Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Veterinarian’s Office Should Be Renamed “The Cleaners”

My dog is old. In dog years I think he’s around 248.

He’s been acting a little weird the last few months, coughing on occasion like the Marlboro Man, his barks sound more like Bea Arthur than a Beagle, his arthritis causes him to take longer standing up. I can see the warning signs - every morning when I check on him, I can’t help but to feel a little nervous.
My wife took him to the vet for a check-up and they pretty much told us what we expected – he's a senior citizen and now it’s time to find out why the vet drives a 7 series BMW.
Examination and blood work - $346. Pet prescription medication - $37/month (arthritis meds) $7/month (nutritional supplement) $27/month (prescription dietary food), X-rays/Ultrasound to find out what needs to be rebuilt... – “would you like to fill out a credit application and give us a tour of your house…?”

The timing is pretty ironic, just a few days ago my job had mailed me something called “Pet Insurance” listing all sorts of programs and fancy medical procedure coverage usually reserved for the likes of Michael Jackson's pet monkey. I laughed about how ridiculous it is to have $37/month taken out of my paycheck for something so odd. Now I’m actually considering digging through the recycling bin.

Maybe I've been living in a cave, but when did this all begin? When I was a kid - pet meds, pet chemotherapy, pet physical therapy, pet cancer treatments, or even prescription pet food was completely unheard of. And if you did hear/read about it, it was usually the old lady down the street who was leaving billions to her cat, or at the grocery checkout isle next to the “Batboy meet the president of France” article.

Now I’m in the position of trying to figure out what’s reasonable and what’s nonsensical without feeling like Cruella DeVille. And that's besides the fact that millions of people in other countries don't get this kind of medical care we're giving our pets - am I the only one a little bothered by that?

What does everybody else think? Has anybody been through this or are your pets on prescription drugs? Maybe had expensive treatments or surgeries? Or was my vet the “car salesman of the year” in a previous life?


Whit said...

I grew up in a rural setting with lots of livestock and various pets. Sure, we used vets when necessary, but for most things that were natural like old age, we just stood back and let it run it's course.

It sounds a bit harsh, but it didn't feel that way. I have a dog that is 14, and I'm just trying to make sure she enjoys every day she has left.

The Father of Five said...

I can fully understand your pain.

Nice blog - I am just leaving for work, but I'll be back to check it out later!

David the "Father of Five"

Alasdair said...

Pets cost pennies no doubt about it, ours is now 7 but when we first bought her she managed to cut her paw (on a nettle of all things)right deep in between the pads ... it cost a fortune as it wouldn't heal up and required a lot of meds and inspections. It was only good fortune that the animal had come with pet insurance from the rescue place we bought her from!

Nice blog btw ;)

L.A. Daddy said...

I feel your pain. And it hurts.

My cat just got bit by another cat. That's all. Nothing serious. Except it got infected. Required surgery. And medication... All said and done - $1,100.

Because he got bit.

That cat is never leaving the house again...

Steve said...

$1,100? that's it? Our beagle had back surgery that totalled out to $3700.

That's three flat screen TVs and the bastards still eats dirty tissues and shreds them around the house.

Darren said...

I'll add this to the list of reasons why I don't have a pet.

Lisa said...

My dog is starting to show his age, but I'm pretty sure I can figure out a lot cheaper than taking him to the vet what needs to be done - senior food (or in his case sensitive stomach food) and glucosamine for the joints.

The last time we were at the vet he tried to tell me they needed to do heavy dental work on him. That was 3 years ago. Notsomuch!

Em said...

I just paid $350 this week to treat my dog for allergies and put her on a special diet. I'm quite certain my vet is using my income to buy a new boat!

DevDad said...

I think pet insurance is actually a pretty cool concept. My other half used to work in an emergency animal hospital, and from what she has said, it is *really* good to have, especially if your pooch is getting old.

- Mike

Ryan said...

I think Michael Moore should make his next documentary as "Pet Sicko" to talk about issues like this.

I hear you too on feeling bothered by the medical attention that pets get these days. I am not saying that it is wrong and unwarranted, but there is something natural about death and something okay with letting a pet go when it needs to. I suppose though if you are blessed with the luxury of having money to fork out so many dollars for your pets' needs, that is okay. It still feels a bit backwards though to give so much attention to our pets. I know I may get crucified for saying such things, but when I look at the poverty around the world and even in our own country, this troubles me. Call me Hitler, but I think there is something here to truly dialogue about.

I wish you the best.

Jenster said...

That's a tough one. There has to be a line, but I'm not sure where to draw it.

When my dog was about 6 or 7 she developed diabetes. This was right after I got married and I wasn't able to take care of her. So my parents kept her, checked her insulin levels, gave her insulin shots, etc. She lived a fairly healthy life for several years after.

And now we have a friend who's fairly young dog has lymphoma. She's been going through chemotherapy and the vet said it would give her about two years instead of six months. These people have no children and it was worth it for them. Also, they have the pet insurance.

