Things To Think About Before Getting A Pet

On my wife’s birthday last year, I took her to the Animal Shelter to adopt a cat. I was pretty sure I had thought of everything when it came to how much Jack would cost us... boy was I wrong...

‘Tis the season to shower your loved ones with gifts! One very popular gift option is an adorable kitten or puppy... just what they always wanted! Before you run out and get an animal, I want you to meet Jack.

On my wife’s birthday last year, I took her to the Animal Shelter to adopt a cat. I was pretty sure I had thought of everything when it came to how much Jack would cost us... boy was I wrong...

When we adopted Jack, we were told he had an allergy. They thought it was to poultry, so they said to just pick up some food with a non-poultry base. He spent the first month scratching at himself, to the point that he eventually went bald on one side of his body. We took him to an animal dermatologist (yes, they do exist) and she informed us that we needed to put him on a special food (nothing but duck and green pea), stop using ammonia based cleaning products, and throw away the glade plugins we had just purchased. The food ended up being about twice as expensive as the standard stuff, but the rest was doable. 

Fast forward 4 months - Everything was fine until one day he suddenly fell down and started moaning really loudly (I can’t even describe the sound... it was terrible). We rushed him to the local vet who said he needed a steroid shot. Jack continued to get progressively worse, so we ended up taking him to the 24 hour emergency animal hospital. Come to find out, Jack has a heart problem and the steroid shot exacerbated it... His heart and lungs were full of fluid, and he was on the verge of suffocating. So, they had to keep him overnight in an incubator (I’m not making this up). 3 days of stress and about $2,000 later, Jack was good to go... interestingly, we still have no idea what made him sick in the first place that caused him to get the steroid shot that almost killed him.

Why the sob story about poor Jack? Well, we weren’t prepared AT ALL for a $2,000 vet bill. 

If you have (or are planning to get) a pet, start putting money aside for their expenses. Routine things like annual vet visits, flea treatment, heartworm medications, and food, add up really fast. Also know that the larger the animal, the more expensive EVERYTHING is. From flea treatment to getting them fixed, vet’s typically charge based on weight of the animal. 

If you can’t handle a large vet bill, reconsider adopting an animal until you have set aside several hundred dollars, if not more. Save money each month for their future expenses. Your animal deserves to have their own emergency fund. Trust me... no matter how much of a penny pincher you think you are, when your beloved pet gets sick, you will pay the bill. Don’t let an unplanned for pet expense put you in a bind financially.

Have you experienced a similar situation? How did you handle the large vet bill? I would love to hear your story!

Alan Moore is a fee-only financial planner and founder of Serenity Financial Consulting in Shorewood WI. Connect on Google+. You can contact him at alan@serenityfc.com, 414-455-5313, or visit his website at www.SerenityFC.com. Want more education? Download your free guide to the “10 Easy Steps To Securing Your Financial Future Today.”

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Becky Burdette December 11, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I completely understand your situation. We have a Golden Retriever who is an important part of our family. My kids love her to death. Overall, she is healthy, but does have seizures which are controlled with medication. Last summer, she got an infection and was admitted for emergency surgery. Due to her seizure history, the regular vet would not complete the surgery so the emergency hospital was out only option. While in surgery, the doctor felt a huge mass in her stomach and she was also found to have swallowed (whole, I may add) a corn of cob...6x3 inches... When it was all said and done, the bill was $5,000. We do have pet insurance, but even with that the added monthly expense is something that we do not need. I agree with setting up an emergency fund or at least considering these expenses before buying a pet. These situations have prevented us from getting another dog because we simply cannot afford another situation like this!
Steve ® December 11, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Pet insurance is pointless right now. I figured that my dog would need to have 2 blown ACL's before it made financial sense. Right now he is self insured.
David Tatarowicz December 11, 2012 at 10:04 PM
I would much rather make a donation to St Jude's hospital than ever even consider paying thousands of dollars for an animal --- I love my pets, but they are not humans and my priorities would be for sick kids, not sick animals. Aside from the money issue --- having surgery done on an animal in my opinion is making that animal suffer needlessly for the human's benefit --- not the animal's benefit. It is ironic that some states have legalized euthanasia for humans who are near death to put an end to their suffering, while we make animals suffer through medical treatments that causes them suffering.
Cricket December 12, 2012 at 03:28 AM
I can sympathize. I had 2 cats of my own and inherited one from my dad and two from my brother. One of mine became a diabetic, one of my brothers had asthma and the other developed hyperthyroidism. The diabetic got cancer and died 1 1/2 years ago, my dads developed cancer this past summer and died in September. It's hard to let go after that diagnosis, you love them so much. I probably nursed them along too far but you know when it is time to let go. I have pumped a lot of money in to my animals and will never regret it. A trip to the animal ER is an instant $300 if they have to stay over night. With food and medications mine cost around $250 a month when nothing goes wrong but again to me it is money well spent. They are my children. I don't think you can anticipate when adopting a rescue or the humane society what could go wrong. I am sorry you have had your troubles but hopefully they are behind you. I too have priced out pet insurance but unless I have a major illness I have found it is cheaper to go without it.
CTCMom2009 December 12, 2012 at 05:06 PM
I had a cat who got sick from the Science Diet food from China scandal about 6 yrs ago... her kidneys failed due to a harmful chemical that was found in the wet Science Diet food that had been coming from China... anyway, for a week or so, I took her for IV fluid treatments to keep her going, but I realized that she was suffering and made the incredibly difficult decision to put her down. It was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, as I feel my pets are my 'kids', but in the long run it was the right thing and I was at peace with it. For a major surgery, you have to weigh the success vs. failure... if the surgery will completely cure whatever is ailing them, then I say do it. If it will only prolong life for a month or two, maybe not... It's a tough call.


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