What Is Your Pet Worth? How much would you spend on a sick pet?

What Is Your Pet Worth? - How much would you spend on a sick pet?

One of Michelle’s dogs…

Today’s post is by my awesome staff writer Jordann. Enjoy!

This is, a bit of a sticky conversation, but one that I think is worth having.

A few weeks ago, my cat, Mia, got sick. She’s four years old and has been remarkably healthy so far in her life, requiring almost no vet care other than spaying her at six months of age. So when she started puking, me being the responsible pet owner I am, I dutifully took her to the vet. You can read about the whole saga here.

Mia is back home, safe and healthy now, but the whole experience set me back around $600. No big deal, that’s what the emergency fund is for.

Now that the whole thing is over with, I’ve started thinking about the what ifs.

What if the worst had happened?

What if she’d really been sick?

What if it had been a lot more expensive?

How much would I be willing to spend on my pets in order to bring them back to health?

After all, they’re family members. Their health and well being is important to me. If one of my pets got really sick, and needed life saving but expensive treatment, how much would I be willing to spend on them? I’ve heard stories of pet owners spending upwards of $10,000 on treatments, but I also know pet owners who wouldn’t spend more than $500 to save a pet. Where do I fall on this scale? What’s my threshold?

I think, to really answer this question fully, there are a few things to take into consideration.

Odds of Survival

Just typing this out is making my insides squirm, I hate thinking about my pets being sick.

One of the things I would definitely have to take into consideration when deciding how much I’d be willing to spend in a veterinary emergency, would be the odds of survival. If the life saving procedure costs $6000 and only results in a 30% change of success, I’m not sure I would go for it. If the procedure would 100% cure my pet, on the other hand, I’d be much more willing to spend the money.

Access to Funds

Right now I have a $2k emergency fund while paying off debt. If my pet got sick, anything beyond that, would have to come out of my various sources of untapped credit. That’s not an awesome prospect and would probably make me think harder about spending the money.

In contrast, if I was saving to buy a house, and had $40k in cash sitting in a savings account, I would probably be inclined to swipe a bit of that to pay for any emergency procedures.

Age of the Pet

Again this sounds terrible, but I would be more inclined to spend a lot of money bringing a young dog or cat back to health than one that is more than 10 years of age. At that point, I think poor health just becomes part of the equation. I’ve met pet owners that have spent thousands on chemo for older dogs with cancer, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

Pet Insurance

There’s also pet insurance to take into consideration. While having pet insurance can definitely take the sting out of high vet bills, most plans only have a maximum threshold of coverage (say $1,500 per illness), so odds are you’ll probably still end up forking over some of your own cash if your pet is seriously ill. If you DO have a pet that you think will be prone to illness, I would definitely recommend pet insurance as an option.

So, what’s your threshold? Would you spend a fortune to help your dog or cat live a happy and healthy life?

Do you have a dollar value in mind as the maximum you’d be willing to spend?

 

Comments

  1. Thomas says

    I dont have a dollar figure. Our pup(7 years old) is a part of the family and we would do the best we could to help her. Since she is getting older it begs to how much should be pay to keep her going. I just had a neighbor tell me he spent over 2k for one of his dogs and two weeks later he had to put her to sleep be he felt she was just in misery. Not only did they have to see their dog suffer but they spent 2k and still spent more to put her to sleep.
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    • Jordann says

      That’s definitely what kept me from getting a dog as long as I did. Dogs are so accident prone too, not like an indoor cat which basically should never get sick. I didn’t end up going with a pet insurance plan, and instead I self insure with my own pet fund.

  2. Budget and the Beach says

    I don’t think it’s a loaded question…there is no specific amount that is a cut-off for me. I wouldn’t spend thousands on trying to treat my cat “just to keep him going for six months,” but if it’s something that is curable and it cost me a couple thousand..then maybe…even though he is 12. It just depends on so many situations.
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  3. Matt Becker says

    We almost faced this decision a couple of years ago, when our new kitten was having repeated medical problems. It was just before our son was born, we were about to switch to a single income, we were worried about money, and this kitten had cost us several hundred dollars in vet bills. We had serious conversations about what to do if it didn’t stop, but luckily for us we finally figured out what was wrong and haven’t had any problems since. I’m not sure what my exact number is, but it’s a difficult decision for sure.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Is a Coffee Habit Comparable to a Debt Habit?My Profile

  4. Michelle says

    Me and W have talked about this a lot. I would spend pretty much anything on our dogs. I know someone who put their dog down because the cost to fix their illness ($150) was more than putting the dog down ($35). So they actually put their dog down over something so small (and yes, this person makes $60K plus a year, so I know they could have afforded it). She claimed she was sad but I don’t think any good person would ever do that.

