Pets, Vets & Your Wallet

I am going to start this by saying up front that I have never been able to understand it when friends and neighbors have spent thousands of dollars on medical care for a pet.  I tend to be a pretty pragmatic person, and while I love my pets, I don’t see the sense in spending large portions of our family’s financial resources on a pet who may or may not respond to the treatment.

Of course, life has to challenge our beliefs.  Our family had a 15 year old cat that had more frequently flyer miles than most US citizens.  From Hawaii to Australia to the US to Italy, the cat (and her brother) were right there with us.  She has been aging quickly the last few years, and it concerned us enough that, before your last trip, we gave the cat sitter instructions on what to do if she were to find the cat unresponsive.  We were very happy to come home to the same old cantankerous feline that we left.

Yesterday morning, the cat had some sort of seizure.  The vet discovered a large abdominal mass and gave us a few possible scenarios.  He suggested x-rays, an ultrasound, and possibly a CT scan and/or MRI.  As my mind worked around this level of testing, he began to discuss different treatments for different diagnosis, including surgery, chemotherapy, and long-term medications.  As I listened, I began to question my own beliefs.  X-rays?  Of course.  Ultrasound?  Yup, when can we do it?  We went home with some prescriptions and an appointment for an ultrasound.

Last night, my husband and I discussed our options and I told him about my conflict.  I wanted to focus on quality-of-life issues, but there was a financial aspect to it as well.  The cat had been feeling unwell for several years, despite previously positive physical exams.  The ultrasound, and any further testing, would require icky anesthesia.  Surgery would mean an uncomfortable recovery.  The prospect of dragging her to the vet to be pumped full of chemicals was really awful.  And let’s be honest, none of this care would be cheap.

As it turned out, we didn’t have to make any hard decisions because the cat never recovered from yesterday’s anesthesia.  However, I am still thinking about the whole situation and I wonder what we would have chosen to do.  I’m sure that many of you have faced similar decisions.  How do you balance the desire to give your pet good medical care with the desire to minimize their suffering, while considering your finances at the same time?  It is a tough call and there is clearly no right answer.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Mike Horrell

    When did she get anesthesia? For the exam yesterday?