Pretty much the only negative side to having companion animals is their short lifespan. For many people, pets are substitute children, who unfortunately only live for 8 – 16 years. They would do anything to keep their furkids with them for a few more years; a few more healthy years, at least. Advances in medical care for pets could hold the answer.
According to recent findings from the Dog Aging Project, those advances are nearly here. Researchers have found that the drug given to prevent human bodies from rejecting kidney transplants, rapamycin, could increase dogs’ life expectancy by 2 – 4 years.
Rapamycin is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant as it helps cells eliminate waste. Researchers have already established that it can increase mice’s lifespan by up to 25 per cent. The Dog Aging Project has conducted trials on 24 middle-aged dogs, including Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds. They have consistently found an improvement in heart condition and, more importantly, no significant side-effects.
One of the researchers from the University of Washington has cautioned, however, that the trial was too small for generalisation to all breeds and mixed breeds. It also needs to be replicated before anyone pops the champagne. Furthermore, the project hasn’t been going for long enough for researchers to find out what long-term effects (if any) the drug will have on dogs.
Given the positive results so far, the study will definitely continue.
What other advances in human medical care benefit our pets?
Plenty, it seems, but the bad news is that they can be horrifically expensive. Think about how much it costs to treat a human cancer patient. Is it any surprise that treating a dog with the same disease in the same way will cost roughly the same – depending on the period of treatment, of course?
The point, however, is that advanced medicine is being used to treat sick and injured animals. One of the most renowned veterinary hospitals leading the way is the Animal Medical Center (AMC) in Manhattan, New York City. AMC specialises in state-of-the-art treatment facilities for pets that include radiation treatment for brain cancer, total hip replacements and acupuncture.
The AMC is much like a human hospital, with patients being flown in by helicopter in emergencies and with some cases costing upwards of $50,000. The money is usually well worth it. Consider the dog who came in with kidney failure, blood clots in his lungs and dead flesh on one leg, and who recovered so well that he now runs marathons.
Pet insurance is one way to help pet parents cover the costs of advanced medical care. However, even the most forward thinking pet insurer may balk at a $50,000 bill. So, the AMC opens a line of credit so that treatment can begin right away. Pet parents can choose lower cost treatment options if expensive care is not an option. Some pet parents have refinanced cars or homes, and sold valuable assets to pay for the best care available.
(Now who says pets aren’t family?)
Pets can benefit from advanced medical treatment before it’s available to humans. The good news is that it’s not part of cruel laboratory safety testing.
For example, AMC has glue-free 3D-printed hip replacement technology that encourages the bone to grow into the ‘nooks and crannies’. This makes total hip replacements more effective and encourages quicker healing and recovery. There are plenty of people sitting in casts from foot to hip who would sell their souls for that option.
Living and loving
Pet parents can rejoice in the fact that their furkids benefit from the best medical care available, as scientists and veterinarians focus resources on bringing treatment and equipment up to the same level as those for humans.
It may come at a price, but most people would move heaven and earth to ensure their pets receive the medical care they need to recover from illness and injury so they can enjoy many more years with them.
And who knows, maybe a drug will become available that will extend their lives some more.