Cost and End of Life Decisions

Sadly, there is a time in every pet parent’s life when that most dreaded decision has to be made. While deciding to put a pet to sleep is never easy, there are times when the decision point is “clearer.” Yet there are many times when the decision is made for “non-medical” reasons.  Here at Pet Camp we’ve heard for a long time that the leading reason a dog is euthanized is due to behavior issues.  According to DVM Newsmagazine that continues to be the case, but another leading reason is the cost of medical treatment.

Since 1997, DVM Magazine has been tracking the total dollar amount when most pet parents refuse or stop treatment. In 1997 that amount was $576; in 2012 that amount was $1,704. I guess I’m not sure how to interpret these numbers. One the one hand, it’s great that the number has increased nearly 300% in 15 years (thank goodness inflation hasn’t been running like that).  But on the other hand, at least in San Francisco, $1,704 doesn’t get you a whole lot of veterinary care.

What do you think? Is there really a dollar value at which you would say “no more?” Is seems way more complicated than just that: The actual medical issue? The age of the pet? The likelihood of success? How do any of these factors impact the cost factor or conversely, how does the cost factor impact any of these variables?

Thanks for reading!

8 thoughts on “Cost and End of Life Decisions

  1. I think that it is very difficult to put a dollar value at which to say no more. I also have a different tolerance for each of my pets based on their age and currant health issues. For my household there is not a hard fast amount, but we have had to look at all the factors you mentioned – long term diagnosis and age are the 2 big ones for us when it comes time to decide to move forward with a treatment or sadly euthanize

  2. Last year after a walk at the beach, our 12-year old Scottie began experiencing symptoms of what turned out to be congestive heart failure, enlarged heart, leaky heart valves, and pulmonary hypertension.

    Initially, when you don’t know what the problem is, you agree to the tests, x-rays, and ultrasounds. After the first $1-2K, you realize you’re either in for the long haul or you have to give up. With modern medicine as it is, doctors have a decent chance at figuring out a treatment that will help your pet. There were a few times our vet suggested that what he was proposing was a ‘hail Mary’, and even once recommended that we consider the alternative (putting her down) if things didn’t turn around for her.

    Fortunately for all of us, they did. However, we ended up about $6K in debt from the treatments to get her back to a good quality of life, and are now covering about $400/mo for her meds. Additionally, every six weeks or so we have to take her to the vet to have removed from her abdomen fluid that builds up as a result of her illnesses. When we do, she bounces right back to her old self, but that procedure costs us about $300 each time.

    I can’t say that I’m sorry that we’ve spent all this money on her. The extra year with her has been challenging, but when I see her happy to see me each night and each morning, all the expense is made worthwhile. I know that she won’t be with us forever, too, so knowing that we only have a short time remaining makes me more keenly aware of spending as much quality time with her as I can. I won’t lie, though – when she does pass away, while I’ll miss her terribly, I won’t miss the expensive treatments and meds bills.

  3. It’s not so much an amount (as long as I can find the money) as a question of quality of life.

    I do not believe in keeping pets alive at all cost. They do not understand, they cannot rationalize pain, in the case of my pets (all rescues with “issues”) they are not comfortable in vet settings and every little change to their routine freaks them out. I would never put them through pain and stress just to add a few months to their life.

    Something that can be fixed for good, leaving the pet pain free and with a decent quality of life, I’ll put in a lot. Treating to prolong pain, stress and all around suffering no way.

    Oh and yeah… for 1 700$, you don’t get much in vet care in SF.

  4. Full disclosure – speaking as a veterinarian – all of the factors you mention are a part of the conversations I have frequently with pet parents. The age of the pet and the likelihood of success are probably the second and third most frequently discussed topics, but the impact to the pet’s quality of life is central to every discussion. Chemo may be in the budget and have a high chance of allowing that pet to live another six months, but the side effects are not something the pet parent is comfortable having their pet live through. As veterinary medical options increase for our sick and aged pets, cost will increasingly become a factor and pet insurance will be examined more closely by many as an option.

  5. I agree that it’s much more than simply a dollar amount. The quality of life would be my highest determining factor. Interesting article.

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