dvm360 readers: How would you answer this pet owner?

dvm360 readers: How would you answer this pet owner?

This veterinary client longs to provide care for her pets, but her financial circumstances have taken a turn for the worse. What would your advice to her be?
Dec 18, 2017
By dvm360.com staff


Editor’s note: We at dvm360 recently received this heartfelt plea from a pet owner who finds herself in the midst of difficult financial circumstances and is agonizing about what to do about her beloved pets. We are not the experts here—you are! How would you as veterinary professionals advise this individual if she were your client? Leave a comment in the comments section below (must be registered) or email [email protected].

I’m writing tonight because I have a difficult question, one that unfortunately applies to many of us pet owners today. I’ve always understood that pets are a luxury, that they need proper care, and that they are a lifelong commitment. And I’ve always been fortunate enough to be able to provide for my pets and even spoil them. Then things changed.

Through no fault of my own, my financial situation changed drastically almost overnight. Now I no longer have the money to care for them as I used to, and this new situation is not likely to improve; I am disabled and unable to work. But when I got my pets years ago, I had no way of knowing that my life and finances would take such a blow.

I have used the same veterinary practice for 30 years. I have always been a good client, and the practice has always been good to me and my furkids. Now, however, I can no longer afford even routine checkups and vaccines—let alone the dreaded emergency. I know this isn’t fair to the pets I adore. But how do I explain all this to, for example, my sweet 12-year-old cat with hyperthyroidism? Or my 5-year-old rescue dog with allergies?

How do I find new, loving homes for my chronically ill animals who’ve known no other home but mine? Even if I could ignore my lifetime commitment to them and their care, older pets with problems simply are not being widely sought by anyone—except the unexpectedly poor family who loves them. As you know, even young, healthy pets are turned in to shelters and euthanized every day.

I’ve always maintained that if you cannot afford to properly care for a pet, then taking one in is both selfish and cruel. So what do I, and thousands like me, do when we find ourselves in this position?

Had I a young child and suddenly become “financially disabled,” there would be many resources out there to assist. Is there anything out there for our furkids, who also deserve the best we can give them? This is haunting me, and I so want to do what’s best for these innocent creatures who’ve placed their trust in me. Is there an answer?

Thank you.

—MJ Falango
DeLand, Florida

talk to your vet

Oh MJ what a dreadful situation, and additional stress when your life is already upside down.
With the disclaimer that being in Australia things might be different, I also know that people are basically good anywhere in the world and I am sure there are those who would try to help if they only knew what you needed.
I would suggest that the first step is to approach your regular vet and ask for a non-appointment. I'm not sure how aware they are of your situation, but I know if, in our clinic, a regular client who had always made caring petcare choices asked to speak to a vet or the practice manager about a change in circumstances we would make that happen as a courtesy visit. The most important thing here is to explain your situation and allow the practice to help you identify what the non-negotiables of you pets' needs are and help you identify options. For example we have some good samaritan clients on our client list who might help anonymously occasionally, some will "pay it forward" and pay an additional consult fee for us to use at our discretion for clients in need, drug company reps occasionally leave me with drug samples....every clinic is different but you don't know what your vet might be able to do if they don't know that you need help.
In the midst of chaos I can see that the needs of your furry companions is still an important priority to you and I know how heartbreaking your thoughts are. Good writers always leave the worst horror to your imagination as it is worse than anything they could actually put on the page, so first try to stop worrying and find out what your options are. At least with concrete information you can make decisions and choices knowing that you have done all that you can.
I know this is not a solution for a widespread problem but I'm a believer that (paraphrasing) I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.
My heart goes out to you and your pets, take care

Payment solutions need to be discussed

More and more pet owners are faced with similar financial issues, from wages not increasing and care for pets increasing. Until the veterinary profession starts to offer solutions and provide alternative payment options new client visits will continue to decline and compassion fatigue will continue to grow. Human medicine has developed solutions for patients that cannot pay their high deductibles. The veterinary profession can do the same to help all pet owners get the gold standard of care.