How much would you pay to save your sick pet?
A pair of handicapped boxers. (Worldcrunch)
November 28th, 2011
10:17 PM ET

How much would you pay to save your sick pet?

Editor's Note: The following article comes from Worldcrunch, an innovative, new global news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. This article was originally published in Die Welt.

By Elke Bodderas, Worldcrunch

BERLIN – Maxi is seven years old. If he were a person, not a cat, he would be a young-looking guy in his mid-40s. Thomas, a student in Hanover, adopted Maxi from an animal shelter, and loves Maxi so much that he found the money for a kidney transplant when his four-pawed pal would otherwise have died. The whole thing cost Thomas 15,000 euros [about $20,000], including the flight to the United States, where the operation took place.

“Maxi stood by me when I was very sick,” Thomas told the German newspaper Bild. “He’s my alter ego. ”

A “new” cat kidney costs 15,000 euros, chemo and radiotherapy for a dog suffering from cancer cost around 18,000 euros [about $24,000]. By comparison, a new titanium hip joint – at a mere 5,000 euros [about $6,650] – is something of a bargain. And compared to that, the cost of the physiotherapy needed to round out treatment seems like peanuts.

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The lens of an eye? Spinal disk operation? Artificial joints? There is virtually no procedure available to humans that can’t also be performed on animals. Sure the veterinary surgeries are expensive, but humans are often willing to pay for the simple reason that dogs and cats play a role in their lives that not even close relatives can match.

American writer Michael Schaffer calls such pets “fur babies.” He reports that in the United States, eight out of 10 pet owners see themselves as “Mommies” and “Daddies” to their pets. Another similarity between humans and their animal companions is that there is a direct connection between social status and the life expectancy of both.

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Wilfried Kraft, professor emeritus and former head of the medical clinic for small animals at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, has documented the phenomenon. Dogs today, he says, have an average life expectancy of 10 years – twice as long as dogs living in the post-war years.

The age curve is even more striking with cats. In 1967, Kraft says, less than a fifth of all cats and dogs in the clinic were older than 10. Thirty years later, half of them are. “In 1983, the average age of a cat that came to the clinic was 3.8 years; in 1995 it was 7.5,” he says.

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As with humans, a longer pet life goes along with many of the same health problems: signs of wear and tear like lowered resilience, aching joints, over-sensitivity to temperature, visual and dental problems, and a weak bladder, but also diabetes, degenerative osteoarthritis, obesity, cancer, heart attacks, hardening of the arteries, and dementia.

This, of course, raises the question: How much would you pay to save your sick pet?

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Elke Bodderas.

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Topics: Animals • Ethics • Europe • Health • Odd

soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Michael

    This is one of the many reasons pet owners should consider pet insurance. Recently my dog broke her front leg and the surgery was $4500. Luckily my insurance covered approximately 80% of the costs. For the cost of a monthly cell phone plan it is definitely worth looking into! If having pet insurance means skipping one dinner out a month how can I say no.

    Pets are a responsibility, and owners should act accordingly. If they cannot afford the potentially expensive veterinarian bills they should not purchase/adopt an animal. Since animals have no say in the matter, it is up to us as humans to make the right choice.

    November 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Reply
    • hilo, HI

      I marked $1,000 b/c that is what I can afford -and much would be borrowed. You are too harsh to assume people struggling financially would also be negligent pet owners. I do agree 100% that there needs to be a plan, spay/neuter, annual vet care, monthly preventive treatment for heart-worm & fleas, (and many skimp on these important non-negotiables) but I have sacrificed at times to afford quality kennel care during my own hospital stay, and in the event of a crisis could only do so much for my animals. Also, our dog is a rescued stray -unplanned for by us, and due to being fully grown, w/ a few obedience 'challenges' that had to be trained away, and an overwhelmed local shelter -she would have been euthanized for certain. So her 7 years w/ us so far is already 7 more than she would have had. She is indeed 100% a joy to our family, and we would grieve losing her to cancer, etc, but putting a 2nd mortgage on the house we struggle to keep? It just wouldn't happen.

      Also, we assume perhaps wrongly, that they would want chemo, kidney transplants, etc. A hip-replaecement for a 2 year-old w/ dysplasia is very different than for an 8 year-old, who really may not enjoy a scaled down, slower life of pain meds.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:02 am | Reply
  2. wisdomseeker

    I am not against caring for animals because it is biblical (Pro. 12:10} but I think it is foolish to spend thousands of dollars for your pet when there are people around the world who are dying due to lack of money for their medication.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:57 am | Reply
    • hilo, HI

      I knew there'd be a 'but what about humans post' soon!!

      OK, people suffer b/c of people. Period. People do not suffer b/c of animals. Animals however, do indeed suffer because of people. I begrudge them nothing any human has to offer to ease their suffering. Try to see it as a penance for the evil we have done them thus far.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:07 am | Reply
    • hilo, HI

      Also, why so much medicine? Birth control is the #1 needed, and the one too few take!! (Worse than Foolish for anyone to breed at all considering there are still orphans in the world, right?)

