Sunday, November 9, 2014

Is the Cost of Rehabbing a Reactive Dog Worth It?

Money pit.
In my last post, I told you that I have spent about $5225 in treating Maisy's reactivity over the course of her lifetime. This is not an insignificant amount of money, but - spoiler alert - it has absolutely been worth it. Not only do I love my dog like crazy, but in my mind, a behavior problem is really no different than a medical one - and few of us would hesitate to drop thousands on our dogs at the vet.

Here's the deal: whether it's behavioral or medical (a distinction which is really less clear than it might seem, considering that behavior problems can be driven by brain chemicals and such), the outcome is not guaranteed. We don't know if our dogs will survive being hit by a car, but we take them to the vet anyway. And, in both cases, there are often adjustments to be made once the crisis is over. For example, knee surgery will require crate rest and physical therapy exercises.

And, in my unfortunate experience, there isn't much difference in the final price tag. In the past year, Maisy has had three different health issues. Let's look at what these have cost.

Crisis #1: Immune-Mediated Inflammatory Disease of the Spinal Cord (aka, Meningitis)
In September 2013, Maisy became suddenly ill with what we would later find out was an immune-system that decided her spinal cord needed to die. Our first stop was our regular vet, for $520. When she continued to get sick, she ended up hospitalized at the University of Minnesota.  The three day stay cost about $2650. Out patient meds and a follow up with the neurologist was about $150. Grand total? $3320. And since it was immune-mediated, the likelihood of recurrence is high.

Crisis #2: Bladder Stones Causing Blocked Urinary Tract
Shortly after Maisy's meningitis, she stopped peeing. Her urinary tract was blocked and she had some massive bladder stones that needed to be removed. That hospitalization and treatment cost $3150. She then needed follow up care that included UA/UCs ($700) and bladder ultrasounds ($775). Total cost? $4625. And that doesn't include the ongoing cost of her new prescription food, nor does it take into account that this was not Maisy's first time at the bladder-problem-rodeo; she's had recurrent UTIs her entire life.

Crisis #3: Corneal Dystrophy
And then Maisy started having eye problems. This one was actually pretty cheap. We saw her primary vet first, for $150. Then we had three visits with the ophtalmologist ($550), and medication ($60). The bill? $760. A steal really, although again, this does not include the cost of ongoing medication she'll need for the rest of her life- about $120/year.

So, don't let the cost of rehabbing a reactive dissuade you. Dogs are just expensive money pits, that's all. But they are the furriest, most loving money pit you will ever have. And can I just recommend pet insurance? My other three dogs have it, and it's definitely worth the money.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't take the opportunity to thank everyone who helped me with Maisy's ridiculous amount of vet bills last year. I received around $6000 from concerned readers, and believe me, that made a huge difference for us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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