Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Canine Health and Empty Wallets

Sadie spent several hours at the vet's today, having medical tests to try to figure out what ails her. In the past few months, she has had a series of problems - sudden deafness, occasional nasal discharge, sunken eye, urinary tract infection, collapse on a walk, extreme lethargy, and lack of interest in her social or physical world.

Except FOOD - I'm still interested in FOOD!

Some of these issues might be related - the change in behaviour may be explained by her loss of hearing, for example. The hearing may be related to the eye and nose problems, though no infection, foreign object or growth is visible in those areas.

But when a series of unexplained problems arise in such a short period of time, it is important to look outside the box for other explanations. Our Sadie is simply not herself.

A blood test late last week showed some possible liver problems, as did her urine test. While her heart sounds fine (except for a bit of sinus arrythmia, which she has had ever since she came to me), it is quite soft and her respirations muffled. (The vet did make me laugh when he accused Sadie of purposely holding her breath while he tried to listen to her chest - funny man!)

Yesterday we repeated the urine test and found her UTI from two weeks ago is back. Today she went in for bile acid tests (blood tests done after fasting, and then again two hours after eating a somewhat high fat meal, to test for liver function), and for chest/abdomen xrays to determine what might be going on to cause the collapse and the lethargy - possibly fluid around the heart, called pericardial effusion. We should have the results in a couple of days.

So why am I writing all this?

I am often frustrated when  people complain to me, as one did today, about the cost of adopting a rescue dog (which, by the way, is a bargain compared to the prices asked by breeders, brokers, and owners selling their dogs online. And that rescue dog, if from a reputable rescue, will already be spayed/neutered, dewormed, vaccinated, and often has had medical problems like dental issues or ear infections taken care of. The fee they ask doesn't BEGIN to cover those costs! )

While I don't wish to suggest that having a companion pet should only be an option for the well-to-do, the reality is this: If you can't afford to pay the price that most responsible rescues and shelters ask, you can't afford a dog. Just as it is irresponsible to add a human child to the family without thinking of the financial implications, so too a canine addition.

A good quality food (not a dogfood from the grocery store shelf, but something which contains real nutrition for a healthy canine), occasional purchases of grooming supplies or visits to the groomer, leashes and collars, licences, supplements when needed, treats, toys, beds, etc. - these basic necessities represent a significant addition to a family's budget.

These costs are small potatoes compared to the cost of veterinary care. Professional health care is part of what we take on when we take on a dog, and I know of no province in Canada whose health care plan covers canine dependents. Of course there are pet insurance plans available, provided your dog qualifies; then you must add those monthly payments to the budget as well. And many people are willing to take their chances, thinking the sum of the monthly payments for the lifetime of the dog would far outweigh vet costs - which, in many cases, is correct. After all, the companies wouldn't be in business if they weren't making money!

But when a dog does need vet care, a need which often increases as the dog ages, the budget can really take a hit. I think people are often shocked at what a few tests or a vial of pills for their canine companion cost, and even more shocked if their furry friend must stay overnight or needs surgery. Caleb's bills, when he was diagnosed with cancer, ran into the thousands in just two short months (without putting him through chemotherapy). Princess Belle's two night stay, hooked up to an IV just before she came home to die, was over $800.

Sadie's vet bills for the last ten days? $645.74 and climbing.

True value of that health care? Priceless.

Ya better believe it!
(Photo by Red Dog Photography, 2008)


Pauley, the Mr. or the Mrs. said...

Hoping that you find the reason Sadie is having problems. Hands down, we spend more on vet care for our animals each year than we do on medical bills for ourselves, but we would not want it any other way :)

Jen said...

It IS priceless isn't it?!? I've paid countless dollars into chiro app'ts to help Spike recover from his flyball injury. Was it worth it? EVERY. PENNY. Especially knowing I helped cause the injury. I've put countless dollars into helping Sophie remain comfortable. Once again, worth every penny. I have non dog friends who think I am crazy but I think its part of the package when one takes in critters. I had no idea Sophie would end up with hip problems. I also didn't know Spike would turn out to be as athletic and able as he is (which is part of why he ended up injured- he could play flyball so we did!). Thank goodness Murph hasn't cost a ton yet, but she's 16 months old and a Jack. She's bound to do something to herself yet.

Anyway, when I foster, I remind people that dogs DO cost money. Quality food is important. Good vet care is essential. And, paying for our time/energy/$ we sink into the animal to make sure it's healthy/spayed or neutered, had all its shots, dewormed etc is not unreasonable! Some dogs in rescue cost us thousands but we do it because we love the animals and believe in what we are doing. If people complain to me, then I tell them go find a critter somewhere else.

Sorry Jean, you struck a nerve with me today. (Spike and Moose were both at the vet yesterday for shots :) ). Anyway, you are right- vet care is expensive and worth every single penny! Here's hoping you can find a way to maintain Sadie's quality of life for quite some time to come!!!

Jen and the Black Dog Crew

georgia little pea said...

one of our vets once called Rufus B Thumper the most expensive dog in Balmain. the 2 leg operations, before and aftercare [way back in 2003] came to more than 13,000 dollars. lord knows how much his daily meds and frequent vet visits came to in the end. as you so rightly pointed out, after the initial shock, we realised it was something that had to be taken care of because we signed up for it when we got him.

i so agree with you on the children bit too. i get so annoyed with people who have children who can't afford really to have them then whinge about the lack of state assistance.

that's it for today, from The Grumpy Old Fart.

hope Sadie feels better soon, and you too xox