  5. Pretired Nick says

    Great post. It’s such a tough issue. It’s worth realizing that the vets will sometimes use the emotions you acknowledge here to push you into pointless spending. When our 15-year-old cat got cancer some years ago they were suggesting (not pushy, fortunately) that he undergo some cancer treatments. I can’t remember if it was radiation or what. Um, no. He only lasted a few more weeks, but we spoiled him for that whole time. Still sucks, but that’s reality. They just don’t live very long. You have to know that going in if you’re going to have a pet.
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  6. Stephanie says

    There’s probably no amount I wouldn’t spend to fix my dog! But I agree, if she’s really suffering and there’s not much chance for improvement/survival than I think it’s more humane not to go through with some lengthy and painful procedure just to try. But if it could make her totally better, I would spend thousands, without a second thought, even if I had to put it on a credit card and pay it off the rest of my life. (Then again, I have no children and never will so my dog is my life!)
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  7. David @my2centopinion says

    I would like to think I would be frugal and put them to sleep if they were in a lot of pain or really old. Then I think back to my childhood dog and part of me would have sold the house for a few extra weeks. He was my best friends from 8 years old until I was 20, even when I left home I would ask to talk to him on the phone. He went blind and started having seizures my Dad made the decision to put him to sleep. I’m crying a little even thinking about it.
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  8. Joel @ SaveOutsidetheBox says

    It is definitely a tough conversation that needs to be had – and hopefully before you actually get your pet. We have a great dane named Moose. He is awesome! We would be so sad not to have him anymore. That being said, we just aren’t willing to spend more than $1500. We know that dane’s have tendencies towards major health problems. Unfortunately if one of the “big ones” hit we will have to say goodbye. I can’t imagine and I hope it doesn’t come to that, but money doesn’t grow on trees and keeping my family financially secure is the most important thing. Thanks for writing about such a tough subject.
    Joel @ SaveOutsidetheBox recently posted..Becoming a Landlord: Part 3 – Multifamily HousingMy Profile

  9. Holly@ClubThrifty says

    We had to put my 5 year old dog, Hammie, to sleep last year. He was so sick and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him after we spent almost $1000 on tests. The next test they wanted to do would cost another $1000 and I couldn’t justify the cost while having two young kids at home. It made us so sad but I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t have made it anyway. It broke my heart.
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  10. Honey Smith says

    We have a 15 year old cat, a 14 year old cat, and a dog of undetermined age (however, probably at least 11). The 14 yo cat is in kidney failure and gets fluids at least every other day. A bag of IV fluids plus needles is around $45, and he goes through maybe two bags per month. Plus special food.

    My best gauge of how much to spend also factors in how comfortable the pet will be. They don’t understand what’s happening to them, so if they are going to be scared/in pain/otherwise uncomfortable for a long period of time even IF the treatment is working, I’d have to think really hard about what to do. The IV fluids are pretty easy (cats surprisingly don’t really mind needles, especially if they are at home instead of the scary vet) — he is just annoyed that he has to sit still for 5 minutes. That works. Chemo? I don’t know if I think it’s ethical to do that.

  11. Ree Klein says

    Hi Jordann, this is a hot topic for sure. Joan Otto over at ManVsDebt stirred that conversation up in her post today. Here’s my take…

    Pet’s are very, very expensive. When I was a kid we had a dog and I don’t think he ever went to the vet. That was normal back then. Dogs and cats getting their teeth cleaned was unheard of. People bought dog food from the grocery store…no designer pet food. Outside cats did their business outside…no litter or box.

    Animal care is a huge industry these days and guilt is a very useful tool to get us to buy products and services we (meaning our animals) don’t need. Don’t get me wrong. I really love animals and had my Pomeranian for 18 years before putting him down two years ago (that’s why costs and the guilt trip are so fresh in my mind). I spent thousands over his lifetime and it will make me think twice before ever bringing a new pet into my home.

    To answer your question, I think the animal’s dignity is a big factor in the equation. I put Danny down instead of putting him through painful procedures because I felt he had lived a long happy life and age alone was taking a toll on his dignity. For me, I felt he’d had enough and so it was time to say good-bye. Makes me sad to think about it even now…
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  12. Crystal says

    I’ve spent at least $5000 on vet bills for our two dogs over the last 3 years or so. $2500 of it was for a series of visits to handle near-fatal allergy issues with our 7 year old Pug (at the time – he’s 9 now), and the rest was on a variety of visits for pneumonia, a lump removal, teeth cleaning, and a severe tummy problem. Honestly, I’m okay with the expenses since they all lengthened healthy lives. If my dogs need treatments to prolong sickly lives, I wouldn’t do it. And age matters too. I wouldn’t put thousands into our 15 year old Dachshund, but we did pay $500 to have a lump removed and she is acting like a much younger dog now, so yay! Overall, it’s a personal choice that you have to make every time that they are treated. Good luck!
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  13. Jake @ Common Cents Wealth says

    We had a very similar situation a few months ago when our cat got sick for the first time. It made us ask ourselves this same exact question. They quoted us $750 to figure out what was wrong with her. We ended up waiting overnight and we woke up to find her back to normal in the morning. Dodged that bullet.

