Cutting-edge veterinary procedures now rival human medicine. And local pet owners are paying thousands of dollars to extend their animal’s life.

Dog trainer Denise Krame-Cole witnessed a pet owner’s worst nightmare with her Doberman, Sierra.

“A Jeep SUV was coming and, boom! She rolled under the axle three times of the vehicle,” Krame-Cole said. “It was pretty bad. The sound of it was like a train wreck.”

She had the option to say goodbye to Sierra at just 3 years old.

“Her hip became dislocated out of the hip socket and actually cracked,” she says. “It would be a very difficult recovery. And if you couldn’t have that money up front, you might consider putting her down. No. Not an option.”

Krame-Cole opted for surgery, and Sierra got a rebuilt hip with pins and a functional plate. The medical bills totaled more than $6,000.

“She’s just too good of a dog,” she said. “She gave me the look: ‘Just do what you have to do. Fix me.’ ”

With the added hardware in her right hip, Sierra is now 7 years old and made a full recovery.

“She’s doing awesome. She’s fantastic,” Krame-Cole said. “She loves to get out and run and hike and do all kinds of things.”

Spending big in veterinary care is becoming more common. According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners spent $15.04 billion in 2014, and 2015 is projected to be the most expensive ever at $15.73 billion. Veterinary care expenses are second only to pet food.

At the Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center, around 400 pets a week are cared for. The facility is the only one of its kind in Southern Nevada, with neurology, cardiology, radiology, oncology, ophthalmology, internal medicine, orthopedics, critical care, and rehabilitation.

“This was one of the last major cities that didn’t have a specialty hospital,” says Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center part-owner and surgeon David Mason. “I think what we are seeing mirrors society, in that now people – you can take your animals on planes, into stores, there’s dog beaches.”

Pets can receive chemotherapy, undergo surgery, get checked out with an MRI or CT scan, and even rehab with a water treadmill and massage.

“Many of the technologies that we have available are all filtered down from what’s available in human health care,” says Mason. Ten years after opening, the veterinary specialty procedures mirror medical advances in humans.

“We offer stem cell procedures here, which isn’t unanimously favored in humans, because of the legal issues that we don’t face. So I think being a veterinarian has those advantages.”

This animal care goes beyond income. Trupanion is the second-largest pet insurance provide in North America – Nationwide is the largest – and has grown in enrollees by at least 40 percent each year since 2008.

“We can’t provide the service that we provide without people feeling that they need it. So I think we just provide what people want,” says Mason.

It seems that a pet’s health is tied to the owner’s well-being.

Vicki Gonzalez
KSNV News3LV