There are literally hundreds of articles online about what it will cost to own a pet. Some articles even break the figure down into what each year will cost as they grow from puppy, to adult, and eventually to a senior citizen. These articles are excellent in providing a rough idea of what owning a dog will cost. However, what they fail to address is a range of expenses should your new pup suffer from any medical condition or temperament issues that require anything above and beyond the mere basics of responsible pet ownership.
The Real Expense of Owning a Dog
The first year is normally one of the most expensive years of a dog’s life. There is the initial purchase or adoption price of the pet that can range from free to sometimes thousands of dollars for a rare, purebred breed from proven working or show lines. Add vaccines, spay/neuter, flea and heartworm control, training, leash, collar, food, toys, bed, crate, and a list as long as a Afghan’s tail of puppy paraphernalia and you have a sizeable chunk of change within a few months of that pup walking through the door on that first day.
But what if your pup is not has happy or healthy as you initially budgeted for when you made the decision that it was time to add a new member to the family? What if there are medical conditions that arise or an emergency that your pocket book did not expect? What if your pup has temperament issues that require one-on-one training? What if your pup decides when he is alone in the home, he is going to howl and bark incessantly and the only way to effectively combat the problem until he is older is to enroll him in doggy daycare while you are at work?
On the opposite end of your pet’s life, the senior years are generally more expensive as well. Veterinary care adds up fast and can often be a shock to the pocket book if you have not budgeted for even a minor health crisis.
When is Enough, Enough?
Our pets become an important part of our families and when they become ill or are diagnosed with an expensive long-term condition, it can put a strain on the family finances.
Mary brought little Dagwood, a Bichon Frise, home as a little white ball of fluff and he quickly became her constant companion. As a senior on a fixed income, the pup was an expense that was within her budget, even if there were a few hiccups as he matured. Then the scratching started. Before long, he was at himself to the point of bleeding and the vet visits started to pile up. After running hundreds of dollars worth of lab work and allergy testing, Dagwood is diagnosed with severe allergies to almost everything in his surroundings, including himself.
In the years since, Mary has spent thousands of dollars on managing and treating the condition money she cannot afford. She now works at her local grocery store stocking shelves to make ends meet and her retirement savings is dwindling. However, there is always the chance that the next test or a new treatment schedule will be ‘the one‘ and Dagwood will be miraculously cured.
The carrot always dangles and after spending so much money as well as emotional currency, how can she give up now?
There is No Line in the Sand
At what point is too much? It depends on the individual situation and the quality of life of the pet.
There are many people who can afford to have a sickly pet without it destroying their own life. There is also pet insurance that, if purchased early in a pet’s life, can more then pay for itself should a medical condition or accident develop. Even emergency pet insurance can cover the unforeseen incidents that happen in an instant, yet take years to recover fully.
Many people, however, cannot afford a sickly pet and either do without themselves or, like Mary, take on a job or second job to help make ends meet. In the case of an otherwise happy, healthy, pain free pet, the choice is up to them on whether they continue to pay for the constant medical bills.
In many cases, however, the pet may not have an adequate quality of life and suffer from pain, constant discomfort from a variety of medical conditions, nervous or emotional issues, or trouble with mobility and getting around. Measuring and accurately judging your pet’s quality of life is a difficult and something that many of us ‘put off’ for far too long.
No one can tell you when its time to say ‘enough‘. It is a judgment call that comes from within and a much-dreaded time in your life. However, as veterinary medicine continues to evolve, there is a saying in the veterinary community that is gaining more and more credence just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.’
When choosing your new puppy, make sure you prepare for the unexpected and do your due diligence. Look into pet insurance or put money aside each month just in case. And if your life is being adversely affected to the point where your health and well-being is severely compromised, consider your options and ask yourself who is benefiting from the continued discomfort and expense. It’s a hard conversation to have with yourself but one that your pet may appreciate in the end.