How far should we go to save our pets?

My dog, the official dog of News Cut, has a wart on his nose.

“Why don’t you get that wart taken off?” people ask when they meet Wart Dog for the first time.

“Because he’s a dog,” I reply. “He doesn’t know he has a wart on his nose. Plus the vet wants $400 to do it.”

There’s the widening debate in a nutshell, as the medical technology that has expanded the life of humans is now available for pets. And so is the price of it.

In the Boston Globe on Sunday, Vicki Constantine Croke asked the pertinent question: How far should we go to save our pets.

This is a country in which 93 percent of we owners describe our pets as members of the family, where 70 percent of us sleep with our dogs and 78 percent with our cats, in which nearly three-quarters of married pet owners report greeting their pet before their spouse when they return home. It is a culture in which, according to one New York study, women report feeling “significantly” more intimacy with the closest pet than the closest person in their lives.

What? Seventy percent of us sleep with our dogs. What?

We Americans spend $20 billion a year on healthcare for our pets – $1.12 billion of that is spent on vet care here in New England, according to a recent study from the Cummings School. And for most pets, that care comes out of an owner’s pocket. A surprisingly small number of owners in the United States carry pet insurance – only 3 percent as of 2004. It made me wonder what we pet owners should dread the most. What’s the most expensive thing to deal with?

Constantine Croke describes one dog owner who spent $20,000 (how much is that in dog dollars?) to help the dog battle bone cancer. She, herself, has spent $10,000 on her own pet.

Money is one thing. But, like the human version, there’s the question of the quality of a pet’s life, too.

Constantine Croke, of course, never answers the question she asks.

How would you?

  • Just heartworm pills, shots, and periodic check-ups cost over $400 a year for Brave Sir Hogarth, my $58 (Humane Society fee) dog.

    I originally thought that $.70/pound was a pretty good price, but that was only the out-the-door cost. Fortunately, he’s very healthy and the only non-routine thing we’ve had to address through the vet was a periodic ear infection, which we finally tracked down to water being trapped in his ears when I periodically hosed him down with a garden hose. Now we just live with the smell or use some of the spray-on wash.

    All of that said, I hope I’m never in a position to have to decide between losing him or spending thousands on vet bills. You read my blog – you know how close we are. Both of my previous dogs fell ill with obviously terminal conditions, so I’ve never been tested on the question of how far I’d go financially. I’m afraid that it would be pretty far.

    Oh, I don’t sleep with him, but my daughter used to. He adopted somewhat of an entitlement mentality, though, and started taking too much room, and of course she too was getting bigger. We’d awake to a 3:00 am THUNK as she kicked him off the bed. Now he racks on some plush pillows I bought at the Goodwill store.

  • Joel

    Of course each person will impose their own limits, as they should. I love my cats dearly, but I don’t think I could spend more than $1,000 (if even that much) on a single treatment for them. But then again, you never really know for sure where your limits are until you’re placed in that position.

    And I agree with you Bob, who cares if your pet has a wart!

  • I’ve got a chubby kitty with a tooth the vet says should be pulled. The last vet said the same thing three years ago, and that it would cost over $200. She’s still fat, so obviously the tooth isn’t bothering her too much. I made an appointment but canceled it. My cat doesn’t seem to mind, why should I?

    How strange that people ask you why you don’t have the wart removed. I wouldn’t even think of that as an option.

  • mikeA

    Stacia, grab a bottle of NyQuil and a needle nose pliers. I’ll do it for $20 if you can’t stomach the thought.

    That may sound inhumane, but isn’t that how they pulled human teeth 70 years ago? (sub whiskey for NyQuil)

    My grandfather was mentioning to my six year old niece that back in his day, kids didn’t sit at the grown up table during dinner. “What’s next” he says “dogs at the dining room table?”

  • Lily

    Ah, but he would look so much more handsome without that ugly wart. Isn’t that worth $400?

  • Mrs. Newscut

    First of all… It isn’t a wart, it is a benign cyst.

    Secondly, it is a mark of character. How many black mixed breed dogs who look mostly like black labs, have a benign cyst on their nose. Haven’t met one.. and that way if this darling rescued mutt runs and he is impounded, what better way to identify him.

    Third.. It was estimated (keep in mind estimated) that the removal of said cyst would cost over $500. and quite honestly if anyone in this house is going to have $500 put towards cosmetic surgery…

    It won’t be my dog!!! or Mr. Newscut’s dog either.

    Love him with the cyst, don’t see any reason to invest in having it removed.