How much do we love our pets? Plenty!

Where once pet owners discussed when to get their pets fixed, now you’re hearing about chemo and radiation for our beloved four-legged friends. Pet oncologists are becoming the norm, and pet insurance is on the rise. There’s pet dialysis and diabetes treatment, and, well, cloning is on the landscape, too. Just ask Barbra Streisand, who had her beloved dog Samantha, successfully cloned.

A cat in Maryland lived a year after receiving a kidney transplant from a donor cat, to the tune of US $19,000. The cat was 18 years old when he died, and the owner adopted the donor cat. There are veterinarian dentists who install canine braces, mostly on dogs, but even some cats get to have that grill smile for a while.

There are doggy blood drives and, thanks to the care we put into our pooches, medical intervention for age-related issues. Whereas before we worried about broken bones, we’re now dealing with broken spirits, and dementia among the furballs.

Years ago, when dogs — even horses — suffered broken legs or hips, the outcome was grim.

Now broken bones can be healed thanks to custom crafted braces created with professional athletes in mind. And there has been a surge for such devices for pets not only suffering from broken bones and ligaments but also arthritis and other age-related erosion.

Just ask Sandro Ferrari, owner of Brace Yourself Orthopaedics in Toronto. The veteran hospital orthopaedic technologist, whose two gorgeous dobermans, Molly and Kaja, lived to ripe old ages thanks to his constant love and care, has been the official bracing specialist with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and has treated such players as Ed Belfour, Curtis Joseph and Darcy Tucker.

He’s worked with retired players as well, including Frank Mahovlich, Jim McKenna and Paul Henderson, along with Olympic athletes, not to mention entertainers Trish Stratus, the WWE star and Phil X, guitarist for Bon Jovi.

But it was a friend’s dog named Shadow who inadvertently opened up a second career for Ferrari. “I was already busy with my hospital and clinic schedule,” said the affable ex-athlete. “Shadow had torn her ACL, and I was asked to help. I knew I had to act quickly, and it came to me that, if fibreglass works for humans, why not dogs?”

He studied the dog’s structure and created a special brace. “When you’re working with a human, the mould needs to set before you can cut it off and create the brace. With animals, it’s different. You have to time it right before the cast sets,” said Ferrari.

Do the animals make good patients? “Dogs know when they are being helped and stay still. They know you’re there to make them better,” said Ferrari.

A state-of-art dog brace.

Word spread about the treatment’s success, and calls for help starting pouring in — including one from a horse owner who asked Ferrari if he could save his horse who had suffered a broken leg — which he successfully did.

Today, Brace Yourself Orthopaedics ( is doing such a thriving business, Ferrari finds himself juggling two full-time careers — and loving every minute of it. “It’s quite simple: I love helping people and I also love helping animals,” said Ferrari.

And when pets can’t walk due to injury or age-related issues, custom-made wheelchairs are the answer.

The Canadian pet industry is worth well over $8 billion when you factor in veterinarian services, food and supplies, daycare, grooming and other services. According to Kynetec (formerly Ipsos), on behalf of the Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI), the Canadian dog population is now nearly as equal to the cat population. Statistics from 2018 show 8.3 million cats were considered household pets, while the dog figure increased to 8.2 million, up from 7.6 million in 2016.

“It is encouraging to see the number of pet cats and dogs increasing in Canada and I think that reflects the special relationship we have with them,” notes Colleen McElwain, CAHI programs director.

And pets help each other. There are companion pets for other pets, and there are even doggy blood drives.

Dogs can donate blood? “They can and they do,” notes Matt Belvedere, president of Barks n’ Rec canine “clubhouse,” headquartered in Mississauga, Ont., (, and famous for its upscale daycare program.

“Just like their human counterparts, the blood dogs donate helps save lives – doggy lives, in this case,” said Belvedere.

Research shows there are a number of canine illnesses that donated blood can help fight including cancer, anemia, surgeries after traumas and poisoning.

Belvedere has participated in several blood drives, working with the LifeStream Animal Blood Bank, (, in Kingston, Ont., whose mission it is to provide quality blood and blood products for veterinarian transfusion medicine.
LifeStream Animal Blood Bank, opened its doors 15 years ago to fill a niche in animal critical care, says Sandra Powell, president and owner of the company. Powell started the business when her own pet needed a transfusion.
Ziggy after donating blood to help other canines.
“We offer blood, and blood products for dogs – precious resources. The availability of a dependable blood source, enables veterinarians, to offer their clients, lifesaving procedures, and transfusion therapies,” said Powell.
And yes, the product is collected from volunteer donors. The process itself is simple and the volunteer dog is treated to a variety of goodies afterwards.
When it comes to the love of your pet, how far would you go? How much would you spend? More and more you hear of pet owners prolonging a pet’s life because the bond is so strong, the love so deep, when the reality is, the pet may be suffering. The ultimate test of a love for a pet is learning to let go, and knowing when it’s time to humanely say goodbye. For that, love is priceless.