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How Much Money Would You Spend On A Sick Pet?

Today’s post is brought to you by Blake at Bean Counter By Day. Enjoy!

Everyone, meet Jo:


cost of pet veterinary bills

Jo is one of two family felines in the Bean Counter household, both of which Girl Bean Counter brought with her from Atlanta.  Recently, Jo decided to give his mother a little scare by constantly using the bathroom.  How she noticed, I’m still not sure because honestly who pays that much attention to their animals using the bathroom?  But she did notice, and then she got on the internet to Google possible causes.

That was a huge mistake.  Along with all the normal, very treatable, conditions that could have caused this, she got explanations like a blocked urethra which could cause death if not treated immediately.  So off we went to the vet as fast as humanly possible (because the last thing I wanted was her cat dying in my car).

How Much To Spend On a Sick Pet?

I should preface the following by stating we’ve already had a couple of expensive setbacks in our savings goal this year. As a result, all the way up to the vet all I could think about was how much it was going to cost if there was something seriously wrong with Jo. The longer we were in the car, the higher the imaginary bill became and somehow I began thinking about how I was going to tell Girl Bean Counter that we were going to have to put Jo down if it was as expensive as I was fearing.

I know, that makes me sound like a horrible human being.  The truth is, Jo is a very good cat.  He’s affectionate, he’s playful, and he gets along great with my dog.  But at the end of the day, he’s an animal, and I just couldn’t imagine paying $1,000+ for treatments and/or surgeries.

The good news is it turned out only to be a urinary tract infection and barely broke the $200 bill barrier, so Jo is alive and well and back to his normal self.  But the whole experience did get me thinking about what amount of money is financially responsible to spend on a sick pet.  I guess a lot goes into the decision. Will it cure the animal for good?  Is the animal old or young? Can you even afford it (although I’d bet emotion keeps this from being asked as much as it should be)?

Emotions vs Reality

In our current situation, trying to save for a wedding, trying to get out of debt before we start a family, I had decided that $1,000+ was just too much.  Especially when there are 6-8 million pets entering shelters every year in this country.  You can’t ever truly replace a pet, but I do think you can find another that makes you just as happy.

People go into debt for a lot of stupid reasons in this country.  They need want a new car,  they want to go on great trips, they have to have the newest iPhone Air 273S….   I can completely understand how someone could feel like going into debt to save an animal would be a good decision.  At the end of the day, I just don’t think I’m one of them.

Luckily, Jo is a resilient little guy and something tells me that he’ll be prowling around the house for years to come, which means my life will be easier because Girl Bean Counter is happy 🙂

Do you know someone that has had to deal with this situation?  Do you think there is an amount where it is finally outrageous to pay for an animal? Do you think I’m a horrible person?  I’m very interested to know what others think about this!

Kim’s Comments: I have spent and probably will spend too much again if we have a pet emergency. In the moment, I usually am too emotional to think about dollars.

Bio: Blake started Bean Counter by Day to give a CPA’s view on all things personal finance. While many posts are money related, career choices, automobiles, and DIY projects are bound to make an appearance. And as always, any questions you need answered are always a privilege!  You can also find me on Twitter!

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I’ve known some people who have paid +$1,000 for surgery on their pets as well. This is just a deeply personal thing for most people. Though you can always “buy” a new cat or dog, most people feel a real connection to the pet that they’ve raised as if it was one of their children. And therefore they’d be willing to do anything for them.

  2. I think it depends on the financial situation of the family and the prospects of the medical procedure actually improving/extending the life of the pet. Our last dog developed a cancer that had very little chance of being cured with medical procedures. We could have gone that more expensive route, but most likely the quality of life would not have been enhanced. It was sad but we decided to put her to sleep. Such is the financial and emotional cost of pet ownership.

  3. I am SO like Kim in these situations. Luckily, we haven’t had any huge emergency vet situations, because I know I’d spend the money if we did.

  4. There are many diseases that could cost over $1,000, so I think that definitely isn’t unreasonable. I think it depends on the age of the pet. We had to put our cat down on Saturday and over the past couple months paid probably about $500 on care for her from medications to vet visits. The only reason we didn’t go to a specialist to discuss removing the tumor behind her eye is because she was 21 years-old and the odds of her surviving an eye removal surgery were low since cats that old do not respond well to anesthesia.

  5. We had this exact issue with our cat a few years ago, though it got a little worse and we had to spend $300-400 on it. He also is on a special food that is fairly expensive. He’s a part of our family, so it was well worth the cost. That said, I think it depends on your financial situation and how much of a role the pet plays in your life, but generally think it’s well worth the cost especially when it’s something fairly straight forward.

  6. I recently had to pay over $1200 for my 4-month old puppy. He swallowed the end of a small silicone spatula. Our vet’s office was closed so we ended up taking him to two emergency clinics because the first didn’t have an endoscope and would have had to do surgery on him. I had to dip into my emergency fund for it so I’m glad I had it because I can’t imagine having to put him down if I couldn’t afford it. If we had known about the second clinic first we could have saved about $400. I’m just glad he’s perfectly fine now and now I’m going to have a separate emergency fund just for my puppies.

  7. I personally am in this situation like yours with my puppy, she can’t walk for weeks now, and I still haven’t been able to get her check up by a vet because we don’t have the extra money to do so. I already know that it would require surgery because that’s the way they do today with dogs with bone problems, and it will certainly cost a lot. I’m still looking for ways to earn extra income, and if it’s not too late, maybe I could get my dog fixed someday.

