Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How much would you spend on a pet?

Our little black fuzzball went to the vet today for a routine teeth cleaning, and I got a not-great phone call while he was under anesthesia - four molars are in trouble, along with the lower canines. They're in varying stages of decay, and there may be exposed roots and it'll only get worse - and it'll be $1,100+ to remove them. And I had five minutes to decide whether to go ahead with the procedure or have them wake him, and in the latter case it'll be an additional $160 for anesthesia at that time. 

What would you do?

Here's what I did: I cried. I called Peanut and I cried. I called my mom and I cried. Because $1,100 worth of dental work on a cat that doesn't seem to be bothered by these teeth is seriously not in the budget. Last week I found out that *I* need $1,200 worth of dental work (despite prescription toothpaste and religious flossing!) which I am delaying because, dammit, we cannot afford these things when I'm not bringing in my full salary and we have a child in the hospital. 

I feel a great responsibility for any creature that is under my care. I feel that to be the best cat parent I can, he should have those teeth pulled to prevent future pain and suffering. But I can't do it right now, I just can't. 

I told them to wake him up and felt terribly guilty when I went to pick him up. I'll be watching him closely to see whether his mouth seems to bother him, and when it appears that it does, I'll have to make this decision again. Unfortunately, I just can't afford to be the kind of cat parent I would like to be right now. 

I need to sit down and set a firm price limit, with Peanut's input. What if this were an emergency situation that required a decision to save the cat's life? Someone close to me has had to make that choice, and she chose to save the cat, twice, at great expense to herself. This is not a decision I want to be making in the heat of the moment. It's one I hope I never have to make at all, but if I do have to make it, I can't do it under duress.

I feel that my pets are part of the family, but at the same time, there has to be a limit on what they cost me. If you have pets, do you have a price in mind that is too high for you to pay to keep them healthy? What would you have done in my situation?


  1. When we went to get Pod's teeth cleaned a few weeks after we adopted him, the vet had a section on the form we had to sign with options like "I/we only consent to the services listed above" (teeth cleaning), "I/we consent to the services listed above, plus up to $___ worth of additional services as deemed necessary by the vet", and "I/we consent to any services deemed necessary".

    At the time, we had a fully funded emergency fund, plus an extra $5k or so sitting in our savings account. I asked the vet what he thought the top cost would be if they got a close look and things were far worse than he thought on initial inspection. He told us that for a greyhound with bad teeth, we could be looking at $2-3000(!) but that Pod's teeth looked "not awful". We signed the last line, because the vet was sure it wouldn't be anything more extreme than that.

    BUT- we had $5k just sitting in an account to pay for Pod's vet work ( then the rest went to our mortgage), plus our emergency fund, plus both of our normal incomes. We don't have a child, let alone one in the hospital. If it didn't seem like his teeth were hurting and we didn't have the money available, I would have signed the first line instead. (As it turned out, it was about $700, which wasn't so bad)

    It is a good idea to have a price limit though... we sort of discussed that "a few thousand" would be no problem, but we should probably discuss again at some point and decide on a real limit.

  2. Oh, man! Libel just had his teeth cleaned a few years ago at the vet's recommendation, and this post made me so grateful that they didn't find anything crazy while they were in there.

    I think it's great to be proactive with these discussions and know that you have a limit when it comes to your pet's cost of care. No one should have to make that decision in five minutes, especially when you have so many other financial concerns going on!

    Given our current financial situation, I would have paid the $1,100 for Libel's teeth simply because I would assume that it would eventually be a painful problem that needed to be handled. Today, we could afford it without strain. Back in 2008, I would have had to discuss a payment plan with the vet's office, but the decision would have been the same. But that's a benefit of only having your pets' welfare to think about. In your shoes... I couldn't even guess what I would have done. I just couldn't imagine being under the kind of stress you were under and being given that news.


Thanks for commenting!