Can You Afford to Save Your Dog?

Dogs, once primarily regarded as utilitarian companions, going along with humans to hunt game or herd livestock, are increasingly regarded as family members in our modern society. We value them as friends of another species, regardless of any working skills they may or may not have. We love them, sometimes to the point of anthropomorphizing them as children. That often means that we go to extraordinary lengths to maintain them in good health, and to return them to health should they fall ill or be injured. But the cost of doing that, just as with human medical care, has been steadily rising. Pet owners may find themselves confronted with staggering fees unheard of just a few years ago.

In late 2010, my aging Foxhound, Maska, seemed to be in pretty good health. However, one morning, I awoke to the sound of retching and found some very discolored urine all over my living room floor co-mingled with equally oddly colored vomitus. My boy clearly wasn’t well, so off to the vet we went. Several hours, one exam and one ultrasound later, still no answers. A preliminary leptospirosis diagnosis quickly went by the wayside, followed by more ultrasounds and other diagnostics at Tufts, followed by an exploratory surgery. In the end, I spent $6000 just to hear the devastating news that my handsome, sweet, stoic therapy dog had adenocarcinoma of the pancreas and it had already metastasized to his liver. I hugged him and cried and let him go. A few weeks later, I decided not to “self insure” for such emergencies any longer, knowing that, had his condition been more treatable, I could easily have bankrupted myself. I bought pet insurance for my remaining dogs.

Quanah, back to playing after his $4000 bowel resection
Just a few years later, my sweet Hound mix, Quanah, made me glad I had done so. He decided to ingest a foreign object, precipitating a bowel resection surgery. This time, insurance picked up the tab for 80% of the cost.

Healthy Paws Pet Insurance and Foundation.

It didn’t really hit me just how valuable a lesson my boy’s final days were until a colleague, Ettel Edshteyn, of Poodles to Pit Bulls Clicker Training, Inc., in Astoria, N.Y. went through a similar experience with her dog, Prynne.

Prynne at the beach pre-injury

It’s suspected that a normally innocuous dog treat may have become lodged in the tiny dog’s esophagus, causing tears to occur requiring surgery and some complex medical care to repair. The cost was approximately $20,000.00 to save the dog’s life. Ettel did not have insurance, so is bearing the cost herself and allowing me to use Prynne’s story as a cautionary tale – we should all assess risk ahead of time. How much would we, or could we, spend to save the life of the dog we love?

Prynne and Ettel at the hospital during treatment

For about fifteen years, I directed a non-profit program that gave small grants to help senior citizens with veterinary expenses that they could no longer afford. There are quite a few such charitable programs for persons of all ages and their pets, but many of them often run low on funds. (Something to think about, since this post is being written on Giving Tuesday). Some of the charities require individuals to first file an application with Care Credit, which is a health care credit card company, before they will consider a request for assistance.

I hope these stories will make people think about the potential cost of their pet’s physical and behavioral health, and make some plans for how to meet such costs, so they never have to have their hearts broken for lack of funds.

Stories of your own experiences with cost of care issues is welcome in the comments section. Please, no bashing of health care facilities or practitioners. Most are doing the best they can to keep prices reasonable and provide the best care they can.

6 thoughts on “Can You Afford to Save Your Dog?

  1. Yes Im 57 am losing my job(Haggen grocery store)My dig Harley is having a 3 rd cancer surgery this Fri Dec 4th.Im only applicable for $500 thru Care Credit.Yes Ive put him on Go Fund Ive only raised $50.Hes very special and has alot of life left in him.Not ready to put him down .Any suggestions?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Healthy Paws is, I think, one of the few companies that will pay vets directly. Most will ask you to pay, then reimburse you. Some of the other companies are Trupanion, Pets Best, Pet Plan, Embrace, ASPCA and VPI (they pay on a fee scale). I have a link to the Healthy Paws site in my post, but the other sites will have quote search on theirs as well. Rates depend on your dog’s age and breed. Some companies insure older pets, some don’t.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m a big fan of Healthy Paws as well. They also don’t have a pre-existing condition clause for those who are looking to get insurance later in a dogs life.


  2. My first dog was bitten by a pygmy rattlesnake on a walk through a nature preserve when he was 6 months old. I was very quick to react and get him to a vet that carried the anti-venom, but I didn’t have insurance at the time. If it had not been for my mom’s care credit we would have had to make a very difficult decision as the anti-venom is very expensive(1000’s of dollars). All of our dog’s have insurance now, accidents happen!


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