I am finding it hard to keep up with all my animals and having done my taxes, discovered I am spending 20% of my income on vet bills.
I have special needs cats here, and am trying to logically determine what to do so that I can regain my life.
Do I adore them and give them everything possible? Yes. I have over-extended and realize I can’t take on the world as I did in my 30s, 40s...
This was my response, which the person making the inquiry found helpful and suggested I blog. I am a bit concerned that some will find parts of my response cold hearted:
I don't know how many pets (especially special-needs pets) you have, but if they are taking 20% of your income, it must be quite a few.
If I were in your situation, I would impose on myself a moratorium on adopting any new pets, even if a "position" opens up because of a death. I would let attrition happen until I got down to a manageable number.
I also would consider pet insurance. Insurance won't cover pre-existing conditions, but it will cover unrelated new conditions. For example, I had two diabetic cats and both died of abdominal cancers. If I had gotten insurance on them after they contracted diabetes, the insurance wouldn't have covered the diabetes or likely even something like pancreatitis (related), but it would have covered the thousands of dollars I spent on the cancer DXs and medications in the last few months of their lives. The younger a pet is, the less expensive the premiums will be. I cannot recommend a particular pet insurance company because I have no personal experience with them. You might even want to call the shelters/rescues that you adopted from to see whether they have a low-cost insurance option for adopted pets. Usually, that's only available for newly adopted pets, but maybe you will find some that will "fudge" the paperwork.
I also would consider ways to minimize the cost of annual wellness exams. If I had a large number of cats needing wellness exams, I would try to get them on the same schedule and find a mobile vet or even my own vet to come to the house for exams and labwork. Some mobile vets even have X-Ray equipment or can do dentals in their vans. I know someone who has >20 adopted and foster cats who does home-based annual exams and labwork with her local vet; the vet basically dedicates the whole day to the home visit. The vet charges office prices for the labwork, but only for two office visit charges despite the large number of cats.
Another way to minimize costs is to consider not having periodic vaccines on the pets that have had a number of routine boosters in the past. After their initial shots and two years of boosters, I had titer tests done on all my current cats for protection from the viruses covered by the FVRCP shot. They all tested as protected so they will no longer get that vaccine. Rabies is a different matter because most states require all companion animals to have current rabies vaccines. But my vet at the time (recently retired) agreed that after >thirteen years of rabies shots, and with two cats having diabetes, to waive the vaccines for medical reasons. His waiver would have meant that if my indoor-only cats had bitten someone, my state's law would have allowed an at-home quarantine rather than them being destroyed or quarantined in a state-approved facility. (That and few people who come into my house ever see the cats.) I am hoping that my current vet (she bought my former vet's practice) will allow me to have my current cats' rabies titers measured (which is not inexpensive itself) and if they titer as protected (which they will), allow them a medical exception from future rabies vaccines. For me it's not a finance thing; I just don't like them having vaccines, even non-adjuvanted ones. It's long, but this is a very good video about vaccines. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1Xd5ghnlJ4.
I also would do my best not to buy prescription food (too expensive and not good quality) and to look for lower-cost ways to buy medications and other care supplies. Target and other pharmacies often have generic drug programs. The last time I had to buy Prozac (an anti-anxiety med) for my Casey who compulsively licks himself bald on his butt and tail, the vet wrote a script for a dosage where I could quarter the tablets and I bought 90 of the tablets from Target for $10. That means I got a year's worth of that med for $10. I also buy Lactated Ringers Solution, administration lines, and needles online in bulk, making the per/bag cost (even with shipping) cheaper than buying from the vet. If people need flea meds, I advise that they buy from a reputable source on EBay and get the large dog size that can be doled out in smaller doses for cats.
I would establish for myself written guidelines on how far I am willing to go to diagnose and treat a pet with a potentially terminal disease. I wouldn't necessarily set monetary guidelines for myself, but I would set treatment guidelines. For example, I won't have a fine needle aspiration for intestinal lymphoma because (according to the multiple vets I have spoken to about that), the ~$500 test with pathology is rarely conclusive. I won't do MRIs. I will do CT scans but only after initial X-Rays show there is something possibly suspicious. I won't put a pet with CT scan-confirmed abdominal or thoracic organ cancers through surgery or chemo. Instead they go on hospice care and I promise them that if they get to the point of pain, I will not be giving them pain meds. I have only been through it with DCIN, but I would never overly extend the life of a pet with congestive heart failure or a saddle thrombus. The first such event would be the last such event for the pet because those are terminal conditions and bring a massive amount of pain.
I also try my best to do at-home euthanasia (even though more expensive) to make the pet as comfortable as possible. In the past I have always let the vets take the bodies to send for cremation, but now that I know where the local pet crematoriums are, I would likely take the pet myself and cut that cost in half, and not pay for the fancy box that I never use anyway. I get ceramic kitty cookie jars that I repaint to look like the cat(s) I lost in which to keep their ashes. ~Venita
I welcome others to comment on this post with ways to minimize the costs of special-needs pets.
See the comments below from:
- She Dances with Cats about being a permanent foster for a shelter/rescue and about pet insurance.