      Diabetes, heart disease, obesity etc etc. It is actually against God to abuse ourselves with such sick life-styles in the first place, but then to expect zero consequences as well? Just plain wrong.
      Are you a vegetarian? Vegan? Best health diet, best for environment, best for animals. Save $$ (for the poor, no $$ for meds people), save the ecology, save the cow/chicken/fish on your plate (and ocean-health food chain), save your health. It's harder to do that major, right-living life-style change than it is to judge someone else spending $$ on their beloved pet, isn't it.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:16 am | Reply
    • Dave

      Exactly. Have the pet euthanised and make a 20,000 donation to a hunger or poverty charity in the pets name...

      November 29, 2011 at 11:14 am | Reply
    • Joe

      With over 7 billion humans on earth – with most taking all of the resources and contributing nothing... I would much rather see animals saved rather than humans.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Reply
      • Rllyannoyed

        I somewhat agree with this. Though I would rather not see anyone die, it is the Humans fault as to why the environment is S**t. Look everywhere and you see buildings replacing damns and wooded areas where the animals habitat lies. Im sick of seeing irresponsible, and uncaring pet owners who would rather go buy a new pair of shoes than take their dog or cat for a checkup. Not all Veterinary clinics are Expensive. Have you ever gone to an animal shelter clinic? Why don't we suppress all our options first before letting our pets bite the dust. It's sad that I weep for animals pain, and yet not so much for a person's pain. Its because an animal has unconditional love for their owner.

        November 29, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  3. Lisa

    My older dog (14 year old Shih tzu) is experiencing back issues and medicine was not helping. I went to a consultation about putting him down and his doctor suggested accupuncture. I didn't expect it to actually work but felt I had to give it a shot...after 3 treatments and about $300 total, he is like a new dog and is doing great. I never would have believed it would work but I'm so glad I tried it. Sometimes, you have to feel like you have tried everything before ending it but I don't think I would have "tried it" if it was like $5,000. Unfortunately, money also has to be considered.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:30 am | Reply
  4. eamon

    So over 46% of people would pay over 5000 dollars to save their sick pet.How much would they give to help poor children in the USA.Yes, in the USA,not Somalia etc. How much?

    November 29, 2011 at 4:09 am | Reply
    • Kate

      Do you take vacations? Do you go to the movies? What about splurge on a pricey pair of shoes from time to time? Or let's go more extreme: Do you live in a minimalist lifestyle, buy absolutely only what you need to survive and no one penny more on yourself and donate every single dollar you otherwise have to charities for children in need? If you don't, then...well, hopefully you see my point here. There will always be *more* than someone can do to improve the world so, unless you're doing it, don't criticize others for not doing it.

      If everyone felt humans came first, then who would look after the animals? No one.

      I wouldn't give my pet away for a million dollars, and, if I had a million dollars, I'd spend every penny to keep him healthy if that's what it took.

      November 29, 2011 at 8:28 am | Reply
    • eddie2010

      It's their money and they can do what they want with it. Get your damned nose out of their wallet, it's absolutely none of your business.

      November 29, 2011 at 9:30 am | Reply
  5. j. von hettlingen

    I love my tabby very much and will do anything to save it.

    November 29, 2011 at 6:13 am | Reply
  6. Brad76

    Most people are cruel and selfish when it comes to animals, we as humans have a responsibility to take care of them properly. This nonsense that people spout about humans being more important has NOTHING to do with taking proper care of our animal friends.
    What is proper care? Not leaving the animal to die a slow painful death because you couldn't be bothered to spend a couple bucks a month on insurance is selfish and pig headed. Granted, some people are somewhat compassionate and pay to have the animal put to sleep, rather than paying for proper care to save its life.
    Our pets are our most loyal friends, yet we treat them like total trash. It's heart breaking, it really is.

    November 29, 2011 at 7:31 am | Reply
  7. EmDub

    If humans could be as sweet, loving, and accepting of all like my dog is, the world would be a delightful place. My dog brings joy to my life in a way that no human has. She's full of love for me, and anyone else she meets. "Dogs love us the way we wish we could love each other" (forgot the author of that quote, from NPR story)

    Of course I bend over backwards to make sure she gets top notch medical care, damn the cost. How could I put a price tag on unconditional love??

    November 29, 2011 at 10:37 am | Reply
    • Dave

      Read something about animal behavior, in dogs preferably. It's NOT love...

      November 29, 2011 at 11:20 am | Reply
      • Kate

        Dave, why don't YOU read a book and let EmDub's money be EmDub's business? Problem solved.

        November 29, 2011 at 11:54 am |
      • EmDub

        I have read about animal behavior, Dave, including behavior specific to canines. While Metzger argues for the position that dogs are incapable of love, plenty of respected scientists argue that dogs are absolutely capable of love.

        Frankly, according to Metzger's position, a lot of humans I know aren't capable of love either and their responses to other humans are simply transactional. Perhaps it's not about the species and more about the individual being's abilities. My dog is capable of- and provides- love, no doubt about it.

