Advanced Vet Care: Putting a Price on Love?Published May 4, 2012
How far would you go to save your pet’s life?
Or to put it more succinctly, how much would you spend?
Years ago, after a particularly pricey vet visit, I went through my invoices and quickly tallied what I had spent on my two dogs’ health care. Treatment for issues like my Boston Terrier Zeke’s hip dysplasia and Sumner’s many maladies, from gingival hyperplasia to cornea issues, added up to roughly $13,000 in expenses. Granted, they were accrued over a ten year period, which made the staggering number slightly more palatable.
But still – that’s a ridiculous amount of money.
We’ve been lucky in that the treatments required by our dogs have always been no brainers, meaning, we haven’t been faced with a situation where we had to weight our dog’s quality of life against expense. Yes, Zeke’s dysplasia surgery was invasive, expensive and required a prolonged recovery period (the poor guy balanced on his front legs when he walked for the first few days, which made me cry), but there was never a question of “Should we or shouldn’t we?” He needed the surgery and there was no doubt that he would have a better way of life after having it. Plus he was young and, thankfully, we could afford it.
Advances in veterinary medicine have made that issue murkier for many pet owners. Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can have staggering price tags and no guarantees for a positive outcome, particularly when the dog is a senior. High tech treatments might extend a dog’s life, but at what cost, both emotionally and financially?
What can make these types of treatments more difficult for everyone involved is that we don’t have the ability to explain the attendant pain to our pets. They just know that they hurt. In the comments section of a recent New York Times article about specialized veterinary care, several people spoke of seeing the “light” go out of their pets’ eyes during prolonged treatments, and the helplessness they felt because they couldn’t comfort their beloved companions. That’s a heavy burden. Said one, “We put our 8 year old beloved Bernese Mountain Dog through chemotherapy. Never again. Our finances didn't break but our hearts did. I don't think anyone should undergo chemo that can't make and articulate the decision for themselves.”
Advanced veterinary care can carry the one-two punch of putting a price tag on love as well as quality of life concerns. Have you had to deal with this harrowing decision with your pet? Would you do it again?