When my veterinarian told me it would cost $800 to have my dog Max's teeth cleaned, I almost fell over.
"Isn't that a little steep?" I gasped.
Due to Max's age, (and the hefty price), we decided to let our dog suffer through stinky breath rather than shell out the dough. (In my defense, the vet said he didn't think Max was in pain.)
So I posted on Facebook, "I think $500 is my pet spending limit!" And then the responses flooded in.
"You can't put a dollar value on it Jen," wrote Anna Neumann Voeller. "I just paid $500 on just getting 'check ups' for my 2 cats. It was ridiculously high and I think we got ripped off, but they're worth it."
"We spent $900 last year for surgery," said Jay Rosicky. "Love my dog, but can't afford it. Wouldn't do it again."
But people are doing it -- again and again. According to the American Pet Products Association, $47.7 billion will be spent on our pets in 2010.
"Five years ago we spent $3,000 on our 10-year-old lab who had a brain tumor -- only to have her put down 2 weeks later," said Karen Bennett Peck.
"To most pet owners, their pets are like their children," says Tracy Ahrens, author of "Raising our Furry Children" (slated for release July 2011). "Some people cannot afford extensive veterinary care, but some veterinary teaching institutions offer financial assistance to pet owners through charitable programs. Always ask if that is available."
One helpful source, Ahrens suggests, is a credit card called Care Credit, which can be used to pay for veterinary care. And then there's always pet insurance.
"You can find pet health insurance information through a veterinary office, pet-related magazines and doing a general search online," says Ahrens. "Monthly premiums range from $10 to $100, with annual deductibles of $50 to $500 and annual or lifetime maximums of $1,000 to $14,000."
But even if you have insurance, just like humans, you can be dropped if you have too many health issues. Steve Levitas' insurance was canceled after needing too many procedures for his Labrador.
"Two shoulders and a hip before he was three," he wrote. Ten thousand dollars later, Steve's dog is doing just fine. "We call him 'the lemon', but he's 10 now and still kicking like the energizer bunny."
TEN GRAND? I'm starting to feel like a real jerk for not paying $800 on Max's teeth.
"For me, it's not about the cost, it's about what kind of condition it is," wrote Win Reis. "If it's something from which he's expected to make a full recovery then I'm likely to spend it."
But sometimes you don't know your pet's chances of survival until you do some digging.
"We spent nearly $2,000 on our cat Truffle when he developed lung cancer," said Elizabeth Johnson of Chicago. "He died within days of his biopsy. We had the best intentions but we only prolonged his suffering. I wouldn't do it again."
And we all know those people who keep a sick pet alive way too long because they refuse to let them go.