Dr. Stephanie Correa, a board-certified veterinary medical oncologist working in South Florida, said the average lifespan of a large breed dog 40 years ago was about 7½ years. Now it’s about 11½ years, she said, close to 75 in human terms.
Correa and her husband opened their first Animal Cancer Care Clinic eight years ago, and now operate six across three counties. The main facility in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., features some of the same advanced medical testing and services used on people: a CT scanner, a linear accelerator for radiation treatments, human chemotherapy drugs.
More veterinarians are opening specialty practices where their animal patients are likely to be older, geared toward oncology, cardiology and internal medicine. “It mirrors what is going on with people,” Correa said. “Our field is changing dramatically.”
There’s no senior discount when Fido or Fluffy hits 65, and some goods and services catering to their age group can be expensive. Correa said a treatment course, depending on the type of cancer and if surgery is required, can range from $2,000 to $10,000.
More of her clients now have pet insurance, she said, purchased when they were kittens or puppies.
Lee Schrager, vice president of corporate communications for Southern Wine Spirits, finally gave up trying to get his pet insurance to pay for melanoma cancer surgeries and treatments for his 14-year-old French briard, Spencer. But Schrager has no regrets about the $10,000 it cost him.
“Spencer has been such a great pet and a great friend. And fortunately, I was in the position that I could do it,” said Schrager, of Miami. “I wouldn’t want him thinking I didn’t do the right thing.”
A growing number of veterinarians now specialize in at-home euthanasia. Pet-Loss.net, a state-by-state resource directory, lists four in South Florida, along with loss counselors, pet cemeteries and crematoriums, and bereavement groups.
Maryland author and editor Moira Allen said the number of veterinary in-home euthanasia services have grown tremendously since she started publishing the directory 10 years ago, and expects hospice will follow.