HomeEmergency FundAm I a puppy murderer?

Am I a puppy murderer?

Girl Ninja and I don’t own any pets. Mom and Dad Ninja, however, have always been dog lovers. In fact, at one point we had 12 greyhounds in our house (we fostered them until they could find a good home). They’ve scaled things back, however, and now only have three dogs, a boxer and two pugs. Allow me to introduce them…

While I’ve always known my parents loved their three dogs more than their three children, I never really realized just how deep that love ran. That is, until Bella (the boxer) started having knee problems (apparently her knee had completely blown out). She could no longer prance around my parents yard chasing the two smaller (and stupider) pugs. Concerned for their beloved Bella, my parents took her to the vet.

After a few consultations with two different veterinarians, Mom and Dad Ninja realized they really only had three options (listed cheapest to most expensive): put her down, amputate the bad leg, perform a knee replacement surgery.

Can ya guess which option my parents went with? You’re right, if you guessed knee replacement surgery. I don’t remember the total cost for the procedure, but it was upwards of $2,000. TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS!

Now I ain’t no puppy murder, but there is no freakin’ way I’m dropping that kind of coin on a pet. That’s like buying 4 iPads, or two 50″ LED TVs, or 4,000 Jack in the Box tacos.

It’s easy for me to think my parents are insane for opting for the surgery over amputation or putting her down, seeing that I… A) have no where near as much liquidity as they do and B) Bellas not my dog. I know my parents made the right choice for them, but I think my “vet” threshold would be about $500. Anything over that and the dog is going to doggy heaven, if there is such a place.

What the largest vet bill you’d be willing to pay ($500, $1,000, $10,000)? At what point does the well being of your pet go from a moral obligation (feeding, general health, etc) to an excessive financial burden? Anyone out there have tales of uber crazy animal fanatics that have dropped a small fortune on their pet?



  1. Well, the obvious problem with you not understanding your parents’ decision is that you’re not an owner yourself.

    Aaaaanyway, pets are like children. Definitely members of the family. And you take care of them. Nuff said. I remember going through this discussion on another blog like a year ago. Shit blew up. I think. But yeah. Have pets, have a budget for emergency care for them. Not so sure on the insurance, whether or not that’s just a total ripoff or not – haven’t looked in to it too much. Pretty sure I remember it being a ripoff.

  2. Although I’m not currently a pet owner, I can absolutely see spending that amount on a pet. They become a part of your family and it’s so hard to put a price on that. It is, however, also one of the reasons I have no trouble putting off owning a pet- being responsible for the costs, which can easily include massive vet bills, is a huge undertaking. I totally support Mom and Dad Ninja in this one!

  3. I once paid approximately $1500 for my boxer who had a broken foot as a puppy. Do you know how hard it is to keep a cast on a boxer puppy who likes to jump? After four weeks of him breaking the cast repeatedly, I said enough was enough and he has been fine (injury 8 years ago). If you take on a pet, then you must plan for expenses.

  4. I think my cousin spent thousands on her ancient cat right before it died. She has no close friends so literally it was like her soulmate dying. I thought it was a little cruel because it was really fluffie’s time. She shouldn’t have had the doctor’s paddle him back to life and all the crazy things she had them try to do.

    I don’t have pets and I wouldn’t want to get so attached to something that has a much shorter lifespan than me. I know it would be heartbreaking. In fact, my godmother had a dog that she loved so much that she got depressed when it died. She swore to never have another pet again because she would not be able to endure the heartache a second time.

  5. We spent $1500 when one of our cats took sick. He was only 4 years old and we felt it was worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

  6. I’m with Mom and Dad Ninja on this one, as we chose cats over kids; if you and Wife Ninja had a pet, you’d understand.

    We once spent $1183 on a vet bill for 12 yr. old Kitty; she was healthy one day and appeared to do a 180 overnight. Turns out she had a thyroid condition, a tiny bladder, and a few other not-so-dire-at-the-time issues. She ended up being on thyroid meds (about $75/month) for the next16 months (a second vet bill for her ran us a little over $600). When she was 13 yrs./8months, she took another turn for the worse; our new vet said the humane thing would be to put her to sleep, as she likely had tumours on her liver, and the thyroid meds weren’t working as well as they should. As tough a decision as it was, that’s what we did… and 5 1/2 yrs. later, we still miss her. I had her for 10 yrs (she was my ex’s sister’s cat), and I chose Kitty over the “X” Factor when our relationship hit the skids.

    Our current cat Abby (5 1/2 yrs) has an enlarged heart (emerg. vet bill was about $500 earlier this year); she’s takes 1/2 a Benazapril a day (a 3 month supply costs us about $35), and we know that she likely won’t live as long a life as we’d like. Emerg. vet recommended we take her to a cardiologist, but we drew the line. We’re just lovin’ her and keeping her safe and comfortable for as long as she wants to be with us.

  7. Please don’t ever get a pet. I’m not trying to be mean but $500 won’t geet you far if your dog or cat has even a semi serious problem!

    We would spend as much as we could to keep our dog. He is only 3 so as long as he can have a good quality of life, its worth it at his age.

    • Could not agree more. People who treat pets as if they are disposable items should not be allowed to own them.

