When seven-year-old Chico started limping on his morning walk, his owner Ahmet Hosgorur thought it was just an injury.
Never in his wildest dreams did he think it would be an aggressive form of cancer.
But after being diagnosed with a tumour in his right leg, Chico needed help.
Luckily, for Chiko’s sake, he was referred to the first and only dedicated oncology facility for animals in New South Wales.
“My wife and I were devastated,” Mr Hosgorur said.
“We couldn’t believe it and we started crying because he’s like a kid to us, another part of the family.”
The multimillion-dollar facility at the Small Animal Specialist Hospital in North Ryde offers surgery, radiation and chemotherapy for animals.
It opened in March and claims to be the most advanced in the southern hemisphere, using machines generally used to treat humans to help animals in need.
Oncologist Sandra Nguyen said state-of-the-art technology would not only cure cancer in some pets but could also improve their quality of life.
“The radiation delivery is moulded to the tumour, so we can try and reduce the side effects, as well as shorten the treatment times where possible,” Dr Nguyen said.
“Most patients we see are completely healthy when first diagnosed, so what they require is treatment, so they can continue living a happy and pain-free life.”
Before the centre opened most animals were either sent to a similar facility in Brisbane for treatment or would be forced to have a limb amputated to prevent the cancer spreading.
“Most people can’t afford to take their pets interstate for treatment, whereas at least here, they can drop their patient off with us, go to work and pick them up on the way home,” Dr Nguyen said.
Depending on the form of cancer, the cost of treatment ranges from $3000 to $13,000, while an individual dose of radiation takes around 20 minutes.
“It’s really up to the pet owner whether or not they want to proceed with treatment, but I would highly recommend pet insurance,” Dr Nguyen said.
“We even had one case where an owner set up a crowd-funding page on Instagram.”
Zanthia Harvison put her nine-year-old border collie Dusty through a full cycle of radiation after he was diagnosed with a nose tumour.
“He has only just finished four weeks of treatment and it was so worth it — he isn’t in any pain, the tumour is shrinking, and he’s even back to hunting for sticks in the park,” she said.
“You don’t put a price on a human’s life — a pet is like one of the family — you do whatever you can to make sure they are happy and we are delighted with the results from this centre.”