|Picture of me and Dr. Zira two years ago|
Nothing in life is free, and that certainly includes veterinary care. In the past year I have spend more then 7,000 on surgeries, not including routine care such as blood tests, for my animal companions. Insurance off sets some of the costs but there are co-pays and some of my pets are too old for coverage or have pre-existing conditions. Of course I have five dogs, but still the cost is mounting particularly as my pets age. Tomorrow, Zira is scheduled for surgery to remove a basal cell tumor, a low grade skin cancer that once it is removed should cause her no more problems. When I told some co-workers about Zira's surgery the response of many of them was to ask how old Zira was and how much the surgery was, and when they heard almost 13 (not particularly old for a small dog in my opinion), and 900 dollars (not a particularly high surgery cost either) several of them asked me why I was doing it. What depressed me was the majority of people who questioned the surgery are pet owners, reasonably well off pet owners.
The rising cost of Veterinary care has gotten coverage in the media in articles like this one from CBS news. I don't particularly like this article as I strongly disagree with their advice to feed generic food because it wont matter, I can just see a doctor at Johns Hopkins advising a person to exist on frozen dinners rather then fresh foods as it "won't make a difference." It does point out though that if a person adopts a dog or cat today after several pet free years, he or she is going to be faced with bills far higher then what they remember.
On the other side of the coin is the fact that even in the economic down turn people are spending more then ever on their pets, 41 billion dollars. Obviously many people, like me, love lavishing their pets. Why not? While some purchases may be silly why is sending your dog to camp any different then buying a fancy vacation for yourself.
I have nothing but sympathy for people who truly cant afford vet care. I can't imagine how awful it is. Obviously their need to be more programs like this one in NYC that helps owners locate lower cost care. I also don't believe in herculean measures to treat truly untreatable conditions, sometimes it is true that with people and pets we need to learn to say good-bye.
Unfortunately, many of the people I have met who lament that they can't afford vet care are clutching i-phones and designer purses as they do so. Some are planning elaborate vacations. Most of them use the phrase "just a dog" or "just a cat." I can't understand why these people became pet guardians in the first place. I've never looked at any of my animals, or my husband or any other person I love, and thought they were "just" an anything.