  8. I would totally spend $2000 on my cat. I have had her 11 years and love her as much as I love anyone (including my husband). We adopted her three months after we got married and she was just off the bottle onto solid food. I hope when her time comes I don’t needlessly throw money at the situation when she is in pain and suffering and shouldn’t be kept alive but a blown out knee? Sure. I’d say $5000 would probably be my limit – after that I’d really have to scramble to come up with any money. Other than the yearly $100 we have only had to spend about $900 over the 11 years – once she ate string and once she just got inexplicably ill. Luckily our city has the only vet school in four provinces so she gets off the hook care when she needs it.

  9. This is one of those subjects you do NOT blog about because you will be considered a horrible person by all the people who let their dogs eat at the dinner table. Been there done that and got my head bit off!

    However, we have a new puppy, two birds, and 110 gallons worth of fish. Pets are expensive but they are cheaper than children (which is why my hubby let me get our puppy lol!). We have not set a cap on how much we’ll spend on our dog but we did start an envelope for her the day we got her (we do an all cash/envelope system). We add cash to her envelope every pay check and our goal is to be able to cash flow anything that comes up, assuming she doesn’t need four knee caps replaced at once!

  10. I worry about this a lot. Our dog (furry child) will be 7 soon and fortunately she has been very healthy, but I know at some point in the future this will change. It’s hard to say right now because I’m not faced with the question, but I’d probably spend as much as $5000 if it leads to significant longevity/lifestyle improvement. We have enough savings now that I wouldn’t feel bad financially with that sort of cost.

  11. I’ve paid that and more for my dogs. One of my dogs needed TWO surgeries on her knees and I didn’t think twice about getting it done. I couldn’t imagine putting her down because she had a perfectly fixable problem that would be 100% cured with surgery. We have a separate “dog emergency” fund just for issues like this though.

    And I agree with the previous person who said not to get a pet if your threshold is $500 (and that’s a general “you”, I would say that to anyone). I’m lucky to get out of a regular vet appointment for less than $500 (and that’s for each dog each year). Pets are expensive and you just have to be aware of the responsibility (financial and otherwise) before you decide to get one.

  12. When I had a cat who was sick with intestinal problems, she needed medication that cost $80/month… and special food that was double the cost of regular food. She started needing to have vet treatments occasionally, and each treatment cost around $300 a visit. At first the visits were once or twice a year – that was manageable. But, when the visits for $300 treatments started occuring every 6-8 weeks or so, I couldn’t justify the cost anymore. On top of that, she was having a rather poor quality of life. I chose to stop it all and put her down. Today (7 years later), I have no pets and don’t want any pets.

  13. I am a boxer and lab lover so I totally understand wanting to do the most you can for your pet. That said, pets (no matter how much people want to believe it) are not children. I have pets for companionship and children to continue our lineage. At some point (prayerfully) you no longer have to bathe, feed, or even take your kids to the doctor. They grow up and then that’s on their spouse to do those things. 😉

    Now, I’ve been faced with situations like this. If the pet is young, sure I would opt for the best option without loss of life…within reason. However if the pet is older than 8 years. I will do whatever I can to find a workable solution. But to me, $2K is not something I’d be willing to invest.

    The most I’d spend on a pet over 8 years old, is probably $1K tops. Under 8 (if no other preexisting conditions), I’d go for the $2K but that is the highest I’d go. I think it really depends on the person.

    I’ve found that people who really long for the companionship will often be willing to spend gobs of money on their pet. I know a woman who spends over $100 monthly on pills to keep her old cat alive. At some point you kind of hope she realizes her cat is in pain and she starts thinking of the cat’s quality of life.

  14. Look, the problem is that you’re thinking of a pet as an object. Some people don’t feel this way about pets, but at least to me and to my family members that own pets, they’re part of the family. I’m sure you wouldn’t hesitate to drop $2,000 on your child. I feel the same way about my cats as I would a child. (Actually, I probably like my cats more than I’d like a child.)

    Definitely don’t become a pet owner if $500 is the max you’d spend on their care. When you adopt a pet, you take full responsibility for their health and well-being. If you’re not in it all the way, you don’t need to be in it at all.

    In your parents’ situation, I would have to see stats on what life is like for a dog who has had knee replacement surgery. If Bella will go on to live a pretty normal life after the surgery, I would have done the same thing. But you’re right that at some point, you have to draw the line. I don’t think you should put a number on it exactly (unless it becomes so expensive that the decision is put food on the table or help your pet), but for me, if my cats were sick and the only solution to their illness would still leave them in pain, I might make the (very difficult) decision to put them down. I don’t think a pet owner should ever keep a pet alive if there is simply no way to help their pain.

    • What is the threshold then to being allowed to be a pet owner Red? You say don’t become one if you wont fork out more than $500. What if someone else were to say, don’t own a pet unless you are willing to fork over $5,000 or $10,000? It seems with that logic no one would qualify to own a pet unless they were willing to take out a second mortgage, etc to keep the pet healthy.

      • Try thinking about this from a slightly different point of view. Instead of requiring someone to commit to a certain level of financial support before getting a pet, I think it would make more sense to ask someone if they are willing to do what is in the best interest of the pet given their means. Although financial resources are going to be different when considering human care vs. pet care, the decision-making process should be similar.

