NOT ITS DAY A vet conducts a check-up at his Mumbai clinic
Pet canines these days are pampered with the most expensive medical and beauty care from hip replacement surgery to aromatherapy massages, says Ketan Tanna
Last week, well-known opthalmic surgeon Keiki Mehta conducted a phacoemulsification cataract surgery. According to medical journals, this advanced surgery entails the use of a micro-surgery instrument which is introduced into the eye through a small incision. Highfrequency waves generated through the tip break the cataract into very minute fragments, which are then sucked out in a controlled manner. A thin lens is left behind after cleaning up the cataract.
Big deal, one would say, for a doctor whoâ€™s operated on thousands of patients. Last week, however, was a tad different: Dr Mehtaâ€™s patient was a dog. His surgery, at Rs 30,000, cost more than many human cataract operations; whatâ€™s more, the doctor got lenses of a larger diameter specially made for him by a factory in Vadodara.
Welcome to the new India where complex and expensive surgeries, hitherto the preserve of human beings, are slowly percolating into the animal world. Today, thousands of pet owners donâ€™t hesitate to shell out serious money so that their pet pooch or cat can avail of the best that the medical world has to offer. Yes, we have miles to go before we catch up with the US, where all kind of complex surgeries makes the life of animals easier, but weâ€™re getting there.
In Chandigarh two clinics, simply named Pets, have been performing cataract surgery on dogs in state-of-the-art operation theatres. However, thereâ€™s a difference: they use imported lenses. â€œA majority of our clients demand foreign lenses for their dogs. Foreign lenses heal faster and the dogs can see better,â€™â€™ sniffs Dr T S Toor. In the last year or so, 25 such dogs have been operated on by Dr Toor and his colleagues. The cost of each operation varies, he says, though it is upwards of Rs 15,000.
On the outskirts of Mumbaiâ€™s satellite city Thane, 39-yearold veterinary surgeon V M Chariar is a busy man. Although he has been in business since 1999, the last three yearsâ€”or, more precisely, since he purchased an advanced laproscopy machine from Germanyâ€”have been far busier. With the help of this machine, Dr Chariar and his colleagues conduct various complex operations on pets, largely dogs. These include lap neutering, cryptorchid (to check whether a male pupâ€™s genitals are developing normally to avoid a tumour), otoscopy (ear infection diagnosis through a video camera), rhinoscopy (diagnosis of nasal lesions), bronchoscopy (diagnosis of bronchial lesion), endoscopy (inspection of the gastroinstinal tract), vaginoscopy (diagnosis of infections or tumours in the vagina), cystoscopy (diagnosis of cystitis and urinary infections) and arthroscopy (joint diseases or injuries). Then there is a range of orthopaedic surgeries that cost anywhere between Rs 5,000 and Rs 20,000.
Dr Chariarâ€™s appointment diary is chockful, with pet owners from Mumbai and even other cities in Maharashtra making a beeline for his clinic. A two-year-old Labrador called Buddy was recently admitted to his clinic with a cryptorchid problem which was set right. The number of pets that the doctor treats every week varies, though it is rarely less than ten.
Sometimes, strays get lucky too. A media professional and animal lover recently spent Rs 20,000 on a cat which had a compound bone and tissue fracture in one of its legs. Since the cat was a stray and the media professional was known to the vet, the cost of the four-month healing came to Rs 20,000â€”it would have been much more if the pet was pedigreed, she says.
What accounts for the sudden, heart-warming change that is leading people to spend so much money on their petsâ€™ welfare? Kirti Doshi, a veterinary surgeon for over three decades, feels that pets in Mumbai and India are now increasingly regarded with as much concern and care as family members, and thus thereâ€™s less hesitation in splurging on them. Veterinary surgeon Leena Dalal, whose clinic offers a high range of operations from implants and corrective orthopaedic surgery to retinal detachments, believes it could be because of the increased disposable incomes in post-liberalisaton India. â€œWhatâ€™s wrong in spending on pets, anyway?â€™â€™ she asks.
With changing attitudes, itâ€™s inevitable that the beauty business for animals is going great guns as well. Dog-grooming parlours are doing roaring business across India; Tailwaggers, for instance, a petgrooming parlour in Bandra owned by Urmila Dabholkar and her partner Gauri Keskar, gets 10 to 20 dogs a day for various treatments from mundane haircuts to exotic oil massages and aromatherapy. Evidently, itâ€™s no more a dogâ€™s life. TNN