        November 30, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  8. GOPisGreedOverPeople

    But the real question is how much are you willing to pay to keep our Elderly Humans alive?

    November 29, 2011 at 10:49 am | Reply
  9. Bert

    People talk the talk, but it comes down to it, they will NOT spend $5000 to save their pet. That's just crazy.

    November 29, 2011 at 11:40 am | Reply
  10. Dana

    The trend to spend large sums of money on pet health is an expression of the same trend in human healthcare. The motivation for this is to try to hide from death. As a nation we spend mind-boggling amounts of money to delay the universal inevitability of sickness, pain, and death. We think life should be uninterrupted comfort. That is profoundly selfish and simply psychotic.

    November 29, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Reply
    • Tonelok

      What else should I spend money on if I can't take it with me? To have the ability to live longer because of a procedure and enjoy the brief existence I have on this world is well worth the money. It isn't a dodge for fear of death, it is simply maximizing my time with those I care for and love.
      My life is brief and ultimately meaningless, but I want every second I can to enjoy it. Selfish? Yes. At all bad for anyone? No.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Reply
  11. Tonelok

    You beat me to it. Pet insurance is cheap and covers almost all problems. Now I probably wouldn't pay 5k out of pocket, but I would gladly pay 20 bucks a week to keep my two dogs with me.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Reply
  12. Tonelok

    ***twenty bucks a month***

    November 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Reply
    • FooFoo

      See. Even you have a price. If they get sick, just shoot them and throw them on the rock pile like we do on the farm.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Reply
  13. CT

    I think many years ago when my family's dog was sick, my parents spent $3,000 and she died anyway.

    I wouldn't just shoot a pet the moment it got sick if it happened again... that's cruel. But I wouldn't spend thousands of dollars trying to save it either, unless I was rich (which I'm not). I voted for put to $1000.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Reply
    • CT

      * up to

      November 29, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Reply
  14. CheeseSteak

    See, as much as we think we are being objective about the animals care, it's really about us and our desire to superimpose our emotions onto the animal. Our dog, cat, whatever isn't blessed with the the ability to sense time or understand the nature of existence or non-existence. That's why killing by animals has no ethical connotation as does in human society.

    So when we subject an animal to painful procedures such as kidney transplants, it's about satisfying our need to mitigate the pain of loss, not because we have a pure interest in it's welfare. If we did, we'd accept that a painless anesthetic overdose is far more human than the trauma of surgery, chemotherapy, etc.

    We take extraordinary measure simply because the emotions of loss and guilt are overwhelming.

    November 29, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Reply
  15. chris

    You should always treat your pets with respect. With that said, unfortunatley, common sense on the issue has been lost. Pets have more rights than humans it seems. We had a dog, got old, brain swelled, started to nip and become aggressive. Technically wasnt allowed to put him down myself. Vet charges 500$.If its something reasonable and the animal will recover and not be in pain, then I would spend.But if I'm just putting the animal thru nonsense and it's there time, well its time. My dogs have good lives, eat better than me and dont have to work, but in the end, any decisions should be made by me, as I love them and know whats best.

    December 1, 2011 at 7:41 am | Reply
  16. Beau

    My labrador retriever is insured by Embrace Pet Insurance. I did a lot of research online and found that was BY FAR the best resource to learn, compare companies and get quotes. They have a comparison matrix that is really helpful and I got quotes from three companies on their site here

    I have filed several claims and found that pet insurance is definitely worth the money, unless you're willing to rack up credit card debt or put your dog or cat to sleep.

    December 3, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  17. Shaun Falci

    We all know that the American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth, thoroughly, twice a day and many of us have been begged by our dental hygienists to actually floss. Cosmetic dentist and Huffington Post blogger, Dr. Thomas P. Connelly, adds that a morning tongue scraping is a "huge" part of overall oral health. '.

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  19. Tim B.

    Some people cqannot afford pet health in surance. Personally my current and previous labs have both had health insurance (first one thru ASPCA, 2nd one through PetpPlan). It costs about $40-50/month. My prior lab, Nico, got osteo sarcoma (aggressive bone cancer) when he was only 2. Looking back we believe he had it from borth or a very young age. We first knew somethign was wrong because he wouldn't eat his bacon and eggs! Highly unusual! In 13 days, his vet bills were $6K. No surgery, no radiation, no chemo. It was all to relieve the fluid building in his chest and for pain management. Insurance covered about $5K of it. Thank goodness we had it, as we could not have afforded $5K for 2 weeks of pallatiative care. There was no hope of recovery and his quality of life was almost totally gone, so we had to put him down. 30 months old! When we got our new pup, we made sure to have insurance coverage in effect before we even picked him up. If you can afford the insurance, it is worth it! I know not everyone can. Ultimately the decision to treat or put down, comes down to age, prognosis, and quality of life. My German Shepherd mix, many years ago, was like 14, when she got lymphatic cancer. Chemo estimate was $5, and they said she MIGHT live another 6 months. I didn't have $5K, and the benefit was not worth it even if I did. If she was 5 and I had the funds, I would have paid it.

    March 17, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Reply

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