        In your example, the dog has a bad knee. This is not normally a life-threatening injury, so unless the dog is already very old, it wouldn’t make sense (morally or otherwise) to put it down. Would you consider physician-assisted euthanasia for grandma if she breaks a hip? Hopefully not, since the fracture most likely isn’t going to put her on life support.

        There are other options in this scenario which you didn’t list in your entry. An owner with inadequate financial resources could petition for charitable support through a reputable organization like the Humane Society. The owner could postpone surgery while saving for the procedure (perhaps enlisting the help of family and friends, or others in the community). The dog could just live out the rest of its life with the bad knee. And so on.

        I don’t think it’s fair to commit to a financial limit on pet care ahead of time. As many others have said here, it’s important to evaluate scenarios as they arise and make reasonable, compassionate, humane decisions — decisions which should balance the right of the animal to live a healthy, full life against the ability of the human to provide for their pet’s needs.

  15. I think it comes down to quality of life for your pet. I had a cat with a former SO who became very ill. She was hospitalized for about a week and was not improving. They told us she probably wouldn’t make it. My former SO wanted to keep trying. But looking at the cat, it felt mean to keep her alive. She was incontinent on herself, in pain, and had dropped about 10 pounds. She couldn’t eat or drink, couldn’t lay comfortably because she was so thin and bony, and the prognosis wasn’t good. At that point it was around $4000. I said stop, put her to sleep. Not because of the money, but because she was in so much pain and did not have a good prognosis for recovery. Keeping her alive at that point was only for us. She was miserable.

    I second the above poster. Don’t get a pet if you’re not prepared to care for them (including emergencies). They’re not disposable objects. They’re living, breathing creatures who give love, accept love, and feel pain and joy.

    • I agree with Lisa and Red and many other posters. Anyone with half a brain who chooses to get a pet must understand that this is a life-long commitment. You have to go into it knowing that you’re financially able to take care of them and that emergencies can come up – if you’re not able to do that, then don’t get a pet. I would say the same thing to people considering having a child. If you’re not responsible enough to understand that pets can cost you money and that sometimes you have to do without certain things to ensure they are protected, then don’t have one. All a dog or cat knows is that you’re his/her protector – you’re the one they look to for help when they’re suffering and they don’t understand that your wallet isn’t deep enough. This isn’t necessarily about pets being members of the family, it’s about making a commitment to a living, breathing thing. You make that commitment, you stand by it. If they’re sick and medication or surgery will help, you do what you have to do. If they’re suffering, then you have to make that tough call, but you don’t do it because of a knee problem.

      I have two cats and pet insurance for both of them. I did the math and if they get sick just 2-3 times in their lives (which is easily going to happen), the pet insurance will pay for itself. Sure I’m paying money now for no reason, as they’re young and healthy, but in 5-10 years, it’ll be a different story.

        • Each person has their own threshold of how far they would go financially and emotionally. I personally wouldn’t blink an eye about going into debt if it meant extending their life for years, but I’m a total animal lover. Some people would have a certain dollar amount at which they have to stop. It is a personal decision. But people should go into pet ownership knowing that they may have to spend a lot of money at any given time. It’s why I opted to get pet insurance on my two when I got them. $50 a month for piece of mind may seem like a lot to some people, but it’ll be worth it as they get older and need more medical attention.

          $500 is nothing when it comes to a vet visit. I spend about $200 each year just for the check-ups/shots of our two cats. I paid $500+ for dental surgery for my cat previously and more than that for other medical costs. He died at the ripe ol’ age of 20 and I never regret paying a cent that helped him live a long, happy and healthy life.

          • Also, I should mention that when my cat of 20 years died, he was at the vet being treated and I was told there was more that could be done, but that he was suffering and that’s when I drew the line. Yes, I could have paid more and maybe it would have helped, but if he was suffering, then it’s better to do the right (but hard) thing and let them go. Some things are not about money. I think at the end of the day, that’s what a lot of people who have commented are feeling. It’s not about a dollar amount that you can pinpoint and say this is it, that’s all I’ll spend to save the life of Fluffy or Fido. Sometimes you just know. If your dog needed dental surgery ’cause his teeth were causing him problems, but it was going to cost $500, would you say forget about it? He’s a happy, healthy dog and everything is fine except for that – why would you end his life over $500. Sometimes it’s not about finances, but about love, companionship and responsibility.

  16. I hava cat that I absolutely adore, he is 9 years old now and i have owned him since he was 2.5 months old. I am one of those pet lovers who lets her cat sleep under the covers with her, I have a framed picture of my cat at work, and have even said no to dates with guys since they were really allergic.

    That being said, I draw the line pretty close to you when it comes to care. A few years ago my cat had a serious urinary problem and almost died, this was on a sunday night and no vets were open. Thankfully, he pulled out just fine on his own, but I did some serious thinking about what care options I would or would not be willing to do once we visited the vet.

    I decided that if it was medication or change in food etc, no problem, but that I would draw the line at invasive surgery, not just because of the cost, but because it is painful for the animal and THEY can’t understand that the pain etc is for their own good, all they know is that you brought them somewhere, they got cut up, and you left them there for a day or so. Fortunately it was a matter of changing his food and keeping an eye on the problem, but the special food still costs me about 8 times more than the regular stuff.

