Editor's Note: The following article comes from Worldcrunch, an innovative, new global news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. This article was originally published in Die Welt.
By Elke Bodderas, Worldcrunch
BERLIN – Maxi is seven years old. If he were a person, not a cat, he would be a young-looking guy in his mid-40s. Thomas, a student in Hanover, adopted Maxi from an animal shelter, and loves Maxi so much that he found the money for a kidney transplant when his four-pawed pal would otherwise have died. The whole thing cost Thomas 15,000 euros [about $20,000], including the flight to the United States, where the operation took place.
“Maxi stood by me when I was very sick,” Thomas told the German newspaper Bild. “He’s my alter ego. ”
A “new” cat kidney costs 15,000 euros, chemo and radiotherapy for a dog suffering from cancer cost around 18,000 euros [about $24,000]. By comparison, a new titanium hip joint – at a mere 5,000 euros [about $6,650] – is something of a bargain. And compared to that, the cost of the physiotherapy needed to round out treatment seems like peanuts.
The lens of an eye? Spinal disk operation? Artificial joints? There is virtually no procedure available to humans that can’t also be performed on animals. Sure the veterinary surgeries are expensive, but humans are often willing to pay for the simple reason that dogs and cats play a role in their lives that not even close relatives can match.
American writer Michael Schaffer calls such pets “fur babies.” He reports that in the United States, eight out of 10 pet owners see themselves as “Mommies” and “Daddies” to their pets. Another similarity between humans and their animal companions is that there is a direct connection between social status and the life expectancy of both.
Wilfried Kraft, professor emeritus and former head of the medical clinic for small animals at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, has documented the phenomenon. Dogs today, he says, have an average life expectancy of 10 years – twice as long as dogs living in the post-war years.
The age curve is even more striking with cats. In 1967, Kraft says, less than a fifth of all cats and dogs in the clinic were older than 10. Thirty years later, half of them are. “In 1983, the average age of a cat that came to the clinic was 3.8 years; in 1995 it was 7.5,” he says.
As with humans, a longer pet life goes along with many of the same health problems: signs of wear and tear like lowered resilience, aching joints, over-sensitivity to temperature, visual and dental problems, and a weak bladder, but also diabetes, degenerative osteoarthritis, obesity, cancer, heart attacks, hardening of the arteries, and dementia.
This, of course, raises the question: How much would you pay to save your sick pet?
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Elke Bodderas.