Family spares no expense for dog's brain tumour treatment
WHEN American cocker spaniel Ziggi was diagnosed with cancer there was no question in Berni Weisskamp's mind about whether or not to treat his furry family member.
"We thought 'what can we do, where can we go from here, what's the next step?," he said.
That step was radiation therapy.
An MRI revealed Ziggi, then seven-years-old, had a brain tumour.
Mr Weisskamp drove him to a Brisbane clinic every morning for three-and-a-half weeks for the treatment that would improve his quality of life and maybe even extend the time he had left.
"We didn't know whether he would get an extra two years or six months - it was very hard to tell," he said.
"But we decided we'd give him the best chance possible.
"The fact that he gave us love and loyalty unconditionally - I thought we owed him that."
Mr Weisskamp and his wife, Traci Castle, adopted Ziggi from the Kingaroy RSPCA when he was two-years-old.
He had not had the best start to life, Mr Weisskamp said, but it was not long before he settled in to family life on the Coast.
He loved going to the beach, chasing birds, lounging around and food, and after a two years the couple got a brother for Ziggi - Falco.
"We doted on him (Ziggi). They're sort of like our fur babies," Mr Weisskamp said.
"We just noticed one day that the bottom of his eye was drooping a little bit and we thought that was a bit strange."
It was the first sign of the tumour growing on the back of Ziggi's brain.
After the radiation therapy the couple noticed Ziggi "bounce back" but six months later he began to deteriorate again; the tumour had come back aggressively.
Me Weisskamp said that was when they started looking in to end-of-life care for Ziggi.
Sunset Vets' Jan Morrison treated Ziggi in his last days and weeks and said palliative care for pets was just like palliative care for humans.
"We take a holistic approach and try and relieve suffering and improve quality of life," Dr Morrison said.
That could involve pain relief, acupuncture, massage, physiotherapy, would care, managing anxiety and incontinence as well as offering grief support to family members.
"With pets these days they are more of a family member," she said.
"We want the same things for our feathered and furry family members that we have for people."
One of the things Mr Weisskamp wanted for Ziggi was to be able to end his days peacefully at home.
"He spent all this time at the vets, the last thing I wanted was to have to say goodbye on a stainless steel table in a vet surgery," he said.
"I wanted him to be able to go outside on his couch here where he was comfortable. It meant everything.
"He was here, we were all at home, the other puppy Falco was able to say goodbye as well.
"That time when it came it was just stress-free for him."
The cost of diagnosing and treating Ziggi's cancer and his end-of-life care was close to $20,000.
"We've got pet insurance, which helped a hell of a lot; we got 80% of that back," Mr Weisscamp said.
But if they had not had the insurance they probably would have gone ahead with Ziggi's treatment anyway.
"Some people have pets and they're pets and some people have pets and they're also family members, and we fall into that category," Mr Weisscamp said.