By Chris May
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – From prosthetic limbs to stem cell therapy, more people are choosing advanced medical procedures to save their dogs and cats.
When it comes down to an animal’s life and death, some pet-owners will spare no expense.
Valentino, a feisty Jack Russell terrier, fought back after being hit by a car.
“He had a crushed skull,” said his owner, Jen Curti. “There was actual tire marks on his body.”
Jen rushed him to the veterinary hospital where he spent two weeks on a ventilator.
“Without the assistance of us breathing for him, he would not be breathing and he would have died,” said veterinarian Dr. Benjamin Davidson.
Valentino’s injuries healed but Jen is still paying for more than $50,000 in hospital bills.
“Every day he just gave us another hope,” says Jen. “I just looked at him I couldn’t possibly think of stopping.”
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, Americans spent $28 billion in vet care in 2011.
And it’s not just dog owners making tough decisions.
Max, the cat, needed a specialized urinary bypass surgery or he would have died from kidney failure.
His vet is also 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,” said his owner Tina Waltke.
“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 ten years,” says veterinarian Dr. Allyson Berent.
Even common conditions can be costly.
Herbie, a yellow lab, nearly died when he was diagnosed with leptospirosis, a serious bacterial infection, when he was just weeks old.
“They told us he had a 10 percent chance of living,” said Herbie’s owner, Lisa Roumell.
“Toxins in his blood had reached life-threatening levels,” said veterinarian specialist Dr. Adam Eatroff.
It took surgery, dialysis, blood transfusions and three weeks in intensive care to save Herbie’s life.
“It was tens of thousands of dollars,” Lisa said. “We had the dog’s life in our hands.”
And these pet owners say that’s something you can’t put a price tag on.
When it comes to routine care, dog owners spent about $400 at the veterinarian in 2011.
Cat owners spent just under $200.