Reconstructive Surgery for Pets

March 17th, 2014

In December 2011, a shepherd mix named Kabang threw himself in front of a motorcycle which was about to hit his owner’s 9 year old daughter and her 3 year old cousin. While the driver and girls had only minor injuries, Kabang was caught in the front wheel of the motorcycle, which crushed her nose and upper jaw. Kabang became a hero in her native Philippines, and it took only two months for word of her bravery to spread to the United States through social media. After reading that Kabang’s family could not afford to have their dog’s face reconstructed, a New York nurse began raising funds for her care. In October 2012, Kabang was flown to William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California Davis for treatment. There, it was discovered she had both heartworms, and a cancerous tumor. After she was restored to full health, she underwent a successful facial reconstructive surgery, and is now back with her owners in the Philippines. You can read more and view photos here.

Advances in veterinary medicine have made it possible for pets to have reconstructive surgeries akin to what can be done in humans. This includes joint replacements, ligament repairs, and skin and bone grafts. The necessity for these types of surgeries has been driven by two main factors. First, just like humans, pets are living longer lives. According to the 2013 State of Pet Health Report by Banfield Pet Hospital, the average lifespan of a cat is now 12 years, up 10 percent (about one year) since 2002, and the average lifespan of a dog is now 11 years, up 4 percent (about 6 months) since 2002. Much like with humans, a pet’s chances of getting cancer or other illnesses that could result in the need for surgery increase as they get older. The second factor is pet owners themselves. More and more commonly, owners are willing to sacrifice financially for the sake of saving a cherished member of their family.