More pet owners choose advanced medical treatments to save animals

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by Kristen Johnson

khou.com

Posted on February 23, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Updated Saturday, Feb 23 at 12:07 AM

HOUSTON – Valentino, a feisty Jack Russell terrier, beat the odds after being hit by a car last March.

“He had a crushed skull… there was actual tire marks on his body,” said Jen Curti, the dog’s owner.

Curti rushed him to Blue Pearl Veterinary Hospital where he spent two weeks on a ventilator in intensive care.

“Without the assistance of us breathing for him, he would not be breathing and he would have died,” said Dr. Benjamin Davidson with Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners.

Valentino’s injuries healed, but Curti is still paying for his treatment. More than $50,000 for the hospital bill alone.

“Every day he just gave us another hope. I just looked at him. I couldn’t possibly think of stopping,” said Curti.

From prosthetic limbs to stem cell therapy, more people are choosing advanced medical interventions to save their animal companions.

Peter Shenkin didn’t hesitate when Sam Adams, his Boston terrier, needed a $10,000 pacemaker.

“It took us at least two seconds to decide to do it,” Shenkin said.

“We can tell them that there’s a really good chance for a great quality of life afterwards. Most people consider it a worthwhile cost,” Dr. Jessica Gentile, also with Blue Pearl, said.

And it’s not just dog owners making tough decisions. Max needed a specialized urinary bypass surgery or he would have died from kidney failure.

His veterinarian implanted a device and is treating him with stem cell therapy to prevent kidney dysfunction for an estimated $13,000.

“Once we knew that there was a chance to save him we just went for it,” Dr. Tina Waltke, Max’s owner, said.

“They don’t want to know their cat is only going to live a year or two. They want to know their cat can have another 10 years,” Dr. Allyson Berent, a veterinary internist at the Animal Medical Center, said.

“You would never know he was sick,” Waltk said.

Even common canine conditions can cost a lot. Herbie nearly died when he got leptospirosis, a serious bacterial infection when he when he was just weeks old.

“They told us he had a 10 percent chance of living,” Lisa Roumell, the cat’s owner, said.

“His kidneys had completely shut down because of the toxins in his blood had reached life threatening levels,” Dr. Adam Eatroff, a veterinarian specialist with AMC, said.

It took surgery, dialysis, blood transfusions and three weeks in intensive care at AMC to save his life.

“It was tens of thousands of dollars,” Roumell said.

Experts say it’s not about money. At issue is how much the animal may be suffering and the chance of survival.

“If what you can do to give your pet alleviation from suffering no matter what that act might be that’s the proper and ethical thing to do: prevent suffering,” said Kirsten Thiesen with Humane Society of the U.S.

“They don’t go through pain, torturing (and) suffering,” Berent said. “Yes it’s a cat, but they have a life they want to live. And we make it very comfortable for them.”

And these pet owners say that’s something you can’t put a price tag on.

“I haven’t added it up. He was part of my family. Money can come back, an animal can’t,” Curti said. “We had the dog’s life in our hands. You look in the mirror and say this is a life.”

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