Last year alone, pet owners shelled out over $18 billion for medical care for their animals; and a recent survey in the American Veterinary Medical Association found that pet owners said they'd be willing to pay an average of $1,042 to keep their dog from dying – and $657 to keep their cat alive. Marlene McLellon and her husband didn't have any children, but she says their Bichon, "Grady" is "like a child to us." When his back legs started giving out, the McLellons took Grady in for a "PetScan" – a diagnostic test that his two-legged counterparts may know as an MRI. Veterinarian Dr. Nancy Huttinger says these tests help detect problems in animals that are having seizures or spinal problems. But this high technology comes at a high price: a singe test averages $1200. "I think you'll do anything for a pet if he's close to you and you love him," says McLellon. PetScans aren't the only pricey procedure that can help keep pets healthy. Dr. Lawrence Bagley, a board certified animal ophthalmologist, sees about 40 patients a day at Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialists in Shaler – and he has a waiting list of five to six weeks. One of his patients is "Alaska," a two-year-old Siberian Husky with glaucoma in her right eye. Alaska's owner, Bill Kowallis, is a graduate student at Pitt who's says he's shelling out around $2,000 for a laser procedure on her eye. Without the procedure, though, Alaska could go blind. "It will be worth it," Kowallis adds, "it doesn't matter." Likewise, holistic medicine is also becoming more widely available for pets. "Wally," a 14-year-old lab mix, suffered from arthritis so badly that her owners had to carry her. Kathy Deis says all that changed after she underwent acupuncture treatments "Certainly after the second week," Deis explains, we noticed a change in her." Now, Wally is walking again. As Dr. Doug Knueven, a pioneer in holistic medicine for pets, gently places the hair-thin needles in Wally's spine, leg and knee joints, she doesn't even flinch. "The needles stimulate the nerves which allows the brain to release certain chemicals into the blood stream like endorphins which are the body's own opiates for pain," explains Knueven. Along with acupuncture, Dr. Knueven prescribes other alternative medicines for animals including herbs, nutritional therapy and chiropractic care. "A lot of times we're dealing with cases that conventional medicine has left behind." These treatment sessions cost $59 for half-an-hour; but Deis says knowing her pet's pain is relieved is worth every penny. "She's my best friend!" Since two out of three pets will experience a serious medical problem at some point in their lives, more people are getting health insurance for their best friends. Around $200 to $400 a year, pet insurance can help cover these high costs of treatment. Like people insurance, though, you'll need to shop around for the best deals on premiums and policies. You should also check to see if there are any exclusions for things like pre-existing conditions.