If you’ve been a Pet Blog reader for some time now, you know that I treat all of my pets as if they were two-legged family members. They get home cooked meals, birthday parties, and great veterinary care. Each one of them has worked their way deep into my heart, and life without any one of them just wouldn’t be the same. A medical issue has come to a head recently and left me with some very serious topics to consider: How much is too much to spend to extend a loved one’s life, and what is the true cost emotionally, financially and through the suffering of your beloved pets?
Recently, we discovered a lump on Barret’s underarm after a minor paw injury. At the first appointment, the vet concluded it was nothing to worry about and wanted to take the ‘wait and see’ approach. Now, just a few months later, the lump has more than doubled in size and taken on a different consistency. This weekend the vet recommended removing the tumor before it has a chance to grow any larger.
I’ve scheduled the surgery for later this month, but it gives me some time to pause and think about the ‘what ifs’. I didn’t think twice about a $4000 emergency vet bill to save my 6 month old Gatsby’s life after ingesting 11 sewing pins. I will never ever regret saving him. Financially (especially at the time) it was a bit of a rough time, but he has grown to become the most loyal, cuddly, best friend anyone could ever ask for, and I am looking forward to spending many more years with him.
Barret, or my ‘first born’ as I like to call him, is the first dog that I adopted as an adult. I learned a lot about raising a puppy through Barret. I have a very special bond with each of my dogs, but my bond with him is the strongest, which makes even entertaining the idea of him being diagnosed with cancer even tougher. So before I even schedule the surgery, I have to make my first tough decision:
Should I get the tumor biopsied?
The financial cost of the biopsy isn’t the burden here. The cost is emotional: What would I do with the results if they were positive? Could I put my Barret through chemotherapy? He doesn’t get a choice in the matter; I have to decide for him. He’s such a young dog and should have years of fetching his beloved red ball ahead of him.
Maybe the real question is: do I even want to know the results? I could turn down the biopsy and take the wait and see approach, watching and waiting for more tumors to show up. Will the constant worry and anxiety be easier to endure? Maybe the results will be negative, in which case the financial cost of the test will have been well worth knowing that all is well. If the results are positive for cancer, knowing definitively will help me make the most informed decisions down the road.
Can you put a price on a few extra years of life?
I’m not always a “glass is half-empty” kind of girl, in fact I strive to be the opposite, but is it in my nature to have contingency plans for the worst case scenario. I read a timely and interesting article in the New York Times, entitled “How to Set a Price on the Life of a Beloved Pet?”. The article gave me a lot to think about.
When we enter into a relationship with a new pet, we know on some level that we will most likely outlive them. Having to feel the heartache of losing a pet is one of the saddest parts about sharing your life with pets. What is the real cost in using all of your available resources to extend the life of your pet a few months or years? When you consider the age and overall health of the pet that is ill, the decision may become more clear. I’m faced with a healthy, energetic 4 year old dog with lots of life left to live, particularly with a good prognosis and a successful treatment.
Most of us know someone who has endured chemotherapy or radiation treatments. But unlike a human patient, your pet won’t understand what is going on, that the medicine that makes them so ill and so weak is possibly saving their life. Imagine what you will feel watching them endure the treatments, facing the possibility they won’t be successful, and knowing that what could be his last months would be spent with endless vet appointments and illness. Is it fair to ask them to live in pain to ease our suffering and loss? Perhaps the money spent on veterinary care would be better invested in research so that even more lives might be saved later on?
It is hard to look at such an emotional situation with logic. The emotional side of us says “I want more time with them, and I’ll do whatever it takes” without taking the time to consider the physical and emotional costs, beyond the financial ones.
I can’t put a price tag on how much I would spend to save my pets. There are far too many variables to consider. I can only hope that if and when the times comes, I will be able to look at the situation without prejudice, with responsibility and do what is in the best interest of my entire family knowing that I did my best to be a loving, caring, nurturing pet parent.
So What will I do?
The emotional side of my brain says “You don’t want to know! Close your eyes and it will all go away,” while the logical side says “Get it done, so that you can be as informed as possible for later on in life.” I think I am going to follow my heart on this one…have the biopsy, pray that it will be negative and hope all this worry will have been for nothing. Either way, I will spend the rest of our years together loving him as much as humanly possible.
Wish Barret good luck with his surgery and share your stories with me in the comments. I look forward to reading your opinions and advice.
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