A Guilt Trip to the Vet

When a decision arises for an expensive procedure, as pet owners, where do you draw the line?

Have you ever taken your pet to the veterinarian's office, only to discover the proposed procedure costs as much as a new transmission — in both cars?

Let’s cut to the chase. We’ve all stared our vet in the eyes after hearing their roll call of necessities for Fido. As much as I love my pets, I often feel guilty, almost surprised with the knee-jerk response of, “Great. How much?”   

Like sitting in the principal's office, we fidget in an uncomfortable chair while an individual with an embroidered lab coat explains the unknown. Some vets attempt guilt lectures, along with a few scare tactics. Others understand and sympathize with their clients.

On a few occasions, I’ve bartered and questioned alternative treatments. It’s like haggling for goodies in a market place or buying a new car. You may not trust the sale, but if the vender knows your heart's in it, you’re cooked. It doesn’t hurt to ask about less expensive treatments or options.  

When voicing concerns with the expense, I’ve had veterinarians' reactions range from understanding and sympathy to down right rude behavior. I had a vet in Chicago want to charge more than $600 to clean my dog's teeth, not including tooth extractions, if needed. An exact quote could not be given. By refusing the treatment, my vet's disagreement with my decision was a bit unnerving. 

How much is too much? I’d spend $600 on my children's teeth, but validating such an amount on canine incisors is tough to swallow. I understand treatment can be expensive, it’s the look of disappointment and feelings of being an unsuitable pet owner that tug at the tail.  

I have a friend that spent more than $6,000 on her dog's cancer treatment. Although the dog was terminal, her vet brought in a specialist and referred her to an out-of-town canine cancer hospital. Although it provided a few additional months, her dog, Amy, continued to suffer. When the bills started piling up, and without seeing relief for her pet, she decided to put Amy down. She would sit in the vet's office and cry.

I’m sure her vet was trying to prolong the inevitable, but when does common sense take hold? Yes, she could have euthanized the dog, but then she’s left with the guilt of not trying to save her. She came to the realization she was keeping Amy alive for her own unwillingness to let her go.  

My mother's dog, Tricia, was recently treated for a broken leg. She’d been stepped on by one of my mom's horses. My mom picked up the dog and carefully drove her to the vet. After X-rays and a consultation, her vet proposed an $8,000 price tag.

He discussed bringing in a specialist while recommending a metal plate. The cost included the surgeon’s fees and accommodations, operating room fees, pain medication and the four follow-up appointments after surgery. My mother told him that wasn’t an option. He told her she could get a loan (another declined option).

After a game of financial ping pong, he finally agreed to perform the surgery himself, resetting the break while putting two pins in Tricia’s leg. The procedure was $1,800. Still expensive, but an amount she could live with. Even then he told her, “there’s still no guarantee.”  

Since when did going to the vet require a loan? The thought of a vet even suggesting a “low-interest” loan for pet care seems foreign, unbelievable. Is this really the new norm? I understand, contribute and budget toward the financial responsibility of our animals.

Routine check ups, immunizations, Heartguard medication along with flea and tick treatments are expected. When they aren’t feeling well, we willingly take them in. We suffer the humiliating task of stool sample retrieval, tackle their unpredictable marking behavior in the vet office and pull out the checkbook when treatment is needed. We do it because we love them.

What do you do when such a predicament arises? Are we insensitive pet owners if we cap out on what we can afford? I often wonder what a vet feels (when the treatment is too expensive) and euthanization is the only affordable option. 

Spiff April 17, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Linda Mahoney April 18, 2012 at 12:36 PM
I found a cat that had been hit by a car. My husband took her to the animal hosp. in Avon to stabilize her. He went back at 8 to pick her up and take her to our vet. the animal hosp. didn't charge us anything because we were doing a good deed. The cat is now at our vet on IVs if she survives we get to take her home and pay the bill! I already have 2 cats indoor only! Our vet is really great though he tells it the way it is and I don't think they are overly expensive.
Linda Mahoney April 18, 2012 at 12:40 PM
I am with you! Pet are for life and you have to take care of them!
Linda Mahoney April 18, 2012 at 12:43 PM
I have a question, why won't the animal control officer respond to any animal emergency? I was told she only will pick up dogs!
Karen's Dog Training Blog April 19, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Most animal control depts do not handle cats. It is up to each town to decide if they will have their town ACO handle cat issues. One city I know that does handle cats is East Haven Animal Control


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