary bills, according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. That is about double what is spent by the owner of a decade earlier.
In some cases, advanced medicine perfected on pets has led to the technique is then applied to humans.
The AMC says animals’ painful arthritic joints are now healed in stem cell transplants not yet approved for humans. The cost: $ 4,000.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, a new surgical technique to repair the torn knee ligaments in dogs was so successful that today it is used in NFL players, said Dr.. William Gengler, director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
Wisconsin also pioneered in medicine cancers in animals with TomoTherapy-image-guided radiation that targets only the tumor, sparing surrounding tissue. That is achieved by pinpointing the diseased tissue in a 360-degree CT scanner, then opening the windows required radiation specific location, Gengler said.
TomoTherapy is now state-of-the-art treatment for people, with several hundred such machines are used worldwide in human cancers.
Among the recent pet benefit did not appreciate, a soft-coated wheaten terrier belonging to a family in Mequon, Wis..
Kathy Hrkac and his wife bought the dog for their two children, “and he was a member of the family, full of life and love,” she said – until suddenly, almost two years ago, blood started to Dripping from 5-year-old terrier’s nose and he has a hard time breathing.
The diagnosis: a rapid spread of cancer in the nose that left him with about a month to live.
“It is heart-wrenching,” Hrkac said in a telephone interview from his home.
The Scout underwent TomoTherapy about a year and a half ago and it spared his mouth and eyes, which tend to be damaged by conventional radiation, Gengler said.
The Wisconsin veterinary school at first shared a TomoTherapy machine in the medical school of the university. Private donations funded the $ 3 million unit opening in January – the first in a U.S. veterinary facility, Gengler said.
He said a treatment like that for the Wisconsin terrier is now cost at least $ 6,000. But in the veterinary hospital supported by academic grant money, the Hrkac family paid $ 3,000.
In New York, The Animal Medical Center sees nearly 40,000 patients each year, from dogs and cats to lambs, iguanas and a ring-tailed lemur, a primate native to Madagascar.
Some end up in ICU, with a soundtrack of beeping monitors surrounding stainless steel cages crisscrossed with tubes and wires. Plexiglas cubicles are for those creatures who need emergency oxygen.
Khuly said such sophisticated medicine is within reach thanks to pet insurance, payment plans offered by hospitals like AMC and interest free credit card for veterinary bills.
AMC also raises funds for owners whose animals might otherwise die because they can not afford the pricey treatments.
The most advanced pet medicine involves “high-tech methods to highly qualified people performing them – and it’s expensive,” says Jennifer Fear, chief economist for the nonprofit Humane Society of United States in Washington, the world’s largest animal advocacy organization.
He said he did not feel pioneering veterinarians are overcharging for reaching the edge of medical science.
Until such treatments become mainstream, with supporting insurance, says fears, owners can opt for effective, more affordable care that still saving life.