  14. Diana Devlin says

    Funny you should write this article now. My cat got very sick (throwing up and losing weight). and I made an emergency appointment to see our Vet. They were alarmed by his condition and referred me to a specialty animal hospital. They had to do emergency exploratory surgery. Thankfully, the pathology report came back negative for any cancer. But he’s still very sick with a feeding tube. He was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and his pancreas is not producing enough digestive enzymes. He was hospitalized for 5 days and the whole thing has cost us nearly $5,000 so far. I have never spared any expense when it comes to my pets because I feel it’s my obligation to do everything I can for them – I am their “mommy” and they deserve the best treatment possible.

    However, I do agree whole heartedly, that if the animal is old and the expense to help them only has a small percentage of them getting better, then it may not be worth the money nor the pain and suffering the animal will have to endure.

    My cat is only 9 years old, which isn’t very old at all for cats. He is still not doing well and we have a recheck with the Vet next Thursday. I am hoping the meds we have him on will help reduce the inflammation and give him back an appetite so he can eat on his own. I will not make him suffer if there is no improvement within the next month.

  15. Lindsey @ Cents & Sensibility says

    Canadian Budget Binder did a similar article not too long ago and it got me thinking….

    We have a miniature daschund (wiener dog) and they are prone to back problems – 1 in 4 dogs has this problem. Their little backs bear too much weight and their spine can start wearing down until they can no longer use their back legs (become paraplegic). You can get surgery for this but it’s about $5000 and not a guarantee that they’ll be able to have full use of their bodies again. We have pet insurance that will cover some of it but it’s still such a big expense…

    I don’t know that we’ll ever face that problem but I do worry that I’ll have to make some sort of decision about this in the future. I still have no idea what I’d do…
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  16. Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries says

    I have no idea how much I’d be willing to spend on my puppy if she were to get sick. Leslie and I treat her just like our child so it would be difficult to believe there’s a price limit we’d stop at before opting to either let her go or put her down. I’m sure there is a point, but it’s too sad to think about!
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  17. E.M. says

    This is a really difficult decision to make. You’re right in that it makes sense to consider all the factors. Last year we had to put my cat down and it absolutely broke my heart. Just a year before that we had to put my other cat down. Both were extremely sudden and unfortunately with the first one, it happened on a weekend and we just didn’t have the money to cover an emergency visit outside of regular hours. With my last cat, she had kidney failure and jaundice, and both were so young (5 and 8).

    I plan on taking extra care of my current cat because I have an unshakable fear that something will befall her, too. It’s a horrible feeling being put into the situation where you must decide the fate of your pet, and I still feel guilty every day. So honestly, I would probably pay a lot ($1k-$2k) if it was promising as my cat is only 4.
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  18. Newlyweds ona Budget says

    As my dog gets older (he’ll be 10 in the fall), I know I have to start thinking about the possibility of him dying. Honestly, it kills me to think about it. For all intents and purposes, he is our first child and I love him SO much. That being said, I don’t think I would be able to justify spending thousands of dollars to save him. I would probably say $2k is my max, and while it’s hard to put a price on your pet’s life, I do need to think that he is technically a senior citizen almost.

  19. John@MoneyPrinciple says

    We don’t at the moment have a pet but it has been decided that we will get a dog later this year. So now is probably the time to consider how much a dog will cost to keep. After all, you can’t rent it out, it can’t really earn any money so in a PF context it is a mad thing to do!!! However a dog will become a family member and we will have to budget for that.
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  20. Emily says

    My dog got really really sick last summer and my mom has always said that if you own a pet it’s your responsibility – so you have to be ready for WHATEVER comes your way. He was only 6 years old and we spent 2,000+ on treatments….he died a few months later. However, we don’t regret having spent that much. He’s a part of the family and shouldn’t be penalized or left to die just because he’s a dog. And if we hadn’t done the treatments I always would have wondered “what if”….but that’s just my opinion. Glad Mia is doing well!

  21. Julie says

    Great post! I agree with all your considerations. Years ago we had pet insurance and it saved us and our dog. He got hit by a car and after he healed from surgery the vet determined that he needed a leg amputation. When it was all said and done we would have spent $7,000 but because we had insurance, 80% was paid by the insurance company. We had no money at the time so insurance was great for us. Right now we have more savings so we don’t carry pet insurance.

