STUART, FL (WFLX) - Don and Allison Poole knew something was wrong with their dog, Ralph, but they didn't know what.
Their vet sent them to Veterinary Neurology of South Florida to undergo an MRI. In their mobile unit, parked at the Stuart office, doctors spotted the problem -- a brain tumor. "This is very characteristic of a meningioma which is one of the radiosensitive tumors," said their vet.
The Pooles made the decision to take Ralph to a cancer center for treatment. "He said, yes, it's treatable. I can get rid of this tumor, and then it was just a matter of how,and the cost," said the Pooles.
That cost ran into the thousands, but the Pooles' decision to treat Ralph was made easier by the information revealed in his MRI. This scanning technology is revolutionizing veterinary medicine. "This technology allows us to see inside the skull, see the brain, see inside the column, see the spinal cord, so we're able now to diagnose diseases that we just could not in the past," said Julia Blackmore.
And that's not the only procedure gaining ground in the animal world. At Tri-County Animal Hospital in Ft. Pierce, Dr. Annette Sysel is using stem cells to treat dogs, cats and horses suffering from osteoarthritis and tendon and ligament injuries.
Tri-County has only been using the new procedure for a month, but they're already seeing results. "Out of six dogs that I treated, six are improved."
Some are amazingly improved, the owners are in tears, the neighbors are in tears. People are coming to check on them at the house because people can't believe it's the same pet. Vets first harvest the stem cells from the patient's fat.
They're activated with LED lights, and the stem cells are then injected right into the problem areas. They target damaged tissue, actually helping to regenerate it.
"Some of the pets that we've injected with stem cells are now running around. They're going to great the mailman," said Dr. Sysel. "They're running out and biting at the vacuum cleaner in the pool -- things that they haven't done for years."
Both procedures are costly. The MRI, done in the mobile unit, runs about $1,300. Stem cell treatment cost about $1,800 for dogs.
The Pooles spent $12,000 getting Ralph diagnosed and treated for his brain tumor. After a month of treatment, their beloved pet of 14 years seems to be much better.
To the Pooles, his companionship is worth any cost. "I think if Ralph were human, he'd be a standup comedian because he understands timing. He could tell a joke; he's an incredible dog."
Pet insurance carriers are now getting on board with procedures, like MRIs, cancer and stem cell treatments, and the costs are coming down. It's something you'll have to discuss with your vet.