How much would you spend to save your pet’s life?
Caring for a critically ill pet is one of the most challenging things a committed pet owner can confront. The prospect of sacrificing your pet for economic reasons, a decision is known as “Economic Euthanasia,” is undoubtedly a terrifying scenario to imagine. The Humane Society defines economic euthanasia as “a condition in which veterinary care is bypassed based on the anticipated cost of care, and the progression of illness leads to euthanasia.”
Although pet euthanasia at animal shelters has been down tremendously since the 1970s, economic euthanasia is rising at a rate of 10–12% yearly, according to Montgomery County Animal Shelter’s director, Mark Kumpf.
With veterinary costs outpacing the costs of human healthcare, the question of “How much could we spend to save the life of our beloved pet?” is a hard reality for an increasing number of families.
My family faced this exact question. Our Airedale Terrier, Genie, was diagnosed with a fast-growing sarcoma in his nasal passage. By the time his condition was diagnosed, we had already surpassed $20,000 in veterinary care. Our options were bleak.
Genie was given a prognosis of three to four months without any treatment and six to seven months with invasive radiation. Besides the direct cost of radiation ($25k), there were plenty of indirect costs associated with taking Genie to radiation. We would have to make 21 trips to the radiation clinic in 3 weeks and be willing to wait a whole day until it was our turn for radiation. There are also side effects associated with radiation that could severely impact Genie’s quality of life. If we chose radiation, we estimated our actual costs to be well above $50,000. With the potential of diminished quality of life for Genie, we decided to forego the radiation option.
Genie would not have radiation, but economic euthanasia was not an alternative. This crisis moved us away from our comfort zone and forced us to be resourceful. Since we have experience with medical cannabis, we researched and learned as much as possible, as fast as possible, and formulated a cannabis oral and topical remedy. The costs associated with the cannabis supplement were a fraction of the cost related to radiation.
Genie was declared in remission three months later by our veterinarian. Although we recently lost Genie unexpectedly due to an unrelated condition, we were able to extend our time with him for 2 1/2 years and provide him with an excellent quality of life.
With only 39% of Americans able to afford a $1,000 emergency expense, good people struggle to figure out how to take care of their family pets. Veterinary care for severe conditions such as cancer, hip dysplasia, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel diseases, and ACL knee repairs can range from $10,000-$50,000+. The problem of rising veterinary costs is only likely to increase.
We were willing to do whatever it took to heal Genie or make him more comfortable. What can you do if you face a similar situation to our family?
CareCredit offers to finance veterinary services. Depending on your credit score, they often have 0% financing offers and other incentives.
Charities such as RedRover Relief and The Pet Fund exist to help owners who decide to euthanize their pets due to not having the financial ability to pay for required veterinary care. Many other non-profits exist to support this sort of severe problem. Incredible organizations like Maddie’s Fund raise money for animal non-profits. Do your research to find out who would be appropriate for you.
Veterinary care costs are rising faster than the costs of human healthcare. Costs to treat conditions like hip dysplasia can often reach $50,000. Pet Insurance is almost a must-have these days. There are more and more pet insurance options available all the time. It’s not cheap, but when you have an emergency, you’ll be glad you have it.
Alternative Supplements like Cannabis
Thanks to the legalization movement of cannabis, the amount of high-quality, peer-reviewed medical research on its medical benefits for both humans and animals has dramatically increased in the last three years. We must continue supporting further research and legislation allowing veterinarians to recommend and discuss cannabis for their patients.
In July, the California Veterinary Board voted 6–2 to support State Bill 627, which would enable veterinarians in California to talk about and even recommend cannabis to their patients. It was slated to be the world’s first bill of its kind. Unfortunately, politics has bogged it down for months now. Let’s not allow politics to get in the way of veterinary progress. If this subject is essential to you and your family, tell your local representatives that you trust veterinarians to make the right medical judgments with cannabis. State Bill 627 has the potential to save many animal lives by utilizing cannabis as well as harm reduction. Please support SB 627.
As humans, we should be proud of how we’ve evolved in our treatment of our beloved animals. Animal euthanasia rates have significantly decreased from where they were in the 1970s. We treat our pets the same as we do our other family members. We love them as much. As long as we recognize this sad increasing trend of economic euthanasia, we have the opportunity to fix it before it continues to spiral out of hand. Politics are jeopardizing access to potentially life-saving cannabis-based treatments/supplements for our pets. Economic euthanasia must not become a reality to be considered by any pet owner if we have cost-effective, safe, and productive alternatives to explore. We must work harder. The cannabis movement has already saved the lives of thousands and increased the quality of life of even more patients. Let’s bring its full benefits in a legal, regulated, well-researched, and safe way to pets across the country.
CEO Genie’s Therapeutics