April 18, 2024

Dealing with the illness of companion animals

Animal medicine in the US is becoming as complex as human medicine — and almost as expensive, according to a Washington Post feature. Author Mary Battiata reminisces about the death of her beloved 14-year-old mongrel whom she nursed through a battle with mysterious ailment. In the course of her distressing journey she discovers veterinary neurologists, veterinary brain scans, spinal taps, radiation treatment, operations under general anaesthesia and CPR — all procedures costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

Vets attribute the increasing sophistication of medicine for companion animals to technological innovation and the rising status of pets in a society with many divorces and growing numbers of single-person and childless households. “A pet may be the most stabilising, permanent presence a child from a divorced home will ever experience,” says one Washington vet. The nation’s affection for pets is also reflected in the rising number of malpractice cases. State courts have awarded as much as US$30,000 for the pain and emotional suffering of the owners.

One example of the dedication of pet lovers is a Washington area woman who has spent more than US$25,000 on kidney transplant surgery for her cat. Veterinarian transplant surgeon Lily Aronson, of the University of Pennsylvania, who has done 75 pet organ transplants, explains why her clients are willing to spend so much. They tell themselves, “I don’t drink; I don’t smoke; I don’t go out and blow thousands of dollars gambling in Atlantic City… So if I decide to spend my hard-earned money on my animal, that’s my decision.”

Another initiative for owners who cannot bear to have their animals put down is hospices for animals with chronic or terminal illness. These businesses provide pain relief for the animals and psychological counselling for their owners.