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Posts tagged with: vet bills

A dog’s worth

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Rocky was our first baby. Years before we ever had human children, he was our “child.” Yes, we were those people. The kind who refer to their pets as children. We treated him as well as you’d treat a human child, too. He had it made. Dog parks, long jogs, lots of love and affection. He moved with us cross-country two separate times. He’s been with us through thick and thin. Richer and poorer. All that stuff.

Having kids changed all that, to some extent.

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He still remained our “child”, but now we referred to him as our “first born.” He was no longer the baby, having been displaced by two human babies. The trips to the dog park became less frequent. The jogs became shorter. And, in general, he realized he’d been replaced on the food chain. Our two new human babies came before him. He accepted his new position in the family like a champ. Never acting out or misbehaving. In fact, he rather liked having these two tiny humans running around. Although they were loud and he didn’t like having his sleep disrupted at night (omg, they didn’t reliably sleep through the night until they were nearly 3!!!), he LOVED all the table scraps he suddenly started gaining access to as the girls would drop things from their high chair trays (or purposely throw down food, on occasion).

Rocky turned 11 this year.

As a large dog, I know his days are numbered as it is. He’s starting to slow down, show signs of arthritis, etc.

We took him to the vet yesterday for his routine check-up. He needed updated vaccinations and I wanted to ask about the arthritis issue (I’d noticed he no longer jumps onto our bed anymore. This was a big deal to me as he’s slept with us for all 11 years of his life. Yes, I know that’s not necessarily healthy and all. Like I said, he’s our baby).

But that’s not how things went.

During the vet’s examination, there were some troubling things about Rocky. His ears looked yellow. His gums, too, looked yellow. I’d never noticed before.

The vet drew labs. $275 later we were headed home. We’d get a call the next day with some news.

We waited and waited and called the vet probably 20 times (“no, labs aren’t back yet.”). We finally heard back at 6:30pm this evening, after the office had already closed for the day. Rocky’s white blood count is perfectly normal (which is good), but his liver enzymes are off the chart. The vet referred us to an emergency vet clinic. She wants us to make an appointment ASAP for an abdominal ultrasound (estimated about $400, on top of the $100 office visit charge). If it’s not telling, we may be advised to have a biopsy done (estimated at $1000+).

I’m at a total loss.

After the expensive vet visit yesterday, I was thankful we already had some funds set aside for “pet expenses.” We had about $350 in the account, so husband and I joked that we still had about $75 leftover after paying for the vet. “The problem better be $75 or less. More than that, and he’s screwed.” Chuckle, chuckle.

But now this.

I’m a realist. I always have been. So I’m trying to detach myself from the emotions involved (he’s my baby) and think practically. Logically.

He’s 11 years old. He’s a large dog. He’s not going to live many more years anyway. Do we really want to spend up to $1,000+ just on diagnostics?? Then what if we find out he needs surgery? Are we going to shell out the many multiple thousands for that? And he’s so old, recovery would be hard anyway. No guarantee he’d even survive surgery. I don’t think we’d go that route.

But where do we draw the line? What’s the worth of this animal? This member of our family? Our “first born child”?

 

I’m grateful we’ve been building up an emergency fund. But does this qualify as an “emergency”? What would you do? How much would you be willing to spend on your dog to find out what’s wrong? How much would you be willing to spend on your dog to fix the problem (once an official diagnosis is reached)? What’s the most humane option? What’s the best option?

I’m leaning toward opting for an ultrasound so we at least know what we’re dealing with (at an estimated cost of approximately $500 including the office visit charge). If the ultrasound doesn’t give us any indication of the problem….then what? Proceed with biopsy? Decline biopsy and call it a day? Watch him suffer in pain until the end? End it early?

My heart breaks. Obviously I knew he was getting old. I knew this day would come eventually. But still. My heart breaks.

See another Rocky-centric post here.


Responsible Pet Ownership

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Let me tell you a little story about our dog, Rocky.

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Rocky is an incredible dog. Well-behaved, intelligent, and loyal. One of the best.

But when he was a puppy he was T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E.

 

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I distinctly remember at least 2 separate instances when I was this.close to taking him back to the pound (he was a rescue dog).

He got into everything! He had an insane amount of energy and regardless of how many walks, trips to the dog park, and hours spent playing fetch, he could never get it all out. He’d come inside and just destroy everything!

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As a puppy he did all of the following things: (1) ate a hole through a wood door large enough to walk through, (2) ate an entire leather cushion from a couch, (3) ate through chicken wire, (3) ate a friend’s hat, sunglasses, and shoes as the friend was sleeping on our couch.

This just scratches the surface. He was destructive. And he ate everything.

So one day we’re at home and Rocky starts freaking out. He starts running in circles around our living room at lightening-speed. Then he stops, starts staggering side-to-side like he’s drunk and about to fall down, then he goes right back to running (repeating the run-stagger cycle over and over).

Hubs (boyfriend at the time – this was 10 years ago) and I watched in shock of what was going on. Even for our high-energy Rocky boy, this was crazy behavior. Something was wrong.

At one of the staggering intervals, husband grabbed Rocky and scooped him up in his arms. We ran to the car and drove as fast as we could to the vet clinic just up the road. This was not our usual vet, but we had just moved and this was the closest vet to our new place. We knew we needed help fast.

Once there the vet got to work right away. She pumped his stomach, but didn’t find anything too unusual (I say “too unusual” because she did find some t-shirt material and padding from our patio furniture – true story – but those items would not have caused his behavior). The vet, obviously an animal lover, was not kind to us. She basically accused us of having drugs lying around that he surely must have ingested. Absolutely not! We were not drug-doing type of people!

An overnight stay and several hundred dollars later, we were able to bring Rocky home. Never figured out what was wrong, but he ended up being okay.

Fast forward 2 weeks. We realized what Rocky must have gotten into.

I was in college at the time and it was finals week. I’d been having a lot of anxiety and my relative-to-remain-nameless (since I’m describing a felony and all) gave me a couple of Xanax pills. Obviously not prescribed to me. But my relative thought it would help me relax enough to do well on my exams (I had bad test anxiety at the time). I never did end up taking the pills. They were wadded up in a paper napkin and had been thrown on a kitchen counter. Eventually I forgot about them all together. Then the napkin disappeared (aka: Rocky got ahold of it), and I never even thought twice about it. It is not a usual thing for us to have drugs (prescription or illegal) lying around so it never even crossed my mind.

Apparently the vet was right. *cringe*

I tell this story to say that, since this time, being a responsible pet owner has been of the utmost importance to me. I’d thought we were responsible pet owners at that time, too, but obviously we hadn’t shielded our eat-everything puppy from the dangers of some prescription pills that were lying casually on the kitchen counter.

And above the ramifications for the pets, themselves, responsible pet ownership pays off financially. Being responsible in this situation (i.e., putting the pills away in a safe place) would have prevented the hundreds of dollars we spent on emergency vet bills that day, not to mention the stress and heartache of thinking we were losing our beloved dog.

Pets can be expensive! But if you’re going to be a pet owner, being a responsible one is important.

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Have you had any scary pet crises? How much did the ordeal cost you?

Have you owned a rambunctious pet before? Our dog is THE BEST now, but those first 2 years of his life were pretty rough! ; )


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