  8. I understand people’s situations vary with finances but part of responsible pet ownership is planning for and be willing to pay for emergency procedures that come up with our pets. They are not a disposable commodity that you put to sleep just because their care would be more money than you would want to spend at the moment – especially if it’s for a condition that would still allow the pet to have a good quality of life. I see you have other posts about saving money etc, and so I find it hard to believe you didn’t have an emergency fund for these pets. And really, what is 1000.00 in the scheme of things when your planning a wedding – it’s a drop in the pond. It comes down to your priorities in life and I feel bad for your pets that you have placed a price tag on their value and you wouldn’t have their back should they really need help with a health crisis in the future. By the way, you could have found another loving home through friends and family for Jo if the bill was too expensive for you. But to choose to end another living beings life over a relatively manageable health condition just because of your priorities in life I find personally disgusting.

    • I agree – postpone the wedding! A pet’s life is much more important than a fancy party!

    • That life should be forced beyond its term in nature is not a fact. So your statement about “responsible” pet ownership is offensive, untrue, and too often parroted. We don’t all share the same philosophical viewpoints. As I type this mere days after a minor human being was voluntarily euthanized I’m reminded just how mentally unbalanced people have become in their feelings for pets. Allowing nature to take its course shouldn’t be considered irresponsible let alone a crime as its now become in many cities.

  9. We spent about $1,200 on testing for our dog Hammie before having him put to sleep. He was really sick and we never found out what was wrong…but we couldn’t justify spending any more on him. RIP, Hammie!

  10. It’s odd, my wife and I had this discussion recently after seeing that someone had spent about $25k on cancer treatment for their dog. We thought it was crazy, but at the same time, if one of my little pups was sick, and I could get them the rest of their life, I honestly would probably spend updwards of $10k to fix them. I just hope I never have to. And I hope your cat gets better soon!

  11. I would spend a very large amount on my dogs if something were to happen. One of my dogs (this will probably sound horrible because it will sound like I’m choosing a favorite pet), I would probably spend an endless amount mainly because I adopted her right around when my dad passed away, so I feel like I have a very strong connection to her.

  12. It’s a deeply personal choice. Our cat is still young so beyond his yearly check-up and annual shots, we haven’t incurred any big emergency bills. Being that he is still young, we would probably be more inclined to spend more than if he was very old and we may be doing more harm than good. On the flip side, I do know people who have spent thousands on their pet and swear it was worth it.

  13. An acquaintance of mine on Facebook is an animal lover and underpaid individual who would complain about her salary and then talk on and on about all the medical work she was getting for her dogs. She did have pet insurance which I’m sure helps but there comes a time when you have to let go. I would not spring for costly daily injections to save an older pet. It might seem harsh but the dog would probably prefer death over staying alive in pain. Spending so much money on a pet is not something I would do myself. I do have limits too.

  14. I agree with what Kim said. It’s easy to say I wouldn’t pay over 1k, but when your pet looks at you with those sad eyes, your heart melts. I don’t know what my “line I wouldn’t cross” is. I have spent quite a bit when my cat was sick, but I think I’ll just have to cross that bridge if I ever come to it again.

  15. If I can spend $1K to buy a new laptop, I can spend that on my cat. I do think that would be about my cut-off but it’s hard to say that when these things accumulate. Sometimes it’s several $300 appointments over the course of a year. How do you determine the line for that?

  16. For me I think it comes more down to the quality of life for the pet than anything else and the acceptance that sometimes nature needs to take its course. Just because there is doggie chemo doesn’t mean the dog would choose to have it if it understood the side effects.

  17. Well, since you asked, I do maybe just a little bit think you’re a horrible person. I don’t really mean that. Your limits and your situation sound reasonable for you I guess, but to be perfectly honest I think that when you make a commitment to an animal, you commit to care and provide for it even and especially when the vet bill exceeds $1000. I’d sell my house before I let my dogs go untreated. I completely realize that my stance is the opposite extreme, and I wouldn’t blame you if you think I’m crazy, but my husband and I agree, dogs > money. If you ever put a pet down because you decided the vet bill was too much, I sincerely hope you do not get another pet.

  18. Tough call and one I never envy. The current baby goats at my house are so dang cute I’d open my wallet for an obscene amount…

  19. I don’t think I’ll know the answer to this until it happens. The first cat my wife and I had passed suddenly due to a heart attack. The two we have now are turning eleven, but no complications yet. I always say, “they’re just cats,” but in my heart I know I’d likely spend a fortune on them if they needed it.

  20. I once bought a little Labrador puppy for $200 and within a week he went down sick. The vet told us that he had a tangled up intestines and would die if he was not operated there and then. We spent over $1,000 for the operation. I wasn’t actually thinking about the puppy when I made the decision. I was worried about disappointing my daughter by not coming up with the money.

    Luckily, the breeder was given free one month pet insurance when she registered it and we could claim on the policy providing we continued with it. Insurance does help in these situations providing you can find affordable premium.

  21. Vet bills around my house have become costly. It can become rather expensive if your pet becomes ill. My dog Olivia has issues with her blood sugar. I was happy that my telemedicine company started offering a pet discount program. I did have to change vets but there were a ton in my area to choose from, and the one we choose is really great. I get the average savings of about 25% off my vet bill with this discount program. That bit adds up when you have to go more than once in a short amount of time, or period.

  22. I’m being faced with that decision right now. My Jack is 8 years old, and a tumor was found behind his right eye. I have an appointment with a surgeon in a few days, to listen to my options. I live alone, and Jack is my sole companion and family. I am close to forced retirement with little savings, and I considered letting him go, but decided I will ask lots of questions, then decide.

    I will ask if they can do a needle biopsy first. If the tumor is benign, I will consent to surgery and just pay it off. If it is malignant, I will not opt for chemo, and will put him down.

    Bottom line is I don’t want Jack to suffer. And my heart is breaking.

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