In a surprise move, Seth McFarlane and the showrunners of Fox’s Family Guy used last night’s episode to kill off Brian the Dog, effectively blowing up the internet and sending news outlets scrounging for ways to capitalize on the death of the twice-canceled series’ anthropomorphic pup and occasional straight-man.
The decision to make room for a new canine character by (literally) throwing the old one under the bus has been with a unanimous fan reaction best described as acrid. “He sucks and I don't trust him at all,” one internet commenter said of Vinny, the dog that will be replacing Brian. “I am so upset right now, I may never watch Family Guy again.”
But did all of this have to happen? Admittedly, few older dogs have the physique to endure emergency surgery, and even fewer owners have the wherewithal to pay for it. That said, advancements in veterinary science often parallel those of human medicine, and it is now possible to save pets from complications that would have killed them less than 10 years ago.
One example is Naki’o – an abandoned 5-week-old puppy who lost all four paws to frostbite when he powered through a Nebraskan winter in 2010. After a successful fundraiser organized by his eventual savior, veterinary technician Christie Tomlinson, Naki’o underwent extensive surgery and was fitted with four prosthetic legs. Today, he is enjoying a second shot at life as the world’s first bionic dog.
But limbs can also be saved. According to Alan Cross, a board-certified surgeon specializing in veterinary orthopedics at Georgia Veterinary Specialists, vets now have the resources and technology to treat a wide variety of musculoskeletal complications. Speaking to Mother Nature Network, he said that stem cell therapy, tibial-plateau leveling osteotomy, and cold laser therapy are only some of the methods currently used to delay the woes of old age for man’s best friend. “We asked 20 clients with dogs that had hip issues to try it for free; if there was an improvement they could come back,” one practitioner said of cold laser therapy. “Nineteen clients returned. You really can’t beat that.”
What’s more, these developments are in no way limited to trauma care. Even if Family Guy’s writers were to afflict the show’s animals with cancer, the prognosis would likely be positive. Just look at Nemo the Pig – a 730-pound Hampshire swine who made recently made history as the first-ever porcine lymphoma survivor. According to the medical resident who administered Nemo’s chemotherapy treatment, the bill for an adult Golden Retriever would be about $5,000.
Whether such expenses can be managed by a man who once blew his life savings on a brain damaged racehorse is for the show’s writers to decide.