I Wish I Had Pet Insurance When…We Faced Canine Cancer

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Pet insurance is key if fighting canine cancer in dogs.
Guido was a little black pound hound when we got him. He was about 3 months old and had picked up some outstandingly bad habits by the time we brought him home. After he ruined our carpet, and I personally installed hardwood floors in our house, I found the value of a good dog trainer.

Guido was fast and sleek and about 50 pounds. He was a really pretty dog. And then he wasn’t. When he was 4, he started losing the fur on his face and he took on a patchy, bedraggled look. No one said, “Oh, what a pretty dog,” to us anymore, although watching them process his ugly mug and try to find something nice to say was perversely entertaining.

But he was Guido and we didn’t mind, and I didn’t mind the several hundred dollars we spent trying to figure out his underlying pet health issue. We were never able to figure it out, but it didn’t seem affect his health and energy level, and soon we were back on our typical twice-a-year visits to the vet. This little incident wasn’t enough to open my eyes to the potential costs of responsible pet ownership.

Part of Our Family
Guido was a key family member for a couple of reasons. One, I traveled a lot, and I was comforted knowing that my family was protected while I was away. He never would have let anyone break in while he was on watch.

Also, and most importantly, he played a huge role in my daughter’s transformation from coach potato to athlete. I couldn’t suggest activity without her questioning my motives – deep down, she knew she was overweight, but it wasn’t openly discussed. However, I could talk about our responsibility to Guido and his need for exercise. By the time Guido was 2, we were extremely faithful dog walkers. Routinely walking Guido created a cycle of lost weight, and an increased interest in activity that has continued into young adulthood for my daughter. When I say that Guido is responsible for changing my daughter’s life, I’m not exaggerating.

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A Health Scare
When Guido was 8, we noticed some lethargy and had him into our vet a couple of times. Our vet gave him a clean bill of health, and he got his energy back so we thought we were in the clear. A couple of weeks later, I came home from work one evening and he was obviously not feeling well. He was curled up at the foot of our basement stairs and came up to see me very slowly, instead of the usual enthusiastic greeting. He perked up a bit the rest of the evening, so my concern waned a bit. However, about 11:00 that night, as I was about to go to bed, he was again very lethargic, barely lifting his head when I went to see how he was doing. At this point, I had to carry him to my truck to get him to the emergency vet hospital a few miles from our house.

The Diagnosis
The hospital requested permission to perform an ultrasound for about $300, which I authorized, and determined that he had a tumor on his spleen. The vet said the tumor looked relatively contained and he thought Guido would probably be okay after surgery to remove it. The price for the surgery was approximately $3,000. Admittedly, that set me back a bit. I never thought I’d face a $3,300 vet bill—especially, at 1:00 in the morning on a day my dog started out apparently healthy. My wife and I decided that having the surgery would force us to skip our annual vacation, but it seemed like a reasonable trade-off to extend the life of a pet we viewed as a family member.

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I wish I could say that Guido turned out fine and enjoyed a couple more years of life with us, but that’s not the case. The veterinarian discovered that Guido’s tumor was cancerous and had spread to his lungs and other organs. There were no good alternatives and we had him euthanized during surgery. Ultimately, Guido’s final few hours of life cost about $3,800.

Looking Back
I don’t begrudge the money we spent. Every step of the way, extending veterinary care seemed a reasonable thing to do. That said, it was very painful financially. I had never heard of pet insurance at the time, and truthfully, I’m not sure I would have given it serious consideration. It’s pretty difficult to imagine yourself having to make significant, potentially life-altering financial decisions about your pet in an urgent, high-pressure situation.

Having gone through this, I don’t ever want to be in that position again, and I won’t be without dog insurance again. I would have a difficult time with myself if I ever had to compromise the health of our new dog, Attie, because of financial considerations.

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