Pets, vet bills and who should be allowed to have a pet.

I’m not sure whether this should be in IMHO or Great Debates…mods may move as they see fit of course!

The ‘pet’ industry has grown in leaps and bounds, particularly in the last 30 or so years. Prior to that (in my experience) if you wanted a generic pet, you’d ask around the neighbourhood to see who’d had a litter of puppies or kittens, and you’d likely be given the pup/kitty free of charge, or for a nominal cost at most. If you wanted a pedigreed animal, the rules were different!

OK, so you’ve got your new crossbred pup, kitty or rabbit or whatever…you do the right thing and have them immunised against the common diseases that infect that breed, worm them, feed them good munger and give them lots of love (and in the case of puppies, training too).

But then, something happens when the pet is older. Either an accident or an illness means that your beloved pet is going to need major medical treatment by a vet, and it might cost many hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

My experience (in RL and via social and other media etc) is that the ‘love’ you have for your pet is measured in the dollar amount you are prepared to spend to save that pet’s life.

So, what are the benchmarks?

Examples because!

Edith has a kitty who developed kidney disease in it’s old age. Edith loves her kitty, and spent $700 on surgery, and will spend $100 per month on meds to prolong her kitty’s life. Edith is on an old-age pension and paying for the vet bills means that she is late paying her utility bills AND cutting back on her already spartan food costs.

Jason has a pedigreed black labrador, vet checked at birth for dysplasia etc, but now exhibits symptoms of the same. Jason is a high-flying banker, vacations to St Moritz each winter, and the Great Barrier Reef for snorkelling each summer. Not short of a dollar, he chooses to have his dog put down rather than pay for the vet bills that will ensue to treat the dysplasia.

Geoff and Dianne have a rabbit, actually a pet for their children. The rabbit is now four years old, and has developed cataracts. Geoff and Dianne don’t have the funds available to treat the rabbit’s cararacts, so elect to have it put down rather than suffer in blindness.

Going by what I read nowadays, unless you have the available money AND the willingness to spend money on pets, you’re not a fit pet-parent! A good pet owner will spend (often) MEGA thousands to provide the vet care needed, and anything less means that you are not as loving, caring or fit to care for a pet at all.


I set my bar low - if you can afford/willing to pay for desexing and any other foreseen costs like vaccination, registration etc you are doing better than most of the animal owners I know. I have no problem with any of your examples.

Buy pet insurance. Mine costs £14 per month with no copay.

Love, respect and dignity are much more personally defined when it comes to pets - and people make the best decisions they can at the time.

I don’t know how you’re supposed to judge or quantify that.

We adopted our cat off the street - I figure even if we had her put down tomorrow just 'cos (which, BTW, we’re not going to do … but my Nan once admitted to me she had done once), then I figure she’s still ahead.

I don’t know how many hundreds and thousands of healthy cats and dogs are put down every year because there aren’t any homes for them, but as far as I’m concerned food, shelter and not being abandoned on the street when they’re old are the minimum standards. Any exceptional medical bills are purely optional if you love your pet lots and have the money.

It’s cool if you own a Pug, Bulldog, or any brachycephalic breed, but they’re not for me. They tend to have major health problems. I know people who have spent thousands on their Pug (and not the types that you think who call it their baby). We have pet insurance for the dog in anticipation of breed and age related problems. The cats are indoor so we don’t feel the need to pay for insurance but will of course take care of them. The last thing was when one found a stray fishing fly and got hooked. 120 bucks later… I joke that the amount we are willing to spend depends on which pet and how their behavior has been recently.

You should be prepared to have money for potential care. Realistically, I know cats and dogs aren’t endangered so it’s no big tragedy if a random one is put down. We’re talking taking it to the vet and doing it nice, not pawning it off on Michael Vick. The examples: #1, sure if she wants to. It’s her money and pet, and as long as it’s not some mental illness thing. #2 I would look askance and take that as a sign that he isn’t a pleasant person in other aspects of life. I don’t think it’s wrong but don’t necessarily approve. #3 Seems premature and I wonder if it won’t cost them more in the long run for their kids’ therapy bills. I doubt it is suffering per se, but it also might be a burden to take care of. We had a rabbit that got an infection and my mom got its leg amputated. She (the rabbit) was a grumpy little thing and while I wasn’t especially close like with other pets, I probably would’ve tried to treat it.

Thing is for me, I grew up on a farm and your pets, while being pets also have a function. Cats are to control mice and dogs are for protection. If they cant “earn their keep” so to speak, they are gone.

