Money makes pet health decisions so awkward

Two of the most stressful aspects of life are health and money. And these titans of stress often combine to create an All Star team of anxiety. But the bottom line is that your health generally gets taken care of, no matter what the cost is. You might pay out the ear for healthcare, but  you can, will, and generally do get fixed. Speaking of fixed, let’s talk about pets. Wow, that was an awkward segue to dogs. Besides the picture associated with this post, the first idea you had that this post was about pets was when I said fixed and pets in the same sentence. I just made you think about removing your dog’s…never mind.

Treating and paying for your own healthcare is one thing, but deciding on your pet’s healthcare and then funding it is the most awful thing on the planet. I mean you love your pet, but you aren’t exactly lining up to spend thousands of dollars on his/her care. It’s terrible. Some peeps feel that pet insurance is the solution, I’m not so sure.

I once had a client who was a breast cancer survivor. She paid $6,000 to pay for cancer treatment for her dog because she “wouldn’t have wanted to be put down” because of her own diagnosis. Wow. How do you argue with that? Do you see why this conversation is much worse than your own health/money considerations?

The picture that you see above is a picture of my dog Otis. My wife and I have had Otis since one month after our marriage in 2000. He’s the type of dog that I always have wanted. He’s happy, he’s lazy, he doesn’t ask questions during football games, and he claims to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company (for the record, we think he’s lying). In other words, he’s perfect. Over the years, Mrs. Planner and I have spent thousands of dollars on his care. And he adds so much to our family dynamic that it would be hard to ever deny ourselves the opportunity to extend his life. We are fortunate to be in this financial position, but then again we put ourselves in this position. Those people that are burdened with debt don’t quite have the same luxury. But then again, they put themselves in that position.

So the bottom line is this: it’s easier to make money/pet/health decisions when the rest of your financial house is in order. There are no cute tidy tips for you here today. It’s just awkward as hell.

So on December 13th, 2010 we took Otis to have bladder stones removed from his bladder. He was in terrible pain, and we had the $1,800 for his surgery. It was a pretty major surgery, but he came through it fine. I got a call on December 15th that he had gotten an infection and had passed away unexpectedly at the animal hospital. It sucks bad. Loss is loss. There are parts of me that would pay anything to have him back, but that’s where money/pets/health gets really awkward. You just can’t spend endless amount of money to keep your beloved family pet alive.

I miss him very badly, but part of me thinks that he just didn’t want to see Christina Aguilera butcher the National Anthem during this year’s Super Bowl. I think he just took the easy way out, and died. He may have been a smelly lazy liar, but he did know the lyrics to the National Anthem…well, according to what he told me. Miss you, pug.

6 thoughts on “Money makes pet health decisions so awkward

  1. My wife and I have had our dog Puddy since the year we got married (2002). He’s still in good health, but with the greying whiskers and decreasing vertical leap, I know he’s not immortal. We’ve had pet insurance for years and I find it doesn’t reimburse much, but I’ve kept it going in case something major were to happen to him and it was financially “smart” to do the procedure, surgery or whatever. I dread the day we have to make a decision like this. Thanks for sharing your story… all dogs go to heaven.

  2. I’m glad someone mentioned pet insurance. As someone who works in insurance regulation, it doesn’t reimburse much and usually has very limited coverage (if any at all) for prescriptions and major medical procedure. Save yourself the hassle and just budget for fortuitous events.

  3. As a veterinarian, I experience the battle of emotions with financial abilities every day. I see people that pay hundreds to thousands for their animal’s care, knowing that the rent will go unpaid. I also see people that make three figure incomes refuse to do anything but the bare minimum. Finances definitely play a role but they are not the end all be all, as you said, for the decisions made to pet healthcare. And knowing that, as a vet, you get the double duty of caring for both the pet and the client, emotionally and financially. Very few vets will take your money, knowing it could put you on the street, without a long discussion. Veterinary clinics are a business, they need to have an income to survive, but if we take out the client, we take out our foundation and in the end, it is always the client’s decision on what they can/can’t afford and what they do/don’t want done. There’s a conundrum for you that most human doctors never have to face!

  4. Dr Wentworth, thanks so much for your perspective. Our Vet was amazing. She really cared for Otis, and her support definitely made our hard time easier. Very few people consider what a Vet has to go through in this situation, but your comment certainly brought that to light. Thanks so much for what you do everyday.

  5. People are certainly interesting when it comes to pet spending. We’ll have clients who just took out a four-figure loan to finance the purchase of a purebred puppy from the pet store, then they come to us and can’t buy needed vaccines or heartworm prevention to protect their new furry family member because they have no money. Then we’ll have others who are willing to sell their one and only vehicle to pay for their pet’s care.

    I strongly believe guilt is the strongest motivator of pet care spending, and I loathe vets who take advantage of that. It would be much easier from my side of the table to give my recommendations and let clients figure out the finances themselves, but sometimes, I just have to step in and say “look, you really can’t afford this. And it’s OK. You’re not a bad person.”

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