The Cost of Veterinary Care for Animals

The Country Vet column talks about the high cost of veterinary care for animals, including feline leukemia virus; spaying rabbits; preventing ear mites; keeping cattle fever free; and preventing pulled tendons in horses.

| February/March 1997

Information about the high cost of veterinary care for animals and how to make the right choices when caring for a sick animal. 

The cost of veterinary care for animals: What happens when you can't afford the best treatment? 

For many animal lovers and owners who face decisions about the health and care of their pet, the most difficult problem can be a matter of balance between what we feel in our hearts is right for our animal friends and what can be achieved both practically and, unfortunately, economically. For example, if a dog is diagnosed with a tumor or a horse with laminitis, both potentially fatal problems, veterinarians often suggest treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, or other drugs that will definitely treat the problem and may provide months or even additional years of life for the animal. However, if the owner has a somewhat modest or, worse yet, restricted income, the thousands of dollars involved in these treatments might not be available to treat the pet in such an optimum way.

When it comes to the high cost of veterinary care for animals, we all know what we would ideally like to do. However, for many folks, this best-treatment plan simply may not be an option. Should owners sell their car, move into a cheaper apartment, or forfeit the house so that their pet can live six months longer? I wish these were simple hypothetical dilemmas for many companion animal owners, but, alas, they are not. Where is the balance between a desire to do what's right for our pets and what's feasible for us?

As a general practitioner, I have become well acquainted with these gray areas and the complexities which simple lack of health insurance for pets brings. While we may not always be able to opt for the best treatment or care, we can try to be as informed and compassionate as possible, to alleviate the most pain and suffering we can, and to keep in mind that basic care for our companion animals should be no different than care for any member of our family. There should not be despair in being unable to afford the optimum treatments for our pets' problems. Indeed, many solutions to medical and surgical problems often begin and remain simple, in those gray zones, far from optimum. What matters is that we do care about the well-being of the pets that share our lives; and we can bring wisdom and solutions to almost any of their problems, if we are smart enough to look for answers. Keep those questions coming!

Our six-year-old cat was suffering from a tumor caused by feline leukemia virus and was euthanized in December. We can't replace her, but I would like to get another cat sometime if I weren't so afraid it would get the same thing. How soon is it safe to be thinking of this?  

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