  17. I had the same reaction when a friend of mine spent $1000 on their cat (it broke one of its legs).

    A year later we got a dog, and I can tell you, that I’d spend anything on her. Until you have a pet, especially a dog, you probably won’t understand it. But take it from the converted, you should try it for 3 months, and you’ll be rewriting this article..

  18. I had a cat a few years back that was 17, he started having issues walking, eating, and so on. It took 2 months and about 2k to finally decide he needed to put down (colon cancer). Once his quality of life degraded, I didn’t want him suffering anymore. While it was a very tough decision for all involved, I didn’t want him to be in constant pain (meds weren’t helping anymore). We currently have 2 dogs and a kitten and we know that the day will come when we will have this decision to make again but the time between getting the “kids” and when this decision needs to be made is well worth it. Our pets definitely enrich our lives in ways we can’t describe.

  19. I’m with you on this Ninja:) Our financial threshold for our cat is $300. We love him, but have 3 kids to feed and get thru college. We provide him with a warm and loving home, feed and water him regularly, play with him and give him great rubdowns, take him to the vet for his shots and well-kitty check ups, but honestly when it’s his time to go we’ll send him off humanely. Without sounding too judgemental (where is the common sense people???) it seems to me that instead of spending $2,000 on a aging pet, you could donate that money to a homeless shelter, food bank, school, church, etc….

    I don’t mean to sound heartless, but being a animal lover has become almost politically correct and some people make you feel bad for not treating your pet like a family member. Let’s be honest – if you had $2,000 and you could spend it on your aging beloved pet who needed life-saving surgery OR on yourself who needed life-saving surgery – what would you do? DUH!!!

    • To play devil’s advocate – why did you have so many kids? You could have spent that money helping kids already here! Or “you could donate that money to a homeless shelter, food bank, school, church, etc….” Of course I don’t really think that of your kids, though! It is your choice!

      Most of our animals were “already here” too (in shelters or on the street, especially cat owners – something like 75% of cat owners either adopt from a shelter, from outside or take surplus cats from their friends) so it’s not as if when we agreed to take on pet-ownership a dog or cat was magically created for us. I personally consider their care my responsibility – not just my own pets but also animals I help rescue. I don’t think you can ever underestimate the human/animal bond. If you look at Katrina, you’ll see how many people risked their lives to stay with their animals because of that bond. Or were unbelievably stressed due to separation. Or look at domestic violence cases – a lot of people won’t leave the abuser if they cannot take their animal with them and a lot of safe harbor human shelters don’t take animals as well. When we help animals, we also help the people who love them.

      And your me vs the cat example is kind of ridiculous. It’s almost never a situation like that and people will spend as they please. If you are more concerned about the health of people, maybe you could help fund helpmeet health service programs that are available vs faulting people for what they do with *their* money. If you want to spent $300 max on your cat, I don’t fault you on that. That’s what you can afford and certainly humane euthanasia can be afforded for that if there are no other options and it’s very likely that cat will have had a much better life than many others in this world. I don’t think people should make you feel badly for that.

  20. I paid $1200 for a surgery for our cat when I was in grad school. It took me two weeks at my crappy summer research job to make that money, but she was otherwise healthy, and needed the surgery to cure a nasty infection that would have led to a slow but sure decline. She lived another 6 years without anything else going wrong with her health, and brought us much joy. When her kidneys failed at age 15, someone told us that feline dialysis exists, but that would have cost a fortune on an ongoing basis, and would have completely destroyed her quality of life (who wants to be attached to a machine a few times a week if they don’t have any hope of transplant, like humans do?). As tough as it was, we put her down at that point. I still miss her, and it’s been over a year now.

    I understand what people are saying-don’t sacrifice your own financial well being for an animal, or that logic would state it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot on an animal, but it’s part of the responsibility you take on with a pet to expect some expenses. Everyone has their own threshold, but love and joy are tough to stick into an equation.

  21. I am not a pet owner, but this is precisely the reason I don’t want to own pets. I am sure that I would spend that money for my dog.

  22. I will add this story to my ever growing list of reasons I do not want to own a pet. After reading some of these comments I have an observation. Pets and people are different. I have three kids and I did not buy them at a baby store. A pet is just an animal.

  23. My brother has a dog that had to have both knee replaced, cost over $2500. Having pets all of my live. Currently have 4, a dog, a guinea pig and 2 rats. They are part of the family and are taking care of just like any other member.

  24. We have no children. We have two dogs. We love our dogs. Still, they are DOGS. I agree that $500 is about as much as I’d be willing to spend. Perhaps when we’re out of debt and have more in savings that threshold might go up, but I still think that I wouldn’t pay more than $1000 on health care for a dog.

    Our dogs are loved — pampered, even — but they are not human, and we aren’t willing to treat them that way.

  25. Yeah, it’s a tough call. Our 3 year old bassett was throwing up daily — after $500 visit, they said more tests could be done, and they’re not too sure what caused it. She was on 3 antibiotics and 2 dewormers….she did stop throwing up…..finally. This is our second — and last — dog…..the first one was more like our “baby”…..but this one is more like a dog. She’s a great companion — she’s really bonded with the kid — but she does have a $1500 price limit on her head.

