The cost of keeping Kitty alive
What happens when your pet needs surgery or suffers another ailment that will cost thousands to treat? Many factors go into the decision of what to spend.
What on Earth were we thinking? Perhaps we are not all that unusual. According to a 2010 survey, 62% of pet owners would spend up to $500 on a pet's medical care, although fewer than half say they would spend $1,000 and only one-third said they would spend $2,000 at the vet’s, according to The New York Times.
Of course, it is easy to set a budget in advance, but quite a different thing once you come face-to-face with medical decisions on a pet. There are tests, diagnoses and often more tests. The question is often, "How much more do we do?"
But sometimes, no matter what you spend, owners and vets conclude that further treatment will do nothing more than delay the inevitable. And what then? Pay for treatments understanding that you're essentially only buying your pet another month or so? Or make the call to end it all humanely.
Paying for pets
In our case, we agreed to several add-on expenses. We paid extra for a long-acting shot to avoid trying to give our somewhat neurotic cat, Snooky, antibiotics by mouth twice a day for two weeks. We agreed to a pre-surgical X-ray to see if the mass was attached to a bone, which might have necessitated amputation.
Facing these high costs made us think of pet health insurance, which is purchased by only 3% of U.S. pet owners. Consumer Reports has said it's usually not worth the price. MSN Money's Liz Weston, however, says that for an owner who might jeopardize their own finances to save a pet, it might be wise.
According to the Humane Society, dog owners spend an average $248 annually on veterinary visits, including vaccines and well visits. For cats, the figure is $219.
Saving where you can
Here are a few ideas, aside from insurance, for limiting the cost of pet health care:
- Watch for specials. During dental health month (February), for example, many vets run specials on dental cleanings.
- Shop around, and consider getting a second opinion. Prices for the same procedure can vary tremendously.
- Watch your pet's weight. Pets need plenty of exercise, and their food portions should be monitored.
However, even insurance can fall short if the recommended treatment for your pet is considered experimental.
The money question
The decision on how much to spend is clear when treating a pet would take food off the table. If money is not a concern and the vet believes the treatment is likely to give the pet more "quality time," however that is defined, the situation becomes less complicated. After all, people can spend their money as they wish.
But paying thousands for organ transplants, joint replacement, chemotherapy or dialysis does not guarantee that a pet will live longer or even suffer less than if it is instead euthanized or simply kept comfortable at home. Is it worth it? Only you can make that call.
The decision can be fraught with emotion, regardless of your financial situation. The New York Times addressed it in Room for Debate, with a variety of strongly held opinions.
Readers: Where do you draw the line in caring for a sick pet?
More from MSN Money:
I hate when people say "oh we have to get rid of our pet, we just can't afford it anymore..."
When you adopt and take an animal into your home, you are promising that you will take care of it for its LIFE. Not just when its a cute little puppy or kitten that grows up into another average animal. Its called a commitment. Some issues may bring you to having to make this decision (family member dying, for example), but you still have to make sure the animal ends up in a good, healthy home.
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