How Much is Your Pet Worth?

by Joe Plemon on September 27, 2010

Amanda's baby picture

Our beloved blue heeler is getting up in years –13 human years or 91 dog years. The workers at the Animal Shelter we rescued her from promised us that she would be very devoted to and protective of her owners. How true. Amanda is utterly devoted to Jan and me and, although her arthritic hips have slowed her greatly, I am sure she would tie into anyone who would try harming either of us.

Her hearing is about gone, she moves slowly and has more gray than she has ever had. She sleeps more than she used to and strangers ask us if our dog is old. We know her time is coming, which leads me to this question: how much would we spend on medical care for her?

The article Dog Surgery: Estimating the Costs gives the following estimated surgical costs for the procedures listed:

  • Cataract Surgery: $1,500 to $3,000
  • Hip Dysplasia Surgery: $1,000 to $2,400 and up
  • Gastroplexy: preventive $400; because of bloat is $1,200 with no complications but up to $5,000 with complications.

The EmaxHealth web site list:

  • Invertebratal disc disease treatment as nearly $3,000 and
  • Lung cancer over $2,000.

So here is the question: where do you draw the line in how much you would pay for any medical procedure for your pet?

This is not an easy question, but I think it is easier to think through now than make that decision at a time of grief when she is needing that surgery. I also realized (just this moment) that broaching the subject even when our aging dog is still relatively healthy is asking for trouble. When I asked my wife and daughter their thoughts about where one draws the line, they both hung their heads, wiped their eyes and then, as if on cue, glared at me and demanded to know why I had to ruin an otherwise perfect day by talking about such things.

So…with no input from family, I have three criteria to consider:

Amanda today

1. How will the procedure affect your financial well being?

If you need to borrow money, you might lean against having a surgery done. On the other hand, if the expense will not change your life at all, you will probably just go ahead and do it.

2. How will the procedure affect the pet?

When our all time favorite cat Thomas lost the use of his kidneys, our vet told us he could perform a surgery that might allow Thomas to live longer, but he would never be healthy again. In this case, the cost was not even a factor; we both agreed to have Thomas put to sleep because we didn’t want him to suffer.

On the other hand, many procedures can give the pet a much greater quality of life for years to come. Had that been the case with Thomas, we might have opted for the surgery, depending on criteria 1: the cost.

3. There is a difference between an animal and a person.

OK. I realize that statement may put me in bad standing with PETA, but I will plunge ahead and state that we will not make the same decisions for a pet as we will for a son or daughter. I would spend every penny I have and lots I don’t have in order to save the life of one of my children. My pets, on the other hand, are … well … pets. I may suffer as they suffer and I may weep and grieve their loss, but I will not put the rest of my family’s financial well being in jeopardy in order to save a pet.


I love my pets, especially Amanda. I don’t like thinking about dealing with her declining health and sorting out what I would do if she needed expensive surgery. I hope that dilemma doesn’t present itself, but if it does, my wife and I will make sure that our finances will not be jeopardized before we agree to high dollar surgery.

At least that is what I am thinking right now.

How about you? Where would you draw the line on how much to spend on a beloved pet? Have you ever spent more than $1,000 on a surgical procedure? Would you do it again? Would you ever consider buying pet health insurance or is it too expensive?

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