I once worked with this one woman whom was such a big animal lover she spent I think over $1,000 on an injured raccoon she once found.

I think as a society (in the US, I mean, I can’t speak elsewhere) we’ve come to the conclusion that animals, especially pets, are not strictly utilitarian and that even the farm animals deserve to be treated with appropriate care and consideration. However, as a society, we haven’t decided what that means. We’re generally clear that animals shouldn’t be abused for entertainment. That they deserve proper food, water, and shelter. But our cultural legacy of seeing animals as simply tools to be used and discarded still underpins our society in a myriad of ways - most notably in meat production and factory slaughterhouses. This has been compounded by a limited understanding of animal intelligence and behavior.

In the absence of a societal agreement on what our relationship with animals should be, and against a background of rapidly evolving ideas about an animal’s capacity for thinking and feeling, we’ve defaulted to each of us proceeding according to how we feel. How -we- feel; not how the animals feels.

So to consider the examples in the OP - each of these people is acting out of their own best interest, not the animal’s best interest. Sometimes, as in the case of Edith, it’s easy to be sympathetic. Sometimes, as in the case of Jason, we can say, “well, he’s a selfish git”. And sometimes as in the case of the parents, all we can do is acknowledge that life is hard.

Speaking personally, I think we need, as a society, to come around to the idea that the most important thing is that we don’t cause suffering to others. Even if we’re doing it because we can’t bear to let go.

Our pets don’t understand what’s going on at the vet. They don’t know why they’re eating nasty medicine or having surgeries. They know that they are sick - even dying - but they don’t know what the pills and surgeries are for. Our foremost concern here has to be that the animal doesn’t suffer so that we can avoid the pain of loss. Because, in truth, there is no amount of money we can pay that will ever get us out of that pain. It’s the price we pay for the love we experience.

I think as the century evolves, we’ll continue to expand our knowledge of animal behavior sufficiently that we’ll see changes in our relationships with them. But it’s going to take time.

Very beautifully put, Merneith.

I don’t judge somebody who has an animal put down humanely if it has a treatable (but painful) disease or injury. If your family has to go short because Fifi needs ACL surgery, that’s not right. Where I have a problems is if one’s living conditions make it unkind (if not downright inhumane) to keep a pet and one is bought anyway. If your bird is kept in a small cage and never gets free flight because you live in a efficiency apartment, that’s wrong. If you have no place to run with a large dog, that’s also wrong.
I also deplore people, generally from farm backgrounds, who think it’s OK for cats to run free, or those who don’t spay and then drown the kittens or dump a box of puppies off on someone’s doorstep.

I have some recent experience here, we unfortunately just had to put our pet dog down last week (Diamond, 12 year old Border Collie).

  • Wednesday my wife and daughter came home and found it had made multiple messes on the upstairs carpets and was moving very slow.
  • Thursday morning we take the dog to the vet. We get some x-rays, do blood work and IV’s put in to re-hydrate. The vet isn’t sure whats wrong, so he orders an ultrasound.
  • After the ultrasound he gives us two options, exploratory surgery or euthenisation. He was pushing for the surgery, but didn’t really try to talk us out of putting our dog down (well he did, but not too hard)

Exploratory surgery would be around $2,000, and if they found something it would probably be another $1,000+ to fix the issue, plus any ongoing issues and costs.

We chose to put her down. In the end our bill was right around $1,000. The vet actually did a necropsy on our dog (free of charge) to see what the issue was and it turned out her gallbladder had ruptured and she couldn’t have been saved by the emergency surgery.

Bottom line I was quite surprised about how expensive the visit was. I remember seeing on the news a couple of years ago there was a vet who setup shop about 3 hours from here. He was from India and had gone to university and had his veterinarian degree. He was charging about 50% of what all the other vets in the province were charging. He had a clean facility, all of his clients were always happy with his treatments, etc. etc. etc. Once all the other vets heard about this they either shut his practice down, or somehow forced him to change his rates.

This tells me the veterinarian practice is close to being a scam, because in the end a vet can pretty much charge whatever they want and I’m willing to bet 90% (or more) will pay no matter what to help their pets.


I think there should be a law requiring vet hospitals to humanely put down suffering pets regardless if the owner has any cash at all.
Warning: graphic details ahead.
I remember, a very long time ago, my next door neighbor came pounding on my door. She was a total frantic mess. She had just gotten herself a new kitten. Only a few weeks old. Well, the poor kitty tried to follow his new mommy out the door one day. Unaware, this poor woman slams the door on the kitty’s head, crushing his skull. He’s still alive but in obvious pain.

