Because of Romeo's bladder issues, we've spent a nice chunk of money at the vet's office this week. (Incidentally, he is all better now. Three more days of the antibiotics, and we can put this behind us.)
Which made me start thinking about vet costs. I would of course rather NOT have to spend lots of money at the vet's office, but that first day that we brought home pets, I knew that we were going to sometimes have to do it, and that it was for the health of our animals, and that it was just going to be part of life. It's part of the price-tag for having our furry companions and it's one that I'm willing to pay.
However, I've had several discussions with others, and we've all seen articles discussing the cost of vet care, enough to know that not everyone views these expenses in the same way. I don't believe that most people think it's excessive to take your cat or dog or rabbit or whatever to the vet for vaccinations, and for the occasional sick visit (like Romeo's bladder infection, for example.) It sounds to me like the disagreements come in when the expenses go higher - you have an animal that has cancer, a heart condition, diabetes, etc.
I'm in a position to know. I have mentioned several times on this blog that I have a cat with congestive heart failure. We manage it with daily medicine, though in theory it has drastically shortened her life. To GET to this point, we had to spend thousands of dollars at the vet. Oh, it didn't all get presented to us at once, or I may have passed out cold on the floor, but it is expensive to diagnose something like this. (Ironically enough, treatment is far less expensive than diagnosis was, though I am NOT complaining!)
First, there was a trip to the emergency vet in the middle of the night, with a cat who was undoubtedly dying - she was gasping for air and not able to get enough oxygen. If we'd not taken her in that night, she would have died before morning, I'm sure of it. Then there was a three night hospital stay for her, in which she was on oxygen, and getting numerous tests done. There were x-rays. There were echo cardiograms. There was a lung wash procedure. (At this time, they were leaning towards heart trouble, but hadn't completely ruled out pneumonia either, because she had that as a secondary issue.) After she finally got to come home, there were prescription drugs, and follow-up visits, and a trip to an animal cardiologist up in Akron, Ohio.
I have had several people imply, or outright tell me, that I was foolish to spend that much money on a cat. Especially one who was "just a shelter cat." (As if it would be any different to spend the money on a purebreed?) I've seen news articles that question how much is too much, and when it is responsible to make the decision for "economic euthanasia." I've seen the comments made by readers to these articles (someday I'm going to learn not to read the comments. It never takes me to a happy place.) Many, many people feel that it is irresponsible to spend large sums of money on an animal.
And this is where I am going to have to disagree, with one caveat. If you've ever had to make a decision for economic euthanasia, I DO NOT JUDGE YOU. I refuse to second-guess someone's decisions, because I was there. That first night that Charlotte was hospitalized, I came VERY close to making that decision. I think it all comes down to your financial situation at the time. At the time, my husband and I decided that we could afford it; yes it was painful, but it was not going to put us in the poorhouse or force us to seek out government assistance to survive. We were lucky and it is not my place to judge anyone who is in a different situation.
BUT. Back to my disagreement. I think that the argument that irritates me the most is the stupid statement that you shouldn't spend large amounts of money on an animal, that it is irresponsible, and that the money would be better spent on charity. There's so many things wrong with that attitude. Let me count the ways.
1. It is my money. I'm the one that busts my butt at work to earn that money. I'm the only one that gets to determine how to spend it. I choose to spend it on my animals, not shoving it down some stripper's drawers or buying the latest gosh-wows. Does this make me a bad person? I think not.
2. That animal is my responsibility. It is not irresponsible to get them vet treatment, in fact, it is the very opposite.
3. That money isn't going to charity anyway; if I'm not spending it at the vet's office, I'm spending it on something else to benefit me or my household. Yes, I make donations to charity, but the amount of my donations and the frequency at which I make them is no one's business but my own.
4. I'll bet that the person suggesting that I would be better donating the money to charity spends money on non-charitable causes too. It's easy for them to fall back on the "you should donate your money to charity" argument because it sounds good. It sounds much better than "I am a judgmental prick who thinks that I have some kind of say in how you spend your money, and am going to try to make you feel guilty for spending it in a way that I disapprove of." I only have two words to say to someone like that, and it's far from appropriate on a mostly (sometimes?) family-friendly blog, so I will just leave it to your imagination.
The decision that I am comfortable with is that whenever possible, I will preserve life. We are probably going to come to the point for many of our animals, that we will be forced to choose to put them to sleep. I would like to think that it is because the animal is incurably ill, or that we have no reasonable expectation that they will have a good quality of life, even after treatment. I do not ever want to be put into a position that I have to make that choice for economic reasons. God willing, I will never have to.