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Discussion Starter #1
A few weeks ago our dog developed what looked like a bad case of hives, then as it progressed it became apparent it was not hives but a skin infection.

We brought the dog to the vet, who diagnosed pancreatitis as an underlying systemic condition.

In the past, I have had sick pets and the vets have often recommended expensive and IMHO unnecessary tests.

For example my 9 year old chihuahua developed a heart condition which required diuretics, an electrocardiagram was recommended. $1500 was the price tag. I asked the vet what difference in treatment would be required according to the results. The answer was none.

I also had the joy of owning a SharPei, the only breed of dog for which you cannot get pet insurance. This dog had numerous problems, skin problems and eye problems due to her skin folds inverting on her eyes. This requires stitches to hold the eyelids in place until the dog grows out of their skin. Prices for this procedure were up to $3000. Except for...it needs to be done multiple times as the stitches come out.

Recently, I went to another vet because my poodle was sick, according to the vet I went to (recommended for bargain prices) she required all kinds of blood work and a hospital stay. The cost was over $600

Then I brought the other dog there for an other issue on a different occasion and the recommendation was exactly the same. He had an ear infection yet the vet wanted a hospital stay and bloodwork.

So vets are pretty much on my list of people to avoid if you don't have a lot of money.

This time though things were different, we told him that we didn't have an awful lot of money, he didn't try to make us feel bad or like horrible dog owners for having a tight budget. We took the dog in on Friday, he did do bloodwork and look at the dog, he didn't order the kitchen sink of tests, the initial visit including the bloodtests and some medicated shampoo for the skin condition cost $200. It was a long weekend, he called us both Sunday and Monday to update us on the results of the tests even thought his office was closed. He spent a long time on the phone telling us what to do and explaining the dog's condition. I was extremely impressed with the service and I am not usually easily impressed.

If you have a dog or cat with an expensive chronic condition, this vet has both good prices and understanding of helping you manage conditions at home as inexpensively as possible.

For the pancreatitis for example, the cure is fasting for several days. The cause is usually being too fat and eating fattening food. My pug has both these problems and he is a skilled food stealer. My 2 year old gives him ample opportunity.

So if you are in the Toronto area and need a great vet, one who has the primary purpose of helping your pet, go see this vet.

http://www.rvvh.ca/
 

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This time though things were different, we told him that we didn't have an awful lot of money, he didn't try to make us feel bad or like horrible dog owners for having a tight budget.
http://www.rvvh.ca/
This is my issue with vets. I find if I question their diagnosis, need for extensive testing or what prescription they have chosen and why they have a way of making me feel like a horrible pet owner for questioning them. We have switched vets in the past because of this.

Thanks for the referral Berbueland. We will keep them in mind.

I hear that President's Choice is offering pet insurance now. We have never had pet insurance, but I have friends who speak highly of it...any happy or regretful pet insurance owners out there?
 

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One good way to avoid high vet bills is to get a mutt. I never understood the attraction for purebreeds, especially because so many of them are genetically predisposed to develop specific health problems. Mutts benefit from hybrid vigour, and are cheap or freely available from the humane society. I used to work for a vet, and the mixed-breed dogs and cats we saw generally seemed healthier, more robust, and had less-exotic health problems than the purebreeds.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I agree with you brad, especially if you don't go to a very reputable breeder with years of experience.

The Shar Pei for instance, a customer of mine did some back yard breeding and gave her to me for free, because I went over there and admired the total cuteness of the puppies. Ha... within several days I was driving the puppy to go get 6 eye stitches 3 hours out of town to a vet that would do it for $800 instead of $3000 here in the city. I had to do this for a year every month or so. Plus because I was doing all the bathing and eye stitch cleaning etc. that this dog required, she pretty much hated my guts. I would not buy or have a Shar Pei if you paid me to take one. The one bonus with this dog was that even at 6 weeks old she was completely house trained. In the first year of life this dog cost over $10,000 at the vet.

The chihuahua - puppy mill rescue.

The pug - pet store likely from puppy mill.

As far as pet insurance goes... when I looked into it, most had limits to the coverage, basically after you make your payments for the first year you have paid up to your limit so the money you pay after the first year is all gravy for the insurance company. So read the fine print to make sure it's good.

The Royal Mail may want to add a fourth tier of savings...put the equivalent premiums in a banks account and you'll be better off.
 

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Moshe Milevsky's last personal finance book (prior to Pensionize Your Nest Egg), "Your Money Milestones," actually has a whole chapter on how to think about insurance, and includes a lot of examples of the "extended warranty" type of insurance. He even throws in pet insurance as one example.

