PICTURES: Miracle Medical Care for Beloved Pets: Worth the Cost?
(CBS) For some people, pets are members of the family, and when something goes wrong medically, the beloved animals get top-shelf care.
And at university veterinary hospitals as well as private and non-profit specialty clinics, cutting-edge care is increasingly available.
Just like people, dogs can get pacemakers and undergo dialysis and cataract surgery; cats can get kidney transplants.
Obese dogs can get back in shape with the help of a physical therapist and a pool for hydrotherapy.
Animals in pain are said to benefit from acupuncture, massage, and Reiki - a Japanese "energy" based technique.
The Animal Medical Center, a not-for-profit clinic in New York, has an entire physical therapy center where sick and injured animals can get back on their paws.
But do expensive medical treatments for animals make ethical sense when so many humans go uninsured? It costs about $15,000 for a cat to get a kidney transplant. Yet vets say it's not a matter of human verses animal life, but the priorities of the owner.
"Some people value their cat more than they want a new flat screen TV," says Dr. Jon McAnulty, professor of surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. "Not everyone who comes to us is wealthy."
Children's book author Nancy Klein made the decision to have a pacemaker inserted into the heart of her spaniel/poodle mix, Bailey.
Pacemaker surgery is a "beautiful procedure," says veterinary cardiologist Dr. Heidi Kellihan, who completed Bailey's surgery. Beautiful, she says, because one gets to see a dog's quality of life improve so quickly and significantly.
There is also the quality of the life of the owner to consider. A cancer survivor, Klein says Bailey was by her side throughout her treatments. She has come to believe that when many pet owners make the decision to provide for their companion animals top-shelf medical care, they are investing in their personal well-being as well.
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