PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – On a follow-up visit after Sophie Cortellino’s life-saving cardiac procedure, Dr. Anna Gelzer was delighted and family members were relieved to see her responding so well. Sophie agreed, her tail wagging excitedly. Sophie, the boxer, undergoes a checkup after a cardiac ablation surgery at the School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. March 6, 2020. REUTERS/Aleksandra Michalska
As the 9-year-old boxer lay on a metal table, Gelzer tried to push up her heart rate as part of a stress test following the procedure in August – a ventricular ablation for an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, the first performed on a dog in the United States.
“You want a cookie?!” Gelzer teased. “Want to go for a walk?!”
The jagged line tracing Sophie’s heartbeat on a monitor spiked dramatically but she lay calm and alert, and Gelzer grinned with satisfaction.
Sophie is one of countless aging American dogs undergoing cardiac treatments, stem cell transplants, tracheal stents, pacemakers and other sophisticated, expensive procedures to prolong their lives.
Owners of the dogs, many of whom have been around long enough to watch children grow up and provide support through countless family joys and traumas, are going to great lengths to prolong their lives, paying bills of up to $3,000 for stem cell therapy for arthritis and $7,000 for cardiac procedures like Sophie’s.
“Dogs are like a person, a family member,” said Gelzer, cardiology professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia.
Nearly half of the nation’s 77 million pet dogs are aged 6 or older, a 15 percent increase since 1987, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Larger breed dogs are considered geriatric at 6 years old, smaller breeds at 7 years old.
Aging dogs contend with many of the same illnesses as elderly humans, including heart disease, diabetes and senility. Cancer ravages canines at roughly the same rate as humans, striking nearly half of all dogs over age 10, experts say.
Story Credit: Reuters