Katie McCarthy: Putting a price on your pet

November 10, 2013 

Over the last week, her limp became more persistent and more pronounced.

This prompted my husband and I to make an appointment with the veterinarian -- we'd been hoping she just ran too hard one day, that it was a little sore and would work itself out.

It didn't.

So on a rainy day last week I loaded our 5-year-old boxer and our 10-month-old baby into the car (the logistics of traveling with these two could be it's own column) for a trip I didn't want to take.

I was worried about hip dysplasia. I was worried there was nothing that could be done. I was worried that there was too much that needed to be done.

Over the years, this dog has cost us a small fortune, though in small increments. She has allergies that not only require being cautious about the food she eats, but also monthly at-home injections. She's has several small tumors removed from various parts of her body "just to be safe," because she's a boxer.

These couple of hundred dollar procedures add up in the long run, but in the moment are no-brainers.

Last week, the vet told me it wasn't hip dysplasia, which was a relief. She did, however, recommend surgery on my dog's knee, which is where the problem lies.

Again, she's a boxer. She jumps a lot. And she's had chronic injury to the ligaments in both her back knees, but particularly the right. There's fear of rupture (tearing) of the ligament, which is more difficult, if not impossible, to repair.

Without getting into too much detail about our decision or what's best for an animal with this particular problem, we did seek out a second opinion (we have friends who are vets), and we're comfortable with the path to recovery we've decided to take.

But for the first time it prompted the discussion: How much is too much to spend on a pet?

This is obviously a very personal choice. Our dog is part of our family: She was our first child in many ways, and we've treated her very much in that manner.

The answer to that question is also dependent of the severity of treatment -- in our case, this isn't life-or-death surgery. It's not surgery versus euthanasia. But we are talking about reducing pain, improving quality of life.

And just like our human babies, our pets rely on us to make these kinds of tough decisions for them. They can't decide to rest and ice the strained leg for six to eight weeks. In contrast, my dog continues to want to jump and run on it despite the pain.

It's easy to say that money is no object when it comes our pets -- I know both my husband and I want that to be true. But it's not always feasible or realistic.

Putting a dollar amount on the unconditional love and trust, the bond you develop over years with your pet, can seem impossible. Hopefully, you'll never have to.

Katie McCarthy, copy editor, can be reached at kmccarthy@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8515.

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