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NEW YORK – Brute, a German shepherd, lay anesthetized on an operating table, his hairy chest under a plastic cover and his powerful paws taped immobile.

"Here comes the wire up the artery!" said Dr. Chick Weisse, who infused the dog’s cancerous liver with chemotherapy via a catheter at the century-old Animal Medical Center in Manhattan in an effort to "buy him some time."

Brute was home in days, the cancer at bay a while longer — perhaps eight months. The cost: $2,000.

Around the nation, veterinarians are practicing ever more advanced medicine on the nation’s 77 million dogs, 90 million cats and a myriad of other animals — treatments that vie with the best of human medicine. The driving force is "the changing role of the pet in our society," said Dr. Patty Khuly, a veterinarian at Miami’s Sunset Animal Clinic.

The bottom line for many people, she said, is that investing in a pet’s life "improves the quality of a human life immeasurably more than, say, buying a luxury car."

In a radiation suite at the Animal Medical Center, a black cat named Muka was undergoing a CT scan for a lung problem. A medical team hovered over the tranquilized animal, injecting contrast dye and poring over digital readouts to diagnose the problem: chronic pleural fibrosis.

The new, half-million-dollar Toshiba Aquilion — one of the latest, fastest 3D imaging scanners — was a gift from an owner whose pet was saved at the AMC, a not-for-profit research and teaching facility. The AMC offers 24-hour emergency care using once-unthinkable procedures like heart surgeries, MRIs and ultrasounds. It has a staff of 81 vets, including 27 certified in fields such as radiology, endoscopy, neurology, cardiology and oncology.

They train 18 interns and 24 residents, including two from Italy and one from Croatia this year.

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