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How much is too much when beloved pet is ill?

This is an opinion piece from the the PilotOnline.com out of Virginia. As someone who HAS spent thousands to keep a beloved furbaby in a...

Joy  |  May 26th 2006


This is an opinion piece from the the PilotOnline.com out of Virginia. As someone who HAS spent thousands to keep a beloved furbaby in a special care unit for longer than I’d like to remember, I can really empathize with the author, Jacey Eckhert. I bet a lot of you can too.

Going Bankrupt To Save A Pet

Jacey Eckhart
I DON’T THINK our dog is at death’s door, but he may be knocking at death’s bathroom. Our English Cocker Spaniel has some mysterious ailment that has left him with an intestinal problem. I’ve spent nearly a $1,000 in the last few weeks to find out all the things he doesn’t have – parasites, cancer, a half-digested take-out container.

Our new vet wonders if doggie has an absorption problem, but I know he doesn’t. Everything absorbs right into my carpet. Pass the bottle of Woolite Oxy Deep, please.

But what do you expect from a dog that is 13, almost 14? He started bumping into walls last year when his cataracts got bad. He doesn’t hear doorbells anymore or squirrels that think loud thoughts about running across the yard. He can’t smell bacon. Now he has this problem.

Our new vet says the next step is to go to an internist so the specialist can do an ultrasound and some kind of exploratory surgery. And despite my heart – despite the fact that this is the dog who used to rest his head on the curve of my ankle during every sick moment of my entire pregnancies – all I could see was dollar signs.

Forgive me that, please. I can hardly forgive myself, but specialists and operations are not cheap. We expect to spend thousands.

And for what?

Last month, the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association announced that Americans have more than doubled their spending on their pets since 1994. Of the $38.4 billion we spend on our pets, $9.4 billion goes to veterinary care alone. The APPMA says the pet industry is one of the “healthiest” in the country.

Is that what I’m getting from my vet? Not reasonable medical advice but a bill from the “healthiest” industry in the country? The whole thing just has me thinking. How do we know how much is too much? Or how far is too far? Or when is it OK not to do the next thing?