After the incident, Asnes and her husband, who live in Westchester
County, New York, raced to the vet to save their pet. The bill for
stitches, antibiotics and IV drips added up to almost $2,000.
But Herman didn't seem to get better. He wasn't eating, and seemed
miserable and in pain. Follow-up visits to the vet pushed the tab
over $3,000. The doctor suggested installing a shunt for providing
food and drugs, which would have added thousands to the total.
"At that point we said, 'What are we doing to this animal?' " says
Asnes. "It was just awful."
The couple eventually decided to euthanize Herman. It was the sort
of grim calculus that no pet owner wants to face.
If it came down to it, how much would you spend to save the life of
your beloved pet - $1,000? $5,000? Anything?
And should we really spend whatever it takes to prolong the lives of
our pets, just because we can?
Putting a price on a life is no easy task. After all, if your
child's life were on the line, you wouldn't think twice. You would
pay the bill, and gladly.
Our pets are family members, too, of course. They live with us, play
with us, grow old with us, get sick and die, just as we do.
"There's so little discussion of this subject, far less than you
might expect given the emotional intensity and the amount of money
being spent," says Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at
Manhattan's NYU Langone Medical Center.
According to a 2011 survey by Kroger Co., 61 percent of pet owners
said they were comfortable spending $100 to $1,000 to save their
pet. Fifteen percent said $1,000 to $3,000, while 10 percent would
spend even more than that.
'IT WAS HEARTBREAKING'
Visit any veterinary waiting room, and you'll see people grappling
with this. It's an experience that Joanna Belbey of Jersey City, New
Jersey, will never forget. Even though it was 12 years ago, it
haunts her like it was yesterday.
Belbey's cat, Sammy, required radiation for a tumor, a treatment
that cost $2,000. She didn't have the cash, and put the bill on her
credit card. Happily, Sammy lived for two more years.
But what stayed with Belbey was the emotional distress of other pet
owners in the waiting room.
"It was heartbreaking to watch," she says. "The doctor would come
out, and be very clear about costs, and people would be
"Some people just couldn't afford it, so then they were faced with a
choice: They have this beloved pet, and they had to make this
terrible financial decision."
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Rising pet-care costs have only made these decisions harder. Annual
spending on vet care is projected at $15.25 billion for 2014,
according to the American Pet Products Association. That's up from
$14.37 billion in 2013.
The typical pet owner spends $611 per year on healthcare costs like
vet visits and prescription meds, according to a 2013 survey by pet
pharmacy PetCareRx.com. For those whose pets have chronic conditions
like arthritis, diabetes or kidney disease, spending jumps to $935 a
year - 53 percent more than the average.
With a life-threatening illness such as cancer, treatment costs can
easily reach five figures.
At that point, harsh decisions must be made. After all, however much
you love your pet, you don't want to damage your financial future
"If you're spending $50,000 or more, and little Johnny can't go to
college anymore because Felix the cat must live, things have gotten
out of sync," says Caplan.
That's where pet insurance can come in handy. Americans spent $536
million on pet insurance premiums in 2013, according to the market
research firm Packaged Facts, up 16 percent from 2012. Policies
vary, but many reimburse 80 percent of medical expenses.
In the end, the issue is less about money than it is about doing
what's right for your pet.
"It's so important to think about the animal, and not yourself,"
says Asnes. "Are you doing it for the animal - or are doing it for
(Follow us @ReutersMoney or at http://www.reuters.com/finance/personal-finance
Editing by Lauren Young and Douglas Royalty)
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