How many people can actually afford advanced veterinary diagnositics, specialists and procedures?

I’m talking about MRIs, CT scans, chemo, trips to specialists (oncologist, neurologist, etc)?

I’ve got people on FB that talk about Fluffy or Fido’s chemo, major surgeries, etc and I’m just wondering what percentage of people can afford all that? Sure, insurance exists, but you have to pay out of pocket and then wait for the claim to be filed.

At least 5% of the population can. Probably top 20%. Remember, there’s little insurance and so the prices charged for these things are a tiny fraction of the cost that the human-equivalent treatment would cost. Mere thousands of dollars for chemo instead of millions. Mere hundreds of dollars for an X-ray instead of thousands. Sometimes under $100 for some stuff. The costs are actually proportional to the cost in materials and time, not bullshit madeup numbers created by a decades long war between insurance companies and healthcare providers.

Good question. We are fairly well off and love our cats, but we have seven, and we can’t spend on them seven times what we spend on each of us. Besides, we have good insurance and when we need a $50,000 surgery we don’t have to worry about the financial impact. Our vet is fairly quick to propose things in the $1000 price range, and we typically do it, but whenever we do so, I’m worrying about whether helping one cat for $1000 is the wrong thing to do when we could be helping several in more moderate ways instead.

Literally, I think your answer is “a few percent at best”.

I was able to afford kitty chemo and visits to a vet oncologist when the now-late Miss Austen had lymphoma; she went into remission for about a year and lived nearly to 19, with good quality of life until the last few weeks when her kidneys finally gave out. So I considered it worth the effort.

I’m not rich. It wasn’t that expensive. A few hundred dollars spread out over each of the three and half years between Miss Austen’s diagnosis and death.

Besides the FB people, what got me thinking about this is my senior dog.

He is a large dog (70+lbs), he is 10 years old, has “doggie dementia” and has started having issues with his rear end. Wobbling, nail dragging, muscle atrophy, etc. Vet took x-rays, palpated him and diagnosed him with a common, progressive, condition that will eventually paralyze him.

Told someone about this and got asked if he’d seen a neurologist, had an MRI, etc. His mind is going quickly, he can no longer jump into the car, and is in no pain. All other conditions that match his symptoms either have pain or quick advancement, his is going slowly (diagnosed in August) and has never shown discomfort.

Years ago, one of my dogs, who had never had a seizure before, had a really bad seizure. I won’t go into all the details, but it was quickly obvious he was not “okay”. I’m lucky to have a great vet, but this was beyond her experience, and she referred me to a nearby university veterinary hospital. Long story short, $5000 and many weeks later, he was good as new, and never relapsed.

Could I afford it? Well, yes. Was it a smart decision? To me it was. I loved that dog, and he was only 7 years old. He lived to be 16. So, $5000 for 9 more years of a great dog. I’d do it again in a second.

But I don’t judge people who make different decisions. Not everyone can afford large “optional” vet bills, or they have different priorities. Heck, I may have made a different decision if he had been 14. It is all a sliding scale.

I was wondering the same thing. My Beloved watches all the different cat, dog, farm and wildlife vet shows on the Animal Planet and elsewhere, and no matter what extreme procedure is proposed the owners never say “Ummmm…that is way more than we can afford at this time.”

We love our dogs. Pets in general are an extravagance, and we wouldn’t have any if we couldn’t afford their care. When I had a dog treated for mast cell cancer, I was just happy that the technology existed to give her a two year remission. Ditto when another dog needed tibial plateau leveling osteotomy for an ACL tear.

Those cases exist, and indeed are the majority. They just don’t make good TV. Several times our veterinarian has mentioned that the treatment we are having done is declined by 90% of her clientele, who chose euthanasia instead.

I have this issue as well, with my Newfie. He’s 135 lbs. He’s way past the range for his breed. In fact, the vet called him a unicorn, because you never see a Newfie this old. I was astonished when she proposed a regimen of drugs for him instead of a time table for letting him go. We’ve tried the drugs, and he seems more comfortable with his arthritis, but everything else continues its decline. It’s sad and frustrating.

On the other hand, I paid for 2 TPLO procedures for my Rottie. She was only 1 year or so at the time. She lived another 8 years without a limp. Well worth it.

Flip that. I paid for cancer treatment for my Akita. He was 9-ish at the time. The cancer went into remission and didn’t return before he died, but he was never the same dog. I don’t know that I would treat cancer in an older animal again. Shortly before his death, a vet recommended surgery. I asked what the chance was that it would help. 30%. There was also a 30% chance that he would die during the procedure. It would cost $5000. I did not go ahead.