So I take her to the vet. (She didn’t have a car) When we get there, the only humane thing to do was to put the kitty down, but it will cost… $30? (it’s been so long ago, I can’t remember what it cost)

She didn’t have the money, the vet said he could hold her but it might be a couple of days before the SPCA gets around to putting the kitty down themselves.

Upon hearing that, it took me all of two seconds to reach in my pocket and give them the damn cash that they needed.

Seriously, that’s some fucked up shit.

This. If you’re not capable of caring for a pet, don’t be selfish and get one anyway. I grew up with a lot of well-cared-for pets and I’ve been wanting one myself for some time. But I know it would be unfair to the animal in question, so I don’t do it.

I know it’s harsh, but this applies to elderly and disabled people, too. I often see pets owned by people who are not physically capable of giving them what they need. At least get something you don’t need to exercise, if you can’t and no one else will.

People who think allowing their pets to breed when their community is already oversaturated should also be kept away from animals.

Oh, and people who don’t understand that animals aren’t people.

Cat owners who don’t give a shit about the havoc their babies wreak on local wildlife. Or ones who don’t give a shit that their cats are giving their neighbours shits. Actually, they’re not the worst. It’s the ones who give a tiny shit, but decide there’s nothing they can do about it and it’s just an unfortunate situation we’ll all have to live with. Personally, I feel my right to keep native wildlife in my garden unmutilated and my property free of cat shit trumps the rights of my neighbours to have a non-native, destructive animal running around freely. I actively try to encourage wildlife and give them a habitat that gives them a chance in a pretty inhospitable environment, and cats figuratively and literally shit all over it.

Originally I wasn’t going to say much more than “This”, but apparently I’m more opinionated on the subject than I realized.

I used to be someone who would put a great deal of money into keeping a cat alive as a reflex. Now, I try very hard to recognize if I’m doing that because I love the cat or because I love myself and want to feel good about myself. Cats don’t necessarily do all that well when they are sick. It depends on the type of illness and the cat. I used to just base it on what I wanted. Now I try to base it on what seems best for this loving, beloved, sick animal who only has me to speak for them.

I’m sorry you had that experience- that is a shitty vet. I used to manage vet hospitals for almost 20 years and even the most ethically challenged vet I worked for would have euthanized the kitten in that scenario.

This is how I feel about it.

All our pets (currently 3 dogs and two cats, plus livestock) are rescues. They live the best of lives. The dogs play on 25 acres, go to the lake with us on weekends, sleep in our bed, eat better food than most people. The cats are indoor/outdoor as they wish, and good mousers. They seem quite happy, and all are “fixed,” of course.

We love them all a lot. But we’re not going to go to extraordinary measures to keep them alive, when it comes to that. No multi-thousand dollar surgeries. Saying goodbye to pets you love is hard, but it has to happen. When these go, we will rescue others, as much as we have room for, and I’m sure love them just as much. But we won’t go into debt for them.

I think it’s interesting the attitude many non-vegetarian people have about this. They eat meat, right? Pigs? Cows? Those are animals with complex social structures, as much as dogs and cats. But they eat them without a thought. And then if you don’t want to spend thousands maintaining a painful condition on your pet dog, or doing exploratory surgery on your cat, somehow you’re heartless and don’t deserve to have pets at all? I think it’s inconsistent.

If you want to get really utilitarian you could consider the greater goods you could do with the thousands you would otherwise spend on vet bills - the other animals who have had no chance at a good life you could help with the money.

It’s a highly individual decision. I’m a vet tech, and there are things I would spend money on without a second’s hesitation, and things I would never put my pet through. When our 8 year old dog tore her ACL, my only question was “when can I get in for surgery?” Even though it was the year of our 10th anniversary and we were going to go on a cruise for that money, there was no question that we were going to do the right thing. One of our friends said he would have just put the dog down and gotten another one! We just looked at him funny and changed the subject.

So, Bozuit, just to be clear: you’re saying tht poor people shouldn’t have pets, right?

No. This is not an argument I can get behind and I see it often on these boards. Not spending money on X does not mean therefore the money will instead go to Y. If one were so hard up for money that the choice was spending $1000 to save their pet, or $30 to euthanize him, do you really think someone would choose to euthanize and then donate the $1000 to charity? If the choice is solely based on money, it’s because they need the money.

And really, “why spend $1000 for one pet when you can help many others”, can be used for just about anything. Why buy anything in life when you can just live in a bare room and give all your money away?