    I also worked for a little while at a vet speciality hospital. People brought their 12 year old dogs in for very expensive chemo treatment. I don’t agree with that. At 12 years old, that poor dog is just trying to leave this world and the people can’t face that fact.

  22. Eileen says

    If you see your pet(s) as a family member, you will NOT have a dollar value in mind as the maximum you’d be willing to spend for your pet(s) to live a happy and healthy life. Will you set a dollar value on how much you are willing to spend if your parents/wife/husband/kids ever get sick? If you say something like I’m only willing to spend $500 on my dog if he gets sick. If the treatment cause more than $500 then he will just have to live with the illness, or I’ll just dump him in the animal shelter, then you SHOULD NOT be a pet owner.
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  23. Peter says

    My dog got bit by a coyote few month ago and the treatment cost $150. I must say that I was tempted to not get the treatment at all. He just had one bite mark and seemed okay, but my wife kept insisting. For $600, I don’t know if I would have taken him.
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  24. Caleb says

    I might be crazy, but I would exhaust all options before I can let something happen to my dog. I understand some situations are inevitable, but she is a part of our family and that is how we treat her.

  25. Sarah says

    Many times these issues are black and white, such as in the case where a dog is 13 years old and has cancer and an owner doesn’t want to pay more than $1,000. Or someone has a 1 year old dog with an illness that can be cured for $1,500. Those decisions, to me, seem extremely obvious as far as what to do.

    I’m in a situation that has been tough on me for 3 years now. I have an 8 year old dog who was healthy until about 4 years ago when she began acting mopey all the time. A year later, she was having random severe vomiting episodes that lasted all night long, several times a year. I’ve put around $4,000 into numerous tests, treatments, prescription foods, etc for the past few years, and today she is extremely ill again. After all the tests, blood, urine, xrays, ultrasounds, yaddi yaddi yadda, the doctors have NO CLUE what is wrong. This makes her illness unpredictable.

    Obviously I love the dog. For the 2 months between her sick spells, she is happy and energetic and loving and loves playing and going on walks. But when she gets struck down for a week every couple months, it’s hard to tell if I should keep fighting for her or put her down.

    So she’s middle aged, she seems great ‘most of the time,’ but the unpredictable nature of her illness has taken a huge mental toll on me. I feel like I’m the one who can’t handle this, but my poor dog doesn’t deserve to die because I’m overly stressed out.

    I can’t see putting thousands more into care and tests over another few years, but what am I supposed to do? Most people who pass judgement have not ever had to spend thousands of dollars for pet care, so when people say “They’re part of the family and it’s your responsibility to spend whatever it takes” I don’t think they’re being fair.

    I will never own a pet again. My two dogs have been tragic examples. One almost dies any time she gets a vaccine, the other has a money sucking, heart wrenching mystery illness.

    Sigh.

  26. Hannah says

    This is such a hard topic. We are in the middle of making these decisions right now. We have one otherwise healthy pure bread indoor only ragdoll kitty who suddenly developed a urinary blockage a few days ago. We knew by his behavior what was happening and how serious it is to have it treated before death occurs. Our kitty is very young, only 1.5 yrs old, and we just love him so much. He is our only pet and is such a sweet tempered guy and great with young children. Very gentle and tolerant of them. The vet said depending on how things go the bill could run $500-$1500!! We opted to treat him this time with the hopes that it won’t happen again, which it could. He is on his 3rd day at the vet after having a procedure done under anesthesia. He may be there an additional 2-3 days in order to make sure the blockage doesn’t return which would require further treatments. We are lucky in that we had money set aside for a vacation and made the decision to forgo the vacation and be able to save our beloved kitty. I just couldn’t imagine not at least trying to help him especially since he is still so young and is otherwise perfectly healthy. I guess not everyone shares our sentiment. I talked with close friends of ours who are extremely well off who said they wouldn’t spend $500 on their dog if she got sick….said she’d be put down no question. That is hard for me to swallow but it’s true. If our kitty develops a blockage a 2nd time I’m not sure what we would do. Hard decisions might have to be made at that point. I don’t even want to think like that.

  27. Rich says

    I’ve spent over 20,000 over the years on medical bills on my Rotti Jager. Recently he his stomach filled with fluid. The veterinarian ran tests and two sonogram and still couldn’t find out what was wrong. They didn’t want to do surgery because if they didn’t know what to look for. They drained his stomach and sent him home and told me to monitor him and bring him back in if his belly started to swell again…. It looks like it is beginning to, but I realize that I can’t afford to have them do a surgery that may not work. I decided to just spend what time I can with him and when it is painful for him to let him go. Not sure if I would spend so much money again… but it is easy to say until you’re in the situation.

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