Thursday, February 5, 2015

A New Year’s Resolution You Can’t Afford to Give Up

With the start of the new year, it’s the time for resolutions and we here at Adventure Unleashed have an important one we’d like to recommend.  Given our job you’d expect it’d be something along the lines of “train your dog for 5 minutes every day” or “take your dog for a long walk at least once a week” but while these are important things to work towards, there’s something even MORE important for you and your dog.

It’s appropriate financial management and having a savings account for pet emergencies.

That’s not what you were expecting was it? Let me tell you a true story to explain why we think this is so important. Roughly three months ago I (a veterinarian) saved a 4.5 week old kitten who had been hit by a car and had a skull fracture. He was in really rough shape and I didn’t expect him to live through the night though given the nature of his injuries I told him I felt obligated to make an attempt. But I wasn’t going to put much money into a stray feral kitten. Somehow, after getting roughly no sleep for days, he managed to pull through and was adopted into the family with the name Mike “Dinner” Wazowski. He lived with me for 8 weeks, quickly becoming a fixture in both the house, and as a helper in dog classes.

Unfortunately, one day I came home to find Mike lethargic, painful, and having vomited. Being a vet, I quickly thought of all the terrible things that could be wrong, and made the decision to take him to the emergency vet. It was unclear exactly what was wrong, and his history of brain trauma made it even more difficult to diagnose. I was left with the tough decision to either hospitalize him for further testing and potential surgery or euthanize him. The first option was likely to be very expensive and being a dog trainer doesn’t make you a lot of money. He wasn’t in bad shape and I wanted to be sure that I had given him the best chance of survival. If we could find out what was wrong, and fix it then I’d have 15-20 good years with the best cat ever. But the question “can we actually afford this” came up. Which is the worst reality of being both a vet and a pet owner. Sometimes you can’t afford to give your pet the care he needs without sacrificing your family’s life. That’s just reality.

Luckily for Mike, I have a savings account that is just for emergencies. I worked four different jobs after graduating and was very careful with my spending to make this the case. On a day to day basis, I try to forget about this money. This is what allowed me to make the decision to hospitalize Mike. They ran a lot of tests, came up with a potential answer that could be cured with surgery, we did that, but he never recovered the way he should have. There was something bigger going on that we couldn’t figure out. Five days after I hospitalized him, Mike began to have trouble breathing and it was the end of the road for him. Yeah, the story doesn’t have a happy ending.

So, do I regret having that savings account, and spending all that money on him? Not. At. All.

Having the ability to treat Mike (without risking my own financial stability) until it was clear he was suffering and we still didn’t know what was going on allowed me to know for sure that we had done everything medically possible for him. It’s what ensures I can sleep at night without worrying “what if.” It’s how every pet and owner should part; with the peace of knowing they made the right choice.

So, over the next year, make it your goal to have an emergency fund. You’ll be working alongside me as I rebuild mine. By making this a priority, you can ensure that you are prepared for whatever life throws at you. Your pets (and your vet) will thank you for it. How much should be in it? For a personal savings account, the general recommendation is ~6 months of expenses, but what about for pet expenses? That’s up to you. Talk to your veterinarian about how much she recommends you have based on your pet and your lifestyle, she’ll be happy to know you are attempting to be a more responsible pet owner!