When the dollars go to the dog

Before my husband, Craig, and I got a puppy six years ago, we had the conversation: How much would we be willing to spend to save the dog’s life?

We’d watched as Craig’s mom and her husband shelled out quite a bit on chemotherapy for their dog Lady. (They then started calling her Laptop, because that’s how the money was going to be spent.) Lady/Laptop, an older, large-breed dog, died about a year later.

I thought $1,000 was a fair figure. Craig was less generous, throwing out $500. We both agreed there was a financial limit. (And whether it’s right or wrong, we both agreed the limit was higher for our new cockapoo, Willow, than for our older, adopted cat.)

Fast-forward to last year, when a routine vet visit showed an unexpected problem in our puppy: Bladder stones. The solution? Surgery, at a price tag of about $1,400.

This tested our limit commitment. I couldn’t in good conscience put down a dog because she had crystals in her bladder. She was (and still is) a young dog for her breed, otherwise in good health. It wasn’t a life-threatening condition, but one that would cause Willow pain, and would inconvenience us with her urinary incontinence.

I decided to call around to a few different veterinary clinics to get quotes. (You do this when getting your car fixed, why not your animal?) Thankfully, another clinic in town could do the surgery for around $800, keeping our self-imposed limit in tact.

Now, fast-forward a little further to today. We’ve spent hundreds upon hundreds more on that mutt, for special foods, antibiotics, ultrasounds, urinalyses, etc. The stones just keep coming back. We’re planning another operation, frustrated to see our budget blown by the family beast but not willing to give her up, or give up on her.

It’s puppy love, I guess. What can you do?

Our Willow

Money Savin’ Mama has some ideas that may help you save money on your pets, even if our dollars keep getting thrown to the dog.

1) Before you get an animal, consider the true cost. It’s not just the adoption fee or the amount you pay the breeder. Factor in yearly food, grooming and vet bills. Some breeds are more prone to specific health problems. Could you afford a special needs pet? Check out the slideshow that accompanies this Kiplinger article on the cost of pets.

2) Set aside doggie dollars every month. Figure out how much you expect to spent on the pet per year, divide by 12, and deposit that much every month into a savings account. We’ve been earmarking money for the pets, which has kept us from going into debt on their account.

3) Research pet insurance. You might decide it’s a worthwhile expense for your family. MSN Money financial writer Liz Weston tackled the issue in this column.

4) Call around. Like I found, some veterinary clinics are more affordable than others. When facing this latest surgery, I asked our vet if it was possible to have veterinary students perform the surgery for a discount. She said that is a possibility in larger cities, like Minneapolis or Denver. Fargo-Moorhead has a low-cost spay/neuter organization, PAAWS.

5) Know your options. We’ll be declining the optional blood work and laser procedure with Willow’s upcoming surgery. Ask if an expense is necessary. If it’s optional, weigh the cost versus the benefit.

2 thoughts on “When the dollars go to the dog

  1. Dogs are your comfort, security, family, unconditional lovers, and, really, more a part of your family and home than you think. Think of having them not in your life, and try to put a price tag on that. If an otherwise healthy dog has an ailment, fix it. The decision is a hard one on a life-threatening problem, but look in the dog’s eyes – he will tell you if it’s his time to go. Money can buy a lot of things, but can not buy the companionship of a dog.

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