Monday, January 23, 2006

If she hadn't...

The bad news was that Junebug got hurt. So she got staples in her leg to close up a wound, which meant we had to take her to the vet to get them removed (Kathy refused to take me up on my suggestion that I bring my staple remover home from work). And while we were there, the vet had time to give Junebug a full exam, and because it had been too long since her last exam, we went ahead with it. It turns out she tested positive for Lyme disease, so as of tonight she's on antibiotics. So in a way the accident was a good thing, because otherwise odds are we wouldn't have taken Junebug in until she'd shown symptoms of Lyme disease. And this'll get us to take Nora in for a checkup (very soon), because she's been in the same woods that Junie's been in.

What does this say about us as dogowners? We love our dogs, and want them to live a long healthy life, but we don't seem particularly inclined to do some the things that would help them achieve that long healthy life such as take them in for regular checkups -- our vet approach definitely seems more reactive than proactive. At the emergency clinic after the accident, we spent $250. Today's bill was $240, including checkup, shots, lab tests, heartworm medicine, and the follow-up antibiotics. The vet didn't even give the distemper shot today because he likes to space the shots out, so we're going again in 10 days or so, and that'll be an additional charge. He wanted to run an additional test for the Lyme disease that costs $120, to get a more specific read on it, but I didn't see the point in paying for that when the proper treatment is giving her the antibiotics (and he'll want to run that more expensive test in a few months regardless, to make sure she's all better). A liver enzyme turned up in the high normal and he wants to follow-up with that -- if it's still in the normal range, why?! I guess I can count on Nora's upcoming checkup running another ~$200, assuming nothing else turns up.

Even though I'm griping about the cost, I recognize that these expenses are, generally speaking, part of the commitment one makes as a pet owner. If I'm not willing to fork over the money for the annual checkups and immunizations, then I shouldn't be a pet owner. But there is a point where one needs to draw the line, isn't there?

Our dogs are over eight (we think Junebug is almost nine, but because we got her from the pound, we don't know for certain), so if we're good pet owners, vet expense will continue to rise over the next few years. It's somewhat callous to think in these terms, but I figure that a pet is somewhere between a family member and a piece of property you need to maintain (a computer?). At what point does one say it's not worth $x to upkeep the family pet, and it's time to get an "upgrade"? By the time they discovered my dog Rosie's cancer in 2000, it was inoperable (she died a month later), so I didn't have to make a tough decision about spending thousands of dollars for her care. But before we found out it was inoperable, I was definitely wondering how much I was willing to spend, and feeling guilty as Hell over the thought that perhaps I wouldn't "spare no expense" for her. When I read this article a couple of years ago, I realized that there really isn't a cap on such expenditures for those willing to spend it.

So I don't know where all this thinking leaves me, I only know that we'll likely need to make difficult decisions in the coming years. In the meantime, we're going to try to be more proactive about our dogs' care, particularly now that they're getting up in years.