All of this to say that all of this is a judgement call. You have to ask questions and judge whether the risks are worth the return. Whether the procedure(s) will get you what you want. Whether the procedure is even necessary. What the costs will be to the animal. Money can often be worked out (payment plans and so on). You need to be as informed as you can be going into it.

Two years ago, my bigger dog (Husky/Flat coated retriever cross about 60lbs) attacked my smaller one (terrier poodle 13lbs), nearly tearing his throat out. Since it happened after hours, we ended up at vet emergency.

Total cost for several days of ICU monitoring, surgery, medication, etc ended up somewhere around $2000. I could not afford it and ended up borrowing from a family member. I was also one of “those” people that always said “It’s a dog. I know we love them, but still a dog…”

Which is true, but it was also at a time (sexual assault, PTSD) when I couldn’t honestly handle another loss. My daughter saw the attack and was devastated, I could not imagine not bringing him home if recovery was possible. That little dog has been my constant shadow and patient companion for 11 years. So we paid it. He made a full recovery and is once again at my heel or on my lap whenever I am home. I don’t regret one cent. But, it also wasn’t a long term illness or enduring pain.

I recently buried Paris, the best kitty I ever had. He died, following 11 months of chemo, costing approximately $5,000.00. He was the only cat I’d ever do this for, and I’m very grateful for those additional months I had with him.

A former co-worker wound up paying somewhere in the region of £2000, spread over 6 months, on cancer treatments for a pet rat.

I don’t think she would have done it if it was all upfront, rather than £200 here, £100 there, but it was still a bit hard to keep a sympathetic face when she’d totalled it up. £2000 for a dog that might live another 10 years, no problem; but for a rat, even a lovely rat (which it was) that’ll be dead in about a year regardless…? It’s hard to say it even benefited the rat, as it wound up having to endure repeated surgery, and a whole series of quite invasive treatments.

Some of what you describe is what afflicted my Bernese Mountain Dog, though “dementia” wasn’t part of it, but it was a painless progressively debilitating neurological condition.

Every case is different but what I can share is that first of all my overwhelming, total concern was to do everything possible for him, cost was no object and my own finances were not a consideration. After a series of escalating consultations he ended up getting a lengthy, exhaustively detailed series of MRI scans. When even the specialists said they could do nothing for him and his own vet starting talking about euthanasia, I took him to a veterinary research college as a last hope. I was willing to pay for neurosurgery but their assessment was that it would be a long and potentially damaging process with little probability of success. I got a halter-like device for him that I could use to help him get up when he couldn’t do it himself, after which he could usually walk around by himself. And thus we lived for a while.

I tried to balance the avoidance of euthanasia with his own well-being; even though he wasn’t in pain, the increasing lack of mobility was a concern that I always tried to keep in balance.

In the end, he seemed to make his own decision. One day he just stopped eating, even when I tried to spoon-feed him his favorite treats. And the next afternoon, he lay down on his favorite carpet in front of big glass door to the back yard, and, bathed in a bright ray of sunshine, he quietly died. The vet said it was probably a sudden stroke, but I think he just gave up the will to live.

Every case is different and I send you my best wishes for yours.

I can believe – but I find profoundly depressing – the mention upthread that 90% of pet owners opt for euthanasia in preference to “high” medical costs for their pets. I personally think such people are not entitled to have pets, nor deserving of the joys they bring.

This year has been pretty bad for vet costs. My elderly dog Widget got pretty arthritic a couple years ago and I spent a few hundred on vetting and medication to control the pain, then the prednisone (we thought) sent his liver enzymes into the stratosphere so we discontinued that and kept him on some less troublesome drugs instead. Then this late spring the jackpot hit. Big dog Bear managed to rip the holy shit out of himself on a beach trip, requiring an after hours vet visit, a bunch of stitches and about $600 to get patched up. Then he tore out some of the stitches a week or so later and had to have them redone with staples for about another $200. Widget had been off his feed and getting kinda dotty so I had him in with Bear and blood panels and palpation indicated a mass in his belly. Cue a $400 ultrasound to reveal a non-resectable 8cm liver tumor. At that point I made the executive decision to support him, we put him onto about every pain med there is andd just waited for the end. I was simply not going to put a dotty old dog with arthritis through surgery or chemo that he had basically zero chance of recovering from. That would have been cruel, and I loved him too much to do that to him. I did spring for $500 to give him an at home euthanasia, totally worth it. It sucked so much to put out a bunch of money just to lose my doggo, but that’s part of being a pet owner–sometimes it sucks with a poor outcome, them’s the breaks.

Now if it had been Bear and the tumor resectable, I’d probably have sprung for surgery. Bear is ten this year (Widget was 11 when he died) but he’s a much stronger dog, very hale and no mobility issues so I’d have a reasonable chance of him rehabbing after surgery and a reasonable expectation of a few good years for the cost. Widget, unfortunately, was just too much of a trainwreck to put him through any more.