The basic message of the chapter is that you should insure against events which are both extremely unlikely to happen, and extremely costly. Events which are extremely likely to happen should not be the subject of insurance, but of your day-to-day budgeting.

Moshe also keeps track of all the costs of insurance he does NOT pay and deposits them into his own "small-risk fund" or Personal Insurance Reserve Fund. He says he manages this account in the same way an insurance company would: risk-free investments only and "no dipping into the cookie jar."

This is, when I think about it, very similar to TRM's "three layers of savings"!
 

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In Vancouver we found a semi-retired vet who did housecalls only. He was turned off by his two business partners who were selling un-necessary procedures, so he retired and went out on his own. This guy looked amazing, low stress level along with happy about his work (and the ability to cycle to and from most calls) really showed. His hourly rates were not cheap, but considering he often stayed four hours and only charged for two, along with either giving you alterative options (ie human drugs vs selling you them directly) was fantastic.

Funny thing is, I first contacted him to get him to come and vax both cats... he dropped of a bunch of stuff for me to read and told me if I still wanted to vax my cats after reading, then he would. (My cats were indoor cats - no need to vax). I was impressed!
 

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I really hope the OP will forgive us going off-track, but since I was kindly mentioned I think I should respond. :)

IMO, this is an application for tier 2, which I think of as money to be available for occasional (but very likely) major events such as a new roof, new car, foundation leaking, flooding, pet visits (I took my pet to the vet a couple of years back and tier 2 paid for the $1100 cost) and such. This savings bucket is completely separate from your general living fund, that is tier 1 in case of prolonged job loss. Bottom line is that your pet could get sick while you are unemployed. Your roof could spring a leak while you are unemployed. If 3 tiers implemented, you'll be well fortified to weather the storm.

My goal for tier 2 is about $15-20K.
 

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As bad as it may sound, I paid nothing for dogs, and I put next to nothing into them. That isn't to say I ignore or neglect my dog, or handle the "upkeep) she gets her shots, and If there is a an issue, I try to address it.

She's a lab and has a bad knee. The vet bill was in the $2000 range, I told the vet the dog can live with the pain, or not live with the pain.

We give her Glucosamine pills intended for people, and it seems to help.

Long of the short of it, she's a dog, and I have my limits.
 

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As bad as it may sound, I paid nothing for dogs, and I put next to nothing into them. That isn't to say I ignore or neglect my dog, or handle the "upkeep) she gets her shots, and If there is a an issue, I try to address it.

She's a lab and has a bad knee. The vet bill was in the $2000 range, I told the vet the dog can live with the pain, or not live with the pain.

We give her Glucosamine pills intended for people, and it seems to help.

Long of the short of it, she's a dog, and I have my limits.
I think the people Glucosamine pills intended for people don't get metabolized as well by dogs. You may consider some further research.

My dog has to take this stuff as well, my wife did some digging and found a cheaper brand. Still not inexpensive, just less expensive.

Pet costs form many people are on par with medical expenses for their children. It's not about the cost, it's about the animal. I'm not quite there myself (not sure I see the point of a pet in the first place) but certainly for my kids, vet bills aren't about the cost.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
When I was young I worked on a horse farm, one interesting distinction I have noticed between pet vets and large animal vets is their different attitude towards the quality of life of the animal.

For example, if a racehorse breaks a leg at the track, no matter how expensive they are shot. This is not because their leg can't be fixed, but because for the rest of their life they will be lame.

Animals usually can't be rehabilitated like people can because they don't understand that they have to use the limb even thought it is painful to get better.

With small animal vets they'll patch up the animal even though the quality of life of that animal will forever be impacted as will the owner. I've seen a couple incontinent dogs (no fun) one dog with a broken leg that never healed.

So apart from the financial considerations, I figure as pet owners we have a duty to ensure a pain free existence at the very least with a decent quality of life.

As far as my dog goes he's on the mend now, this morning he got up and asked to go out. For the last few days I had to carry him out to go use the facilities. He's still a sorry sight he's lost like 50% of his fur. :(
 

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Nonsense - I think you would have to work pretty hard to spend an average of almost $14k per year on a kid.
Maybe not. The $250K to age 18 might not be quite as far out there as you think if you include the compounding of growth on the money assuming it was saved.

Starting at birth with an initial outlay of $1000 and assuming a compounding rate of 6%, the annual expenditures drops to <$8000/yr. That's still a lot for a young child, but if private schooling enters into it, day care, sports, music, it all adds up pretty quickly.
 