    BTW – The yearly vet visit is running $120-$180, depending on which shots she needs that year, but that doesn’t count towards her limit.

  26. Ha, I had this conversation the other day.

    I’d be willing to drop a few hundred dollars on a dog, depending on the chance of living a happy life and how young the dog was.

    If it were a cat, I’d probably just accidentally leave it in a sewer.

  27. I don’t have a pet, and I never will. This is one of the reasons why. There is no way that a pet is equal to a child!!! I do not have, nor will I make, room in my budget for a pet! Where did all of these insane medical bills come from for pets? When I was young, people put their pets to sleep if they couldn’t afford a $10,000 surgery – or they let them live with the ailment as long as it didn’t cause pain.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I can accept someone loving their pet and not wanting to lose that companionship. I can understand someone trying to fix something that is causing pain to their pet as well. But, I will never understand someone claiming that a pet is a child, or is on the same level as their children. That’s when it goes to far for me.

  28. I would have agreed with you up until about 3 months ago when we got a puppy. I grew up in a family that always had a dog or two around, but now that I have one of my own it’s way different. I know I would have no problem spending that kind of money. If she has a serious condition that will affect her quality of life then I wouldn’t put her through that, but if it were something that she could recover from and continue to be her normal happy puppy self, then I would pay $2000 or more for my furry baby without a second thought! This is also the reason we waited until we were financially stable before getting a pet.

  29. It is hard to say that until you have a pet that you are attached to. Two years ago I adopted a puppy from a shelter after graduating college. A couple days later, she started peeing blood. After antibiotics didn’t work (which I was convinced would), there were other tests performed. After about a month, they figured out she had a blockage that she was born with. We had three options: put down a 12-week old puppy, do nothing and have her die, or pay for surgery to clear the blockage. I was already about 3k in, so we opted for the extra 2k to fix it. It seems insane but I could not let this little puppy die, especially being so deep in, financially and emotionally (my issue at the time stemmed from losing my dad when I was 15 and not being prepared to go through another loss). Seemed silly to have spent the money and not have a puppy at the end. Luckily, my aunt let me borrow the money and I now have the most amazing dog who has had no other problems.

    I do not think I would do this for an aging dog, as it may only prolong their suffering. If I adopt another animal, I definitely would set limits (situational) and have an emergency pet fund already set up. Does not make sense to some, but I do not regret it at all! 🙂

  30. Wow, when you come home for the holiday’s you will be dead to Bella….a few facts Bella is only 6 years old, the surgery does make it so she can go on to lead a long happy life and as you said we can afford it. It was expensive and I thought it was kind of ridiculous as you know. Dad ninja loves this dog and he has been a great provider, spouse and dad so he can have Bella for as long as possible.

    Don’t be hatin’ a Ninja he knows not of what he speaks…..ask him about his pet iguana that I would not pay to get better when he was a child as it was hundreds of dollars and we did not have the extra money at that time. Little Ninja was pretty sad and mad about that one.

    I do understand the difference between our pets and our kids…the pets would never ask us to put down one of our children for being a financial burden! Side note – 3 kids, three dogs…coincidence????

    I love you Debt Ninja!

    • Great reply momninja! Good balance of “hush up son” and “nobody yell at my baby”. 🙂 Ninja, you have an awesome mom!

    • “do understand the difference between our pets and our kids…the pets would never ask us to put down one of our children for being a financial burden! Side note – 3 kids, three dogs…coincidence????”

      Hah! I’m staring to really like MomNinja!

  31. I wouldn’t drop $2000 on a cancer treatment that may or may not work, but we have spent $2500 in the last year getting our adopted Pug healthy again and on maintenance drugs for his allergy issues (well, $400 on a tumor removal, $300 on 6 teeth extractions, and $1800 on allergy-related infection treatments and meds and vegetarian food). My short version, I will not lay down huge cash for “maybe’s” but I would happily do it again for Mr. Pug since he is now back to his happy, bouncy (stupid) self. 🙂

    • Oh, and Mr. Pug will cost a minimum of $500 a year from here on out just for allergy-related crud. He’s 7 years old and could live to be 13-15 pretty easily, so we know we’ll be laying out at least $4000 on him before he passes. Our other dog is a super healthy Dachshund mutt that’s “only” cost about $2000 total in the 5 1/2 years we’ve had her. She is currently 12 1/2 years old and going strong, but we’ll probably run into some health issues with her in the next 2-3 years as well since Dachshunds are notorious for joint problems.

      My point is that 1) You never know what you will be willing to do for a pet unless you are faced with it (Mr. Pug’s $2500 was run up in a series of cuts – a $300 bill here and a $200 bill there that just added up) and 2) Pets are expensive and I wouldn’t suggest anyone getting one if they are not comfortable with the idea of spending at least $500-$1000 a year on just minor problems (and that’s if you are lucky). We couldn’t have afforded Mr. Pug 5 years ago and just got lucky that Miss Doxie is as healthy as she is.

