Bess, 11 years old, obediently waiting for immersion in water heated to over 32 degrees. The hydrotherapy session will last 17 minutes, but it works miracles on the long silky hairy cat that suffers from arthritis.
To relieve joint pain, Maine Coon, slightly overweight with its 10 kilos, goes every week to the Friendship Hospital for Animals, a veterinary clinic nestled on a quiet Washington street.
In addition to traditional veterinary care, the establishment offers specialties formerly reserved exclusively for humans, such as hydrotherapy and acupuncture.
"In recent decades, pets have become a full member of the family," says Christine Klippen, one of 63 veterinarians working seven days a week, 365 days a year.
- "Parents" millennials -
This is particularly true for millennials (17-35 years old), who consider themselves "parents" of these "hairy babies". And, thanks to a high purchasing power in the US capital, they seek "the best" for the welfare of their animals, she says.
In the United States, "84.9 million households own a pet, or 67.7% of households Millennials are the largest group of all generations" after dethroning the baby boomers, says Steve King, president of the American Federation of Pet Products (APPA).
And spending on pets reached in 2018 some $ 72.56 billion, a record. They are expected to climb to 75.38 billion this year, according to the APPA.
Health expenditures are those that increase the fastest as homeowners learn about available treatments.
"There is less reluctance than in the past" to do dental care that is very similar to that of humans, says Brant Hassell, who serves at District Veterinary Hospital.
"These dogs are the first children of many people" and the owners have "a lot of empathy" for them, he says.
In the other clinic, Bess, from water to whiskers, walks on the water treadmill. The rhythm is slow but perfectly regular, like a metronome.
Bella, a "senior" bitch, needed a "little motivation" - of peanut butter - to keep up the pace.
"Bella has the line! (...) For our overweight patients, we offer more selective foods" and dietary, smiles physiotherapist Janay Austin Carlson.
And explain the benefits of water: "A minute of exercise in the water is much more effective than a minute on dry land."
In the daze of the summer in Washington, where the temperature is regularly around 35 degrees with 70% humidity in the air, animals can spend themselves without hurting themselves. "We play on the rhythm, the level of water to create different dynamics," says Austin Carlton.
- "Investment for myself" -
Bella's "mom," 45-year-old Freya Jackson, is adamant that hydrotherapy produces prodigious effects. "The day of her session, she is very tired and needs a good nap, but the next day she moves much more easily," she says.
Bella's well-being comes at a cost of $ 89 a day for twenty minutes of hydrotherapy after fifteen minutes of laser preparation to relax the joints, at $ 65. And the bitch benefits once a week for a year.
"It's an investment for me to stay fit and healthy," says Freya Jackson as Bella accompanies her in all her sporting activities.
"I do not have children, so I can spend my budget differently," she adds. "As long as Bella stays in good shape, so am I. It's part of my well-being," she insists.
- Humanization -
The Human-Animal Link Research Institute (HABRI) has funded more than $ 2 million worth of research demonstrating that pets are beneficial in all areas of health: from autism to health cardiovascular through dementia, observes Steve King.
Having a dog or cat at home lowers blood pressure, children have fewer allergies. In general, they improve mental health, adds Christine Klippen.
And because animals love their unconditional master and we look at them in a more human way, "to thank them with a simple cookie is not enough," says King.
The owners are willing to pay a lot for their pet. Dialysis is charged between $ 12,000 and $ 15,000; an orthopedic operation between $ 5,000 and $ 7,000.
But humanization also leads to controversial and even dangerous practices for the animal such as imposing, in the absence of allergy, his own gluten-free or cereal-free diet.
This is simply not suited to their dietary needs and can result in premature death, warns Dr. Klippen.
The US authorities have also launched an investigation into the potential link between these new trend croquettes, particularly popular, and the recurrence of cardiomyopathy in dogs.
© 2019 AFP