Cost of Vets – A sad story but an important message

This week I was in a situation which made me feel angry, sad, frustrated and powerless all at once. I wanted to share it because I think it highlights a really important issue about vets, pet care and cost. However, I will warn you it doesn’t have a happy ending.
There was an appointment in evening consults for a euthanasia, which in itself isn’t unusual, but this one was for a Staffie who was only six and who hadn’t been seen for a year. The history we had was brief, she had last been seen for an ear infection but not since. So, I didn’t know why her owner’s had decided to put her to sleep; I was thinking that maybe she had been under the care of another vet for a problem which had become terminal or that this was a behavioural problem like aggression.

However, when she arrived it was quite clear what the issue was. The poor dog had a terrible skin problem; she had sore and swollen feet, a nasty infection in both ears and in places has scratched herself red raw. Despite this she was lovely, happy, friendly girl, desperate for a good fuss. It transpired that she had been like this since she last came to see us, over a year ago, but her owner hadn’t brought her back or taken her to another vet because ‘the treatment hadn’t worked’ and it was ‘too expensive’, meaning that the poor creature had been itchy and painful for all this time.

I did try to speak to the man about her condition and how we might help her. Itchy skin is a common problem in dogs and although it can be difficult to find the underlying cause, most cases will respond to treatment, which is usually inexpensive. Like many illnesses we can offer different options for investigation and treatment depending on what an owner wants and the funds available but the outcome is generally an itch-free happy dog who can go on to lead a normal life. However, in this case the owner wasn’t interested in any treatment at all. He had decided he wanted her euthanased and nothing would persuade him to change his mind.

What made me so upset about this situation was not really the fact the owner of this dog wanted her put to sleep, (although I did find this difficult when I knew I could do so much to help her), she was his dog and so it was his choice but the fact that he had allowed her to suffer for such a long time before deciding to do something about it. I completely understand that the costs of veterinary care can be a worry for some people but that is no excuse for leaving a pet to struggle for any length of time. We are quite used to working within people’s budgets and we can always explore the option of finding charitable help or arranging payment plans. However, we can’t do anything unless owners get in touch, are open with us and let us know their concerns.

So, the message of this article is; if you have a pet who is poorly but you are worried about the vet fees; please speak to your vet, be open and honest about your concerns and work with them to come to a solution which you can afford but that helps your pet. This is far, far better than leaving them to suffer, which is not only unnecessary, it is also cruel. Yes any treatment will require payment but as a pet owner it is your responsibility to provide this for your animals and we are animal lovers too and will do what we can to help!

  • Colin Carr says:

    What a shame that pets have to be put down due to what amounts to owner neglect or at best lack of care. There’s no doubt that vets are expensive places as we’ve discovered through the years with all our dogs. But there is no excuse for treating animals in this way.

  • Steve says:

    One of many sad stories…story about the irresponsible behavior of a mankind. There should some kind of regulation who if fit and who is unfit to take care of an animal…Im a VET and also of course animal lover. Since I want to move to another country I cant get a doggy now, cause I havent settle down yet…responsibility comes before to get something or someone..People needs to start think more!

  • Charlie says:

    This is despicable, this owner should have been prosecuted for animal cruelty and steps taken to ensure that he never owned another dog/animal. Animals are not disposable commodities to get rid of when you have grown tired of them or they are not so fashionable anymore. The sooner these irresponsible owners are taken to task over issues like this the better for animalkind. Many poor animals suffer needlessly, some through misguided owners, some through cruel owners. I agree that vets bills are expensive and some people think (myself included) that some vets sees £ signs when you walk in with your pet. If an owner cannot take care of the animal then they should not have one in the first place. If you truely cannot afford the vets fees then there are alternative care providers who can help. The problem is not so much with those who cannot pay but those who don’t value the animal enough to pay for their care.

  • Jim Mcloone says:

    Can i just say, after reading this story, appalling as it is, too many people have pets on a whim and then find themselves however long later, either calling the rescue centre to take there pet or leaving them in vets. Or even worse, taking things into there own hands. But what struck me with this story is the fact the vet had no power to intervene and save this (itchy and uncared for) friendly canine. My question is, as its obvious the owner had a problem with wanting the dog as well as the cost and this also being no isolated scenario, wouldnt it be more productive and beneficial all round if the vets were given legal rights to intervene? Im sure if vets and caring pet owners up and down the country were to push there, i.e MP’s for examle, for it to be put to the law makers themselves, then surly common sense would prevail and many, including the one in the story, could be rescued, treated and found a caring home? Or am i just being idealostic (for want of a better word)?

  • Im sure if vets and caring pet owners up and down the country were to push there, i.e MP’s for examle, for it to be put to the law makers themselves, then surly common sense would prevail and many, including the one in the story, could be rescued, treated and found a caring home.

    If an owner cannot take care of the animal then they should not have one in the first place. If you truely cannot afford the vets fees then there are alternative care providers who can help

  • Tish Wolskee says:

    This owner’s behavior was reprehensible. That is not the debate here. The debate is that there are very few places available or alternatives to paying for animal care. I became disabled when my dog was about 5. There was not a vet who would give me a break on his care, any type of care. Finally, one of my friends stepped in and said she would pay for my dog’s treatments, shots etc. If it were not for her, he would no longer be with me as he had cancer and had an amputation of one of his hind legs. It was over $6,000 and she paid for it. Needless to say, I have been grateful. He is now 15 and would not be 15 if she did not step in and take over paying for his care. It is NOT easy to find a vet who will even come down $10. Perhaps you live in a part of the country where people are more generous. I live in DE and people are kind and giving, but the Vets are not. Even the Univ Of Penn Veterinary School would not give me a break or let me pay in payments. I think this is VERY sad as it will soon mean that only the upper middle class or wealthy will be able to enjoy the wonderful company of a pet. He has kept me going on days when I thought I could not get up and go. There is nothing like an animal to make one feel better in all senses of the word. Thank you,
    Tish Wolskee

Leave a Reply

More Useful Information

Examining your pet

Simple ways to check the health of your pet. Vets use these techniques as part of their clinical examiniation.

Medicating your pet

Arming you with the same simple techniques for stress free pill giving.

Worming & Flea Treatment

Information and advice in treating your pet for worms and fleas.