Sunday, December 07, 2014

How much should you spend to keep a pet alive?

C.K., a reader from Madison, Wis., writes that she loves her dog and cats, each of which has been "a source of great comfort and love" for her and her family. Now, however, her pets are growing old and she wonders how to decide when it's time to "let them die in peace or put them to sleep."

"Technically," C.K. writes, "our veterinarian can give us many medical supplies that will help them stay alive for a few more years. Unfortunately, these items also cost a great deal of money. How do we take care of our pets without wiping out our savings? Where do we draw the line without betraying (them)?"

Choosing when it's time to euthanize a pet can be harrowing. The American Humane Association provides some useful advice on deciding when a pet's quality of life has diminished enough that the time has come. The first step, according to the AHA, is to consult your pet's veterinarian, who can help assess the situation.

Writing on the website, Dr. Andy Roark, a South Carolina veterinarian, advises to make a list of the top five things your pet loves to do. If the animal "can no longer do three or more of them, quality of life has been impacted to a level where many veterinarians would recommend euthanasia."

But C.K.'s question goes beyond diminished quality of life issues. She seems to want to know what the right thing to do is when it's possible to provide medical care for an aging pet whose quality of life remains good, but the cost of keeping the pet alive presents a financial hardship for the owner(s).

When you adopt a pet, you do take on a financial commitment that includes day-to-day feeding, toys and accessories, and health care that can lead to sizeable veterinary bills. No one should be expected to be bankrupted to care for a pet, but ownership requires a clear sense of the costs involved.

There are agencies, such as the Fuzzy Pet Foundation, a Southern California nonprofit founded by Sheila Choi (a former student of mine), dedicated to rescuing pets that have been abandoned by their owners.

But C.K. doesn't want to abandon the pets she loves. The right thing for pet owners to do when facing financial hardship over veterinary bills is to seek assistance. Animal shelters and veterinary schools in some areas provide low-cost care. The Humane Society of America offers a list of national and state organizations (including those in Wisconsin) that can provide financial assistance. RedRover also has links to resources in the U.S. and Canada that provide emergency assistance to pet owners.

When an owner brings a pet into his or her family, the right thing to do is to care for the pet throughout its life, work closely with a vet to address the pet's quality of life issues, and, if necessary, seek help from agencies that exist to provide emergency support for pets and owners in need. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to 



Anonymous said...

My daughter has found the equivalent of elder care for cats. The care giver has a penchant for caring for aged cats, so they are still given love and care. She lives in Maryland, but there are likely similar care givers elsewhere.

Azalea Annie said...

When to give up a beloved cat? What an awful decision, when you are giving up your friend, your companion, your little love. My wonderful Charlie was diagnosed with renal failure a few months after a checkup by his vet. The vet said Charlie was thriving, that he could live to be 20 years of age.

Then he was given Metacam, a drug that is not approved for cats, a drug known to cause renal failure in cats. Give him up? No, NO. I gave him sub-q fluids, often with the help of one of my sons, for over 3.5 years.

When Charlie could no longer do the things he loved to do, when he no longer had a decent quality of life, I lost my baby. I miss him still.

Everyone has to make their own decision about whether to treat or end their pet's life. I chose to treat, at a great financial cost. But I gained over three years of my beloved pet's life, and he enjoyed day after day of gentle play, looking at his world, and was surrounded by love.

Should parade marchers ask permission to toss candy at kids?

On the first Sunday of June each year, there's a parade down a three-mile stretch of an avenue that cuts through several neighborhoo...