  32. $500 for vet bills is nothing. I think I paid close to that to get porcupine quills taken out of my dog’s face. I have a 3 1/2 y.o. golden retriever. He had an injury this summer from playing too hard with his (human) “big brother”. Having just met someone out camping that paid $5,000 for a broken leg on an Italian Greyhound and were bitter about it, I set my personal threshold at about $10k or somewhere around one month’s salary. I also have a 16 year old cat that I adore. To be honest, his limit would be much lower just because of his age even though I secretly love him more.

    That’s an easy choice for me to make though. An ipad seems like a useless time and mental suck, I rarely watch TV and don’t eat fast food. Our dog gives us all hours of entertainment and fun. Picture someone that will go out and play ball with you any time you want. A pug or a boxer though? Nah, don’t think they’d be worth as much either. JK 😛

    I did know a lady once that was a cat hoarder (50+ of them). They pretty much trashed her house. That’s the craziest pet person I’ve ever known. Next craziest is the people I know that had a champion Rottie that they sent away for specialized rehab to another country from a bum leg. Fortunately, they had insurance, but the bill would have been $30k+ if they wouldn’t have. Ugh. We had one cat years ago that came to us with only 3 legs and it’s really quite amazing how they can get around. So I wouldn’t eliminate that as an option either I guess.

  33. My husband and I talked about this and this is why we don’t have a dog currently. We know we can’t afford one right now and if anything happens we could not afford even $500. We have had a hard time this past year paying my own medical bills.

    I think $1000 is reasonable, but it depends on the age of the dog. Something smiler happened to one of my family dogs, He tore a ligament in his leg it cost $1600 to fix it. While my dad bitched and moaned about the stupid dog (his words) he loved him very much and paid. The Dog was only 6 at the time and it wasn’t serious enough to put him down for. of course a year latter he did it again. this time my folks said no way are we paying and the vet said it would probably heal on its own this time.

    I will admit he is not as active as a dog as he once was even after the first surgery. he used to be the ultimate lap dog and super friendly and playful, he is still very friendly, but he doesn’t like to jump around like he used to so he more likely to sleep by the fire then jump up and cuddle on your lap and he has his bum leg. I think if something worse happened my folks would put him down or just treat him and his sister with meds, but they are both 10 now, tho as small dogs they could easily live to 15 or 20.

  34. $500 wont cover much for medical care other than an annual check up. You’re better off not owning a pet at all and just purchasing the latest gadget.

  35. I was one of these people that didn’t own a pet until about a year ago when BF brought one home. Now, I’m in love with this dog, but I’m in too much debt to pay the $480 a year for the insurance. What’s my threshold if she got sick? Maybe 1K but no more than that. I love her, but those bills man. Those bills. This is why I don’t have babies.

  36. I paid $600 personally ($1200 combined with my brother) to get my cat some sort of radioactive shots because she had a thyroid problem, and it gave her about 4 more years of life. We struggled with spending that much, even, since our cat was 11 at the time, but I left it up to my brother. She also had some eye injury that required twice daily eye drops for like 8 weeks, which was really more work and commitment than the $1200 shots. So yea, I suppose I’m willing to do all that to a certain extent, but at the same time, I specifically do not want pets at the moment because of things like this. I already have a car with unexpected expenses, the last thing I need is something else I need to feed/bathe/take care of!

    I’m actually surprised no one has said anything ridiculously mean. A lot of the commenters are obviously very responsible pet owners, but unfortunately they do not represent the majority. Most people won’t spend crap on their animals, and don’t even consider them to be 10-20 year, possibly expensive commitments when they get them.

  37. I think it’s an interesting and loaded question. Although I have a savings account specifically for my pets’ vet bills, I do not have a $$ amount in mind when it comes to a “max”.

    And here’s why:
    – it depends on what’s wrong
    – it depends on how likely the treatment will be effective and what the pet will go through
    – depends on cost and probability of needed repeat treatments
    – depends on the pet’s temperament (I have 1 that goes into shock/heart issues due to stress when at the vet’s so obviously any long-term haul-you-to-the-vet’s would be out of the question)
    – it depends on the quality of life for my pet during this time (temperament, pain, stress)

    If I’m working with a vet to treat a recently rescued animal or a feral cat, the questions then become:
    – how likely is it this animal will recovery fully?
    – how much time will this animal need to spend in treatment in a foster home or medical stay @ a vet’s office ($$$!!!)?
    – if it’s feral, can the treatment happen once under sedation or just be food-based medication because they can’t be handled (I’ve hosted abscess healing, face sutures, etc. with feral cats and euthanized ones that would need long-term hands-on treatment because it’s be impossible)
    – if this animal is special-needs, how labor-intensive is that and will an adopter take that on?
    – cost

    But this stuff: “4 iPads, or two 50″ LED TVs, or 4,000 Jack in the Box tacos” is worth so much less to me than helping save a life. If my basic needs are met and I’m not compromising my financial security (I’m saving, my emergency fund is still there – though I might dip into it for something like this, my retirement is fine, etc.) I don’t think spending on things like this is really a financial red flag for me.

    And – I hate to say it but also, it’s my money. I don’t judge how many kids other people have or what other people value (cars, houses, gadgets, restaurants, etc.). It’s your money. It’s my money. I think we can all be respectful and leave it at that. It sort of pains me because a) most of the animal-people I know have huge hearts and do so much to help people as well and are constantly hearing that argument that their resources are ill-directed if they’re focusing on animals and b) helping animals really does help people, too. (See my above comment!)

