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RE: Veterinary Service Challenges

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Posted by: cyclopsgrl at Thu Jul 5 08:09:24 2007  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by cyclopsgrl ]  

My two male cats are 16 next month. I haven't had any single staggering bill (I define staggering as over $1,000 at once) yet. However, both have had their share of Senior cat problems that have been treatable, with meds, diet changes, and vet care (and bills). I would say cumulatively over the past 4-5 years, I've spent at least $4,000. It has been an easy choice for me as it has been gradual over 5 years, no more than $1,000 total in a given year. A few hundred every few months is something I expected now that they are Seniors.

One of most expensive years was an amputation for my then 12 year old (Pookey) who got a cancerous tumor due to the rabies vaccination. Without the amputation, he would have died within a few months. The vet and Cornell Vet clinic consult (you can call a hotline for $35) both advised he was still young enough, would recover fully and quickly, and it would be almost a sure bet of 100% cure. The surgery and all cost $1,000ish with the biopsy, surgery, recovery, meds, etc... He's done exceptionally well the past 3 1/2 years. I have no regrets at all.

I have always used a sanity check when it came to vet care for them and so far, have always gone along with the vets (have had two excellent geriatric vets in the past 5-6 years). By sanity check, I mean, I weigh their age, risk, expected outcome, etc. Now that they are older, my measure is different. For instance, a few years ago, we thought one of my cats might be getting thyroid problems. He was 12 at the time (relatively young -- most indoor cats live to 16-18 years old). I was given three options if the tests came back postitive. Surgery (under $1,000), daily meds (cumulatively expensive, but cheapest overall), and a radioactive thyroid injection ($1,000). I would have gone with the $1,000 radioactive thyroid injection at the time as it was a 99.9% one shot, one cure rate. The catch is, he had to stay at the clinic out-of-town for a week. Back then I would have done it (his test results came back OK and didn't have to do it). Fast forward to now, when they are both 16, I doubt I'd go that route. A week from home would be very, very tough on him (he would probably stop eating), and, based on his age and current treatable conditions, I doubt he will be with me more than another year or two. I would go for the daily meds, most likely, which would work on him and would have the least impact on him.

Back to your original question. If I were faced with a serious illness right now (and expensive one), such as cancer, I would talk it over with my vet and seriously weigh my cats' age and most likley life-span (a couple more years) against what they would have to go thru for treatment (quality of life) and how much treatment would extend their life. In the case of my two boys, I will do what will make them most comfortable in their twilight years.

I acutally had to make a tough decision like this early last year. A year and a half ago, Stanley was dizzy. They told me brain tumor. Vet said operation and MRI would cost $3-4,000. But the vet advised against it due to his age and, in particular, the fact that problems come back within a year of surgery many times. We could treat him with steroids, but he probably wouldn't be with me much longer (4-6 months). Common sense, his age, and outcome prevailed on this one, more so than the cost. Putting him thru the surgery wouldn't buy him more time and the surgery would definately affect his quality of life as he recovered. I asked the vet if money were no concern, which way would she go and she advised me to go the steroid route and keep him comfortable. If she had advised surgery, I would have seriously considered it -- if it had a more positive and certain outcome (which it didn't). I also got online and talked to folks that had gone the surgery route and they really wished they hadn't. In the long run, not going the surgery route couldn't have worked out better, he has done very well for a year and a half now. Decreased the steroids to a very small dose and no problems. Far outliving what the vet thought his lifespan would be... (Steroids are less than $5 a month, by the way).

My thoughts are to weigh the age of the cat, the impact on quality of life and go from there. If it is intensive and will only buy a few months, why put the cat thru it? To me it is more of a common sense/judgement issue vs. money. When my cats were younger, I was willing to "put them thru more" as they recovered much faster and had a longer life expectency. Quality over quantity of life. I have been lucky with excellent vets and strongly believe for the vets it isn't about money. It is about the best care for the cat depending on the cat's situation.

You are facing tough decisions. I hope you have a good vet to talk this thru with and they are giving you the pros and cons and outcomes of going either way. I recommend taking money off the table and asking is the treatment going to give a longer quality of life to the cat (if the cat is young), or is it just going to delay the outcome for a short while and be a very tough time on the cat to go thru the treatments...
Stanley and Pookey


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