Sometimes, though, those spendy events make us better pet owners–my old cat Stiggs scared the hell out of me when he was about three or so by having a seizure in the living room. He had some kind of bizarre infection or disease–vet wasn’t all that sure what was wrong with him. He literally took every penny I had in the world at the time, about $300 and the vet was fucking awesome and kicked down for the interferon that fixed his problem so I could treat him. I did learn, though, that I was not doing him a favor with my feeding habits and that nudged me into springing for way better quality food and to start feeding the cats wet food every day. So now I have much healthier cats overall, and Stiggs lived to be 16, with the last two years of me giving him sub-Q hydration few times a week to support his kidneys. I also made Stiggs the last cat allowed to be even a part time outdoor cat because it’s just too hazardous out there. My cats sometimes hate me for this policy but tough tits–I once had to shell out $200 to have an abcess treated after a cat got into a fight. Yeah, not doing that again.

I’m willing to spend what’s necessary and prudent to keep my animals healthy and happy and to fix what’s gone wrong, but I do draw the line at super expensive heroic measures.

For us it depends on the situation. When our 8 year old cat had cancer, we opted not to pay thousands for chemo that we were not sure would do him any good. The odds the doctor gave were not very favorable. We gave him pain meds and kept him as happy and comfortable as we could until it was time to let him go.

When our very active 3 year old dog tore his cranial cruciate ligament (similar to the ACL in humans), we did pay around $3600 for the TPLO surgery that would pretty much guarantee he would be able to walk and play without pain. I knew at least 4 other dogs IRL (bully breeds are very susceptible to this injury) who had this surgery and all were as good as new afterward. The odds were very favorable. Being only 3 yo and otherwise very healthy, it was money well spent.

This is one reason while I’ll never be a pet owner. I’m glad I have a good job and make decent money. But, having lived through the hell of the Great Recession, I’d hate myself for second thoughts about thousands of dollars spent on a pet if I’m ever in a position to sweat the money again.

My rat terrier lived til her 20s. She was a tough and hardy dog most if her life. Her last 2 years she was blind and deaf but ate her food and did her potty outdoors. I had to lift her on to chairs and beds and up and down stairs. I could do no more if she had been a human. She had some hip issues, though not painful. The vet told me off about her more than once. He said I was keeping her alive for myself, not thinking about her quality of life. He did not see her at home. She was so happy when my husband (her fave) came home everyday. When he wasn’t home she was in his chair. So, I probably wouldn’t have spent thousands on extraordinary care at that time in her life, I wouldn’t have given up one of those years though. She died one morning sleeping in her favorite chair

If I were having cancer treatments on a rat, I’d expect them to pay me, for the research value.

I had one dog with congestive heart failure for whom aggressive treatment bought an extra year or two of quality time. Our current dog has epilepsy, which means regular medication and occasional emergency treatment. It’s not cheap, but I make up for it by cutting back on my kids’ expenses. The little one has an earache, but we’re just going to see how it goes.

We opted out of treatment for Oakley The Husky when he was diagnosed with lymphoma. The vet oncologist we saw told us that we could spend up to 5K between chemo and surgery and we’d be lucky if he lived 3-6 more months. At this point the lymphoma had invaded his intestines so he was slowly starving to death. He could barely eat anything despite our best efforts.

Max The Husky is 11 years old and has the same rear leg neurological issue which has been already mentioned. Our vet told us that eventually he’s not going to be able to move, and that will be the “it’s time” marker. Otherwise he’s in excellent health.

Chloe the southern hound-leopard dog-whatever-else mix came to us with an insurance policy provided by her rescue organization. It’s a catastrophic policy, so we couldn’t use it for the myriad of issues she had when she arrived here.

Before we married my my husband had Missy The Malamute who lived to 14, which is almost unheard of for that breed. She had the same back-leg neurological condition on top of beating cancer twice. My husband paid upwards o $2-3K for each treatment because she was his baby and there was no way he was going to let the cancer win. It worked in that Missy lived to that age (I think she was 8 or 9 when she had it the first time – it was before we’d met – she was diagnosed the second time when we married). It also involved driving her over hill and dale to our area’s vet school, the vet oncology place, and specialists who lived at the other end of our state.

In retrospect, we were blessed that we had that extra money for Missy. Unfortunately we’ve never been as flush again to do the same with our other dogs. Some of them, like Ember (Aussie-border mix) simply died of old age. Jack Malamute’s bone cancer was diagnosed too late and he wasn’t a candidate for amputation because of his size.

As somebody else said, when it comes right down to it, you have to weigh what’s best for your dog vs. the treatment vs. how much you can afford to pay for said treatment. For us, what’s best for the dog is the ultimate question.