Friday, May 23, 2008

How much is too much when caring for sick and injured pets?

Bible Money Matters asks the question. In our house there is no limit. And I am not kidding. When we first got Kodiak he was a tiny little bundle of fluff - as cute as can be. We fell in love with him so fast our heads spun.

One day around the age of 9 months he was outside playing. All of a sudden we heard a high pitched yelp and Kodiak ran into the living room hopping on three legs with his 4th held up. He would not put any weight on it and did not want us to touch it.

Turns out he’d torn a ligament. We started at our local vet, where we spent several hundred on X-Rays and anesthesia (to take the x-rays) and pain medication. Not to mention the leg wrap and supplies to keep him bound up.

Next we met with the surgeon who lived 50 miles away. The surgery would cost over $4,000. We were only dating at the time but were planning to get married eventually. He rented a small duplex and I had an apartment. I also was going to school full time while working full time. Money was tight. My mom joked that it would be cheaper to amputate his leg but hubby would have none of that.

We charged it. And didn’t think twice. It cost more than $5,000 when all was said and done.

Nearly 4 years later when Kodiak was around 5 years old we noticed that he was limping again and fairly severely in the same leg. So we head back to our local vet who again shaved his leg and took more x-rays.

Yup, you guessed it. He’d injured himself again. It wasn’t the same injury - it was a new one. He’d torn his meniscus.

Off to another surgeon. This time the price tag was slightly less expensive. Only $1,700 and we could apply for assistance to pay it off interest free over 12 months with Care Credit (a program I highly recommend - it is for people and pets). Since we had him insured after his first injury, insurance covered a portion of the surgery (it was the same leg but a totally different injury so it was covered). But we still had to pay over $1,000 out of pocket.

Kodiak Recovering

The recovery was much more painful this time and I sobbed his first night home. I slept on the couch so he could have extra room in the living room. He had to be corralled to keep the other dogs off of him. I got no sleep that night.

Kodiak Recovering

Less than one year later I noticed him limping again…this time on his other leg. Hubby didn’t believe me and said it was just his original limp (which is constant now). Sure enough, back to the vet - another torn meniscus - and another surgery.

Thankfully the surgeon gave us a reduced rate…sort of the buy one get one half off deal. Not that we cared. If he hadn’t we’d still have paid for the surgery. Even if we needed to use the credit card again.

Kodiak is our “first born” and there’s no way that I could NOT get him treatment. I realize that there are people with money issues who would never be able to provide this level of care. Though there are a programs like Care Credit out there to help finance emergency procedures for animals (and people).

When an animal is part of the family what do you do with a horrible and expensive injury? Do you go for the lowest price even though it may mean not fixing the problem entirely? If it is not a life threatening injury do you get it fixed?

I don’t know what I would do if any of my dogs were so badly injured or sick that the vet could not guarantee recovery. Would we be able to put any of them down? Even the thought of this makes me sick to my stomach and brings tears to my eyes.

Kodiak is now 7 years old and has had three surgeries on his back legs. We know he will (already does) have severe arthritis as he grows older and we are working to do everything we can to make him comfortable, healthy, and happy. And we don’t regret a dime we’ve spent on his injuries.

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