So I guess I'm no help to you at all. But I do understand where you're coming from. And I especially have to agree with your comment about pets having better medical care than people in third world countries (or something along those lines.)

Stay at home dad said...

I'm with Darren on this one. Pet healthcare, pet psychotherapy, pet clothes, it's getting on for the cost of a child nowadays...

The only pets I like are the sort you can toss into the bin at the end of the evening.

InterstellarLass said...

It's an example of the disposable income that we have in this country. Pets are wonderful companions, but I don't see myself going to extremes to keep my pet alive. Making them comfortable is one thing. But I had a friend that spent over $2000 (no pet insurance) to give her dog an extra six months to live. I didn't understand it. It's a personal choice though, just like personal healthcare and what kind of measures you would take for yourself or your family. I can't judge.

Jenifer said...

Pet insurance is a great idea... especially for dogs. I don't have it for my cats, but they are indoor cats and the likelihood of getting sick or injured is small.

However... I think you need to weigh your options. If the dog really is like 248 in dog years, you have to weight what his quality of life will be like, and how long you can realistically prolong it. SOmetimes I think euthanasia is more humane than what we do to our own kind. I watched my grandmother die of renal failure, on comfort measures only, and I thought more than once during those 2 weeks that if I had the choice I would end it for her right then. If she had been an animal I would not have had to watch her suffer.

So, on the whole, I am not opposed to putting an animal down, if it has lived a good and long life, and the prognosis for it's remaining quality of life is poor. In your case I probably would not spend the million dollars it's gonna cost. On the other hand, there's no way I could afford it so the decision would really be made for me. I suppose if money were no object I might think differently.

It is a decision only you can make. The vets (all of them not just yours) will tell you every possible thing to be done or that can be done and you have to weight the facts and decide how much you want to do.

Good luck.

Ben & Bennie said...

I have seen some pet insurance info before but it does seem rather ridiculous...until you're looking at your 11-year-old lab's hip replacement for $1500.

"Goodbye, Old Yeller. See ya in the next life."

We're actually fortunate to have a lifelong family friend who is a vet. Very few bills.

creative-type dad said...

Ben & Bennie -- I think you hit the nail on the head, I need to make friends with a vet.

Jenifer -- We pretty much made our decision to make our dog's remaining days more comfortable with the medications and food. We're not going to spend the thousands until be begins suffering something else.

InterstellarLass -- I'm not "judging" either, it's your friends money, but in my opinion, I think your friend has too much money to throw away.

Ryan -- I think you've got your next big movie. I wonder if pets in cuba get better care?

L.A. Daddy -- I would wrap that cat in bubble wrap.

carrie said...


Hope you both feel better soon!


The Real Mother Hen said...

Ouch, feel sorry for you dude! I really can't offer any good advice here without sounding too cruel - I may get sued! Good luck!

kittenpie said...

It's true, I think we feel a ridiculous amount of guilt, but then I think that it's the same with humans - at some point, they've had a good life and not that we should kill them off early, but why try to draw out those last few months/years with painful procedure when ultimately, there's a point at which we just can't cheat death any longer.

That might sound really callous. It's not that I think old people or animals are worth less. It's just that I have a firm and ever-growing belief in the idea of a natural cycle of life and death.

Maureen said...

This is one thing that has me on the fence about adding a non-swimming pet to our family. My mom's dog has cost her a fortune in vet bills. When I was growing up, our pets were "lucky" -- they either lived to a ripe old age with very few vet visits or they went quickly because of a traumatic injury.
I can't afford to have a pet get very sick... and I couldn't imagine telling a vet, "just put him down" because I can't afford the bill.

Ruth Dynamite said...

It's nuts. It forces a difficult issue; namely, how much (???) are you willing to spend on your pet's health? Obviously, the vets have studied and are professionals who deserve to be compensated, but where does one draw the line?

Signed -
Someone who unknowlingly killed her cat with tainted pet food from China - and incidentally, the same someone who shaved her dog because the she couldn't abide the shedding fur.

creative-type dad said...

Ruth Dynamite -- poor dog. Can I see a picture?? :)

DJ Kirkby said...

I have never believed pet insurance worth it but now that one of my cats is about a 100 years old and our other one has kidney disease and asthma I regret it. It would have come in handy for the kidney and asthma treatments but I am not sure I would put our 'old gal' through the trauma of any surgery should she become ill...but of course I can't say for sure. But they are both too old and one is too ill to be able to find affordable insurance for them anyway.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Ugh, I'm living this right now. Just got my cat out of 6 days in the Kitty ER---ready to hear the damages? Are you sitting? Almost $3,000. Yes, $3,000. He has diabetes and total kidney failure and now I'm giving him fluid with a needle, insulin shots and loads of pills. The little fucker, I mean sweet little cat, better live a few more years; unfortunately, though, things aren't looking so good. He's 15 and sick, so pet insurance isn't an option, but it will be if/when we get another pet. It sucks, and we definitely couldn't spend that kind of money all the time, but I'm glad we got him this far.