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Maybe not. The $250K to age 18 might not be quite as far out there as you think if you include the compounding of growth on the money assuming it was saved.

Starting at birth with an initial outlay of $1000 and assuming a compounding rate of 6%, the annual expenditures drops to <$8000/yr. That's still a lot for a young child, but if private schooling enters into it, day care, sports, music, it all adds up pretty quickly.
Ok, maybe it's not that hard.

However, some people read these "scare numbers" and assume that if you have a kid - you will have to come up with $250k or the kid will starve to death.

The reality is that a lot of spending is not mandatory - private school for example.

What I would like to see is a more realistic number which includes the basics - food, clothes, toys, some activities. I know this won't be anywhere near $250k.
 

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FP: I always read those numbers with a *huge* grain of salt.

In our case, we did not buy a single piece of new baby furniture or gear. We wore our kids around in slings as babies and cloth-diapered (which was actually really great during Toronto's garbage strike!). No formula in our house either, and they just ate regular "people food" when they were ready.

However, daycare, should you require it for your kids, can be $14,000 for sure for a single child and more than that if you have two kids in care.
 

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We've tracked nearly everything we've spent on our daughter since before she was born. There are things difficult to account for, such as increased utilities costs for washing her clothes and additional taxi charges or bus tickets for trips to the doctor etc, but all in all we've tracked the majority of it. When she started eating the same food as us regularly, the grocery bill isn't split either, but we can guesstimate grocery costs if we had to.

It will be interesting to see how much having a kid costs us once she hits a certain age....

Daycare where we are is cheap - I pay $4,860/yr for fulltime care in an excellent daycare centre :) Real estate is also cheap (we paid $50K for our house) and there are plenty of decent paying jobs.
 

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It will be interesting to see how much having a kid costs us once she hits a certain age....
I think that's tough to estimate or judge. I remember when we no longer had daycare, that was a huge expense lifted from us.

Now my kids are older, we've got the cell bills, clothes, and things like eating out is now 4 adults instead of 2 adults and 2 kids meals, we've got 2 ATV's (for myself and my son) and other expensive things. yet is doesn't seem as much of a burden financially - not sure why.
 

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With small animal vets they'll patch up the animal even though the quality of life of that animal will forever be impacted as will the owner. I've seen a couple incontinent dogs (no fun) one dog with a broken leg that never healed.

So apart from the financial considerations, I figure as pet owners we have a duty to ensure a pain free existence at the very least with a decent quality of life.

As far as my dog goes he's on the mend now, this morning he got up and asked to go out. For the last few days I had to carry him out to go use the facilities. He's still a sorry sight he's lost like 50% of his fur. :(
Glad to hear your canine friend is getting better. I agree with you that sometimes a vet's definition of 'good quality of life' and a pet owner's definition can be very different.

A few years ago our 10 year old lab/shepherd mix was diagnosed with cancer. After much testing, it was determined that she had a 'spindle cell' type of cancer which meant that there was no point in surgery because it would keep coming back. Our vet assured us that this type of cancer is slow growing, that she was not in pain and many dogs live for 2-3 years with 'good quality of life' once diagnosed with this type of tumor.

Well, within eight weeks it grew from the size of a tennis ball to the size of my son's head (he was about 15 months old). She had trouble using her front leg because the tumor was interfering with the shoulder joint. She had difficulty with stairs, we no longer felt comfortable taking her for walks and she would moan (as if in pain) when trying get up or down from a lying position.

Our vet refused to euthanise her. He said with the latest generation of drugs we could 'easily prolong her life'. We were not comfortable with this. Living with her day to day we could see that her quality of life was not good. When we pushed him on euthanization, he finally snapped at us and said that he does not euthanize until death is 'imminent'. (Doesn't that sort of defeat the purpose?)

We called several vets. They would not euthanize for us because she was not their patient and they insisted they would need the same battery of tests before they would consider it. This was emotionally horrible for us. Finally a friend of mine called her cousin (a vet) and she euthanized the dog for us.

Then this year our 19 year old cat was diagnosed with stage 2 kidney failure, a heart murmur, cataracts so bad she was mostly blind, and arthritis in her hips. Our new vet would not euthanize. He had all sorts of stuff he wanted us to do to keep her going. It felt cruel to us to prolong her suffering so we called my friend's cousin again and she put down the cat.

These experiences have left me wondering if it is really love of the animal or not wanting to lose an income producing patient that motivates vets?
 
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