How Much Money Would You Spend On A Sick Pet?

Today’s post is brought to you by Blake at Bean Counter By Day. Enjoy!

Everyone, meet Jo:


cost of pet veterinary bills

Jo is one of two family felines in the Bean Counter household, both of which Girl Bean Counter brought with her from Atlanta.  Recently, Jo decided to give his mother a little scare by constantly using the bathroom.  How she noticed, I’m still not sure because honestly who pays that much attention to their animals using the bathroom?  But she did notice, and then she got on the internet to Google possible causes.

That was a huge mistake.  Along with all the normal, very treatable, conditions that could have caused this, she got explanations like a blocked urethra which could cause death if not treated immediately.  So off we went to the vet as fast as humanly possible (because the last thing I wanted was her cat dying in my car).

How Much To Spend On a Sick Pet?

I should preface the following by stating we’ve already had a couple of expensive setbacks in our savings goal this year. As a result, all the way up to the vet all I could think about was how much it was going to cost if there was something seriously wrong with Jo. The longer we were in the car, the higher the imaginary bill became and somehow I began thinking about how I was going to tell Girl Bean Counter that we were going to have to put Jo down if it was as expensive as I was fearing.

I know, that makes me sound like a horrible human being.  The truth is, Jo is a very good cat.  He’s affectionate, he’s playful, and he gets along great with my dog.  But at the end of the day, he’s an animal, and I just couldn’t imagine paying $1,000+ for treatments and/or surgeries.

The good news is it turned out only to be a urinary tract infection and barely broke the $200 bill barrier, so Jo is alive and well and back to his normal self.  But the whole experience did get me thinking about what amount of money is financially responsible to spend on a sick pet.  I guess a lot goes into the decision. Will it cure the animal for good?  Is the animal old or young? Can you even afford it (although I’d bet emotion keeps this from being asked as much as it should be)?

Emotions vs Reality

In our current situation, trying to save for a wedding, trying to get out of debt before we start a family, I had decided that $1,000+ was just too much.  Especially when there are 6-8 million pets entering shelters every year in this country.  You can’t ever truly replace a pet, but I do think you can find another that makes you just as happy.

People go into debt for a lot of stupid reasons in this country.  They need want a new car,  they want to go on great trips, they have to have the newest iPhone Air 273S….   I can completely understand how someone could feel like going into debt to save an animal would be a good decision.  At the end of the day, I just don’t think I’m one of them.

Luckily, Jo is a resilient little guy and something tells me that he’ll be prowling around the house for years to come, which means my life will be easier because Girl Bean Counter is happy 🙂

Do you know someone that has had to deal with this situation?  Do you think there is an amount where it is finally outrageous to pay for an animal? Do you think I’m a horrible person?  I’m very interested to know what others think about this!

Kim’s Comments: I have spent and probably will spend too much again if we have a pet emergency. In the moment, I usually am too emotional to think about dollars.

Bio: Blake started Bean Counter by Day to give a CPA’s view on all things personal finance. While many posts are money related, career choices, automobiles, and DIY projects are bound to make an appearance. And as always, any questions you need answered are always a privilege!  You can also find me on Twitter!

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  1. I once bought a little Labrador puppy for $200 and within a week he went down sick. The vet told us that he had a tangled up intestines and would die if he was not operated there and then. We spent over $1,000 for the operation. I wasn’t actually thinking about the puppy when I made the decision. I was worried about disappointing my daughter by not coming up with the money.

    Luckily, the breeder was given free one month pet insurance when she registered it and we could claim on the policy providing we continued with it. Insurance does help in these situations providing you can find affordable premium.

  2. I don’t think I’ll know the answer to this until it happens. The first cat my wife and I had passed suddenly due to a heart attack. The two we have now are turning eleven, but no complications yet. I always say, “they’re just cats,” but in my heart I know I’d likely spend a fortune on them if they needed it.

  3. Well, since you asked, I do maybe just a little bit think you’re a horrible person. I don’t really mean that. Your limits and your situation sound reasonable for you I guess, but to be perfectly honest I think that when you make a commitment to an animal, you commit to care and provide for it even and especially when the vet bill exceeds $1000. I’d sell my house before I let my dogs go untreated. I completely realize that my stance is the opposite extreme, and I wouldn’t blame you if you think I’m crazy, but my husband and I agree, dogs > money. If you ever put a pet down because you decided the vet bill was too much, I sincerely hope you do not get another pet.

  4. For me I think it comes more down to the quality of life for the pet than anything else and the acceptance that sometimes nature needs to take its course. Just because there is doggie chemo doesn’t mean the dog would choose to have it if it understood the side effects.

  5. If I can spend $1K to buy a new laptop, I can spend that on my cat. I do think that would be about my cut-off but it’s hard to say that when these things accumulate. Sometimes it’s several $300 appointments over the course of a year. How do you determine the line for that?

  6. I agree with what Kim said. It’s easy to say I wouldn’t pay over 1k, but when your pet looks at you with those sad eyes, your heart melts. I don’t know what my “line I wouldn’t cross” is. I have spent quite a bit when my cat was sick, but I think I’ll just have to cross that bridge if I ever come to it again.

  7. An acquaintance of mine on Facebook is an animal lover and underpaid individual who would complain about her salary and then talk on and on about all the medical work she was getting for her dogs. She did have pet insurance which I’m sure helps but there comes a time when you have to let go. I would not spring for costly daily injections to save an older pet. It might seem harsh but the dog would probably prefer death over staying alive in pain. Spending so much money on a pet is not something I would do myself. I do have limits too.

  8. It’s a deeply personal choice. Our cat is still young so beyond his yearly check-up and annual shots, we haven’t incurred any big emergency bills. Being that he is still young, we would probably be more inclined to spend more than if he was very old and we may be doing more harm than good. On the flip side, I do know people who have spent thousands on their pet and swear it was worth it.

  9. I would spend a very large amount on my dogs if something were to happen. One of my dogs (this will probably sound horrible because it will sound like I’m choosing a favorite pet), I would probably spend an endless amount mainly because I adopted her right around when my dad passed away, so I feel like I have a very strong connection to her.

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