  38. Hubs and I have 4 pets- none of them have prices on their heads. I can’t say what the limit would be for any of them, because it depends on so many other factors. Namely, quality of life. The most we have spent so far was around 500 to remove the rest of our dog Lucy’s claw after she ripped it in half. (That was traumatic! Blood everywhere!) On average, we spend less than 400 dollars total on vet care a year. We feed them good food, keep them healthy, and so far, have been flat out lucky. One cat has a very severe allergy to fish (seriously) that we manage with special food. The other two are (knock on wood) healthy as little miniature horses.

    Are pets like children? Yes and no. Hubs and I don’t have kids, and probably won’t get around to adopting any for a few years, so I can’t compare really. But I do know that my girls love me absolutely unconditionally, and depend on me for every single need in their lives. I can tell you that, without a doubt, Lucy would lay down her life for me or my husband. The least I can do to repay her loyalty and love is keep her safe, healthy, and comfortable for as long as possible. When the time comes to let her go, we will make that decision based on her quality of life, not the effect on our wallet.

  39. I agree with the poster above. Stuff is just stuff, and there’s no question that a pet’s life, or anyone’s life, is worth WAY more than that. I’m sure in your future you will have to pay medical bills that are multiple times more than the amount your parents paid for their dog, and you won’t bat an eye. Well, paying for medical care for family or children isn’t that much different than paying for medical care for a pet when you love them. Not to mention, putting a dog down when the only thing wrong with it is its knee is pretty cruel, especially when she’s so young!

  40. It depends so much on your financial situation, I think. Personally, I’d have a hard time saying no to anything that costs less than the most expensive item I’ve bought for myself, just on principal; how can I say my laptop is worth more to me than my cat? And how can I not be willing to hand over as much to care for this animal’s life as I am willing to pay for a week-long vacation? It would just feel wrong, and any pet I have is worth more to me than either thing.

    I mean, really, if you’d rather have a vacation than a dog, you probably wouldn’t have a dog, right?

    I do think people go overboard, though – if it’s going to jeopardize myself or my family and our financial stability, sorry. We can skip our vacations and cut back on luxuries to save a furry friend, but I’m not willing to risk anything essential- you know, like rent. Everyone’s got to draw a line. Mine’s around the 1200 mark for my cat, and would probably creep closer to 5k for a dog (dogs are more expensive, right?) – assuming decent quality of life and all that, and more importantly, assuming I had access to that without causing problems.

  41. Wow. $2000 is a lot of money. I love my dog but I probably would not have spent that kind of money as much as it pains me to say it. I don’t have a hard dollar amount in mind in terms of what my limit would be but I am certain that $2000 exceeds it.

    I guess if you have sufficient cash and you’re really attached to the pet you can spend that much on it. I am really attached to my dog but don’t have that kind of cash to drop on Vet bills, so…

  42. It was $2,500 and the real kicker is since Bella can’t do stairs yet I have been sleeping with her on the livingroom floor.
    Look at it this way, it is that much less Inheritance for you to bicker over with your bro and sis.
    Bella is always happy to see me, regardles of how much money I have or don’t have.

  43. Since your parents can afford it, why does it even matter? Some people drop 2000 dollars at a casino, others may donate to charity and some might buy a tv. Work hard your whole life and then you have the choice to save your pet or not.

    When you really love something, it is hard to put a price tag on their life. I do not have any pets, but I know I would not have the heart to look at my otherwise healthy pet and put it to sleep if I could afford to do otherwise.

  44. I understand having a limit of what you would spend…but comparing a dog’s vet bill to a plasma TV or iPad?


  45. I almost wonder if you’re not writing posts these days just to get people riled up and commenting? lol It just seems that lately your blog posts are very controversial!

  46. Honestly everyone’s limit will be different, because people relate to their pets differently, but boiling vet bills down to iPads and TVs is just silly. You can do that with anything–how many iPads could your wedding have bought? How much of a house? How many months of tacos Is too many to spend on a honeymoon? Everyone’s limit for these things will be (and should be) different, based on the intangible emotional factor, and assigning a vet limit to your hypothetical dog is a whole different ballgame from turning down a vet bill for a pet you (or Girl Ninja, or future Kid Ninjas) love.

    Also Bella is totally awesome.

  47. When I was in high school, I had to help my dad “fix” two dogs we adopted. Yes, we were that cheap…..
    Today, I am less cheap and I would probably choose amputation. Does doggie knee replacement work?

    • It’s called TPLO, it does work, not like a human knee replacement but still fixes them up so they can live and walk on all fours!

  48. I work at a 24 hour veterinary hospital that offers both specialty and emergency services. Your parents bill is pretty average in terms of what I see daily. It’s not completely unusual for me to see bills upward of ten thousand dollars.

    I used to think that kind of money on pets was insane. Now I know things that most people don’t consider. You pay for every dollar of your pets healthcare. Insurance exists, but it pays you back a portion of what you spend. So if your dog needs surgery, you pay for the surgeon, the tools, the anesthesia, in your parents case, probably the metal joint that secures the knee.

