Claire Keeton reported in the Sunday Times of 15.11.2015 that:

‘It’s not a dog’s life, no ma’am, definitely not for pets who live in the suburbs.

Owners are spending more time and money on them than ever before and services for animals are booming.  This breed of owner will pay for surgery and Reiki healing, plan holidays and play dates for pets and even swop cars for them.

“Fur kids are the new kids and their owners will do almost anything for them” said Julia Davies, a Johannesburg animal behaviourist with four rescue border collies.  Their food bill comes to more than that of Julia and her husband. “I know people who employ full-time staff for their dogs.  They look at their animals as emotionally intelligent beings.” she said.

But pets eating habits may not reflect this intelligence and vet’s bills can run into tens of thousands of Rands.  A Labrador in Cape Town has had three operations after twice eating baby dummies and finally a baby’s bottle top.  His owner, Lauren Tuohy said “He cost us about R20,000 for those ops and so we nicknamed him ‘Mauritius’.  He was the cost of a holiday.”

These days, vets can perform virtually any surgery done for humans, imaging (such as MRI and CT scans) has improved and treatments such as chemotherapy are available.

Owners are prepared to pay specialist fees and are increasingly taking out pet insurance.  Johannesburg veterinary surgeon Dr. Bruce Irvine-Smith opened a practice with his brother 45 years ago, now they have 10 vets in a hospital in Bryanston with three theatres, an ICU, a lab, sophisticated machines and many wards.  “When I bought the first ECG machine I wondered if we would use it enough.  It has paid for itself 100 times over,” he said. “We have done open-heart surgery here.”

Dr. Michael Gray works at the Panorama Veterinary Clinic and Specialist Centre in Cape Town and is impressed at the resilience of pets.  “I am still amazed that the wheel of a 4×4 can ride right over a maltese and it often survives, with fractures,” he said.  “Cats that fall from flats mostly survive with relatively minor injuries.  The higher they fall from often the less the injury.”

The rehabilitation of pets is becoming more common.  Therapist Natercia Camara of Doggy Paddle, which offers treatments such as hydrotherapy says some pet owners take their pets for a session every week.

Johannesburg career woman Michelle Caldeira moved houses to accommodate her two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. “When getting upstairs was tricky for their hips, I found a ground-floor house with a beautiful garden.  What makes them happy, makes me happy too,” she said.

To make sure his two Rottweilers got exercise, Johannesburg chef Richard Loubser bought them a treadmill.  “I walk them every day, but when I’m away, no-one else can.  They are friendly, but strong.  It took treats and a lead to get them on the treadmill, but now my female will walk on her own.”

An underwater treadmill is one of the tools used by vet Tanya Grantham, who specialises in rehabilitation and pain control.  “I’ve even had a Persian cat on the underwater treadmill,” she said.

Another therapy which gives relief for chronic pain is gold beads inserted into acupressure points.











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