    Animal medicine has grown with human medicine. We have mris, ultrasounds, cat scans, and digital equipment. All of this helps make better diagnoses and treatment plans. It also makes healthcare more expensive.

    Your $500 would not be enough if your small dog got into dark chocolate and hours had passed. It wouldn’t fix or amputate a broken leg or take out a bad eye.

    Not every situation requires a trip to my hospital. Your regular vet is cheaper. But a lot of people do have to come in and I know that when faced with the decision of putting their dog to sleep, things are different in the.moment.

    Its not for everybody. But I do think that when you live with an animal day in and day out and then you see it sick or hurting, money isn’t the first issue anymore.

    Hope this perspective adds to the conversation. (Sorry for mistakes. Typed on my phone.)

  49. It is absolutely amazing what a pet owner will spend on their pets and to what ends the will go to keep them alive. It is amazing the love and care that gets invested in our pets. If we all decided that our fellow man and the condition of this planet was as important and valuable as our pets perhaps there would be less apathy and more action in the direction of sorting this world out.

  50. Love my dogs! Which is why they were with me during a horrible boating accident. Total vet bills for my young lab: $12,000. And now, eleven years later, she’s still my best friend and companion.

    And in the end we received restitution for the full amount. During the crisis, the insurance company indicated that they’d cover up to “replacement costs” (+/- $500) for my girl. We told the vet to do whatever was necessary, paid the bills (in advance), and when the other boat was ultimately cited for reckless boating, they were ordered to pay restitution. In court their lawyer questioned whether $12,000 was too much to pay for a dog. The judge asked me “did you pay it?” and “can you prove it?” I showed him my receipts and he ordered that all the bills be reimbursed. He also noted that he had more people in his courtroom when the “coyote killer was on trial than for any murder trial he ever had before him!

  51. I spent 8,000 bringing home 2 dogs from my tour in Afghanistan! One was a dog that followed my patrol home and the second was her puppy. The pup had papers that showed he was vaccinated before he was even born, and I had to put him down the morning after I got him – he had parvovirus. Crazy amounts of money from start to finish, but they didn’t have a chance over there. The mum was a mangy little thing that started out feral, and she ended up bringing me dead rats, dried up bit of things I can only assumed once lived, and sometimes bit of wire. I was more worried about the last! But what doesn’t mean loyalty if it isn’t a stray wanting to share a piece of rat jerky? I promised her I would take care of her and I did, even though I couldn’t help her pup much. Now she barks at random things and freaks out in the snow. She adds a lot to my life and I have a pretty good idea of what my conscience costs me! She’s worth it, and I have something positve that I brought back from that country, even when she’s losing it on the mailman from the window. You never know what your limit is until it’s tested, really.

  52. I volunteer for the local SPCA. I have two cats and a dog. Still, I told myself that spending thousands of dollars on a pet was just silly.

    The problem is, it might not happen so clearly. Our younger cat had a bad reaction to an antibiotic, and her health went up and down over the course of two weeks. It wasn’t a clear cut “Spend $3000 to save your cat” situation. And she was so young, and it was always just another few hundred dollars, and isn’t she worth a few hundred dollars?

    It worked that way with our older dog too. We are determined to not do medical procedures to her that would keep her around just for our benefit. This summer she developed a sniffle that ended up costing $1000, but only a few hundred at a time. It sneaks up on you.

  53. We probably spend an average of $300 a month on Margot! She takes her doggy meds which cost, we buy her chew toys on the regular right now because if we didn’t she’d chew up the house (she’s cutting teeth), then there is the cost of food, haircuts, mini-sicknesses. I’m fairly certain it was $700 just to get her fixed and properly tagged. She’s totally worth it though. We probably should have waited to get a dog because we are still paying off my debt and we definitely could have paid off the student loan months earlier without Margot around, but I just can’t imagine life without her. Instead of going out, we hang with the puppy, and I’m totally ok with that trade off because she’s a baby to us! 🙂

  54. My wife and I had 2 cats, Bob and Jay, which we got from her brother when we moved in together 2.5 years ago.

    Bob has had a ridiculous couple of years, with vet bills totaling around $4000 for 5 or 6 different incidents. The big one was an accidental poisoning, which ended up costing around $2500 all told. We didn’t spend as much as we could have. Taking all precautions could easily have cost us $5000 or more. We had to weigh the various care options: cost, prognosis if done/not done, risks, etc. It was hard. Really hard. But we ended up doing the best we could for him given our circumstances and the diminishing value of further spending. And fortunately today, he’s alive, happy, and pretty much the greatest cat in the world. The value of his presence in our life is hard to overstate.

    Jay on the other hand, got the cancer. We found out very late along. It was bad. Now we could have started him on chemo and god knows what else. It would have cost $10k or more. The prognosis was that, even with that much spent, and that much suffering for him, his odds of surviving with any quality of life was very low. So he got one more beautiful afternoon in the sun and we took him back to the vet. I held him as they put him to sleep. It was incredibly hard. It was also the right thing to do.

    Moral of the story:
    It’s way, way, way more complicated than either side of the argument can say. Each decision is intensely personal. Each decision is complex. But you should try to do right by your pet. It deserves everything you can reasonably afford. Probably more.

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