The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!


The High Cost of Ethical Dog Ownership & The Questionable Morality of Paying It

I recently began a campaign of de-cluttering my life by scanning all my bulky paper documents into an e-filing system (Rack2-Filer via the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500). During yesterday's scanning foray I hit my cache of veterinary bills, covering the five years I've had Osita, my Chow-Shar Pei mix and briefly Lupa, my very old stray coy dog. Out of an abundance of curiosity I wanted to see just what owning dogs actually cost me, so I added up my bills and here's the somewhat shocking information conclusion I came to:

Cost of Five Years of Dog Ownership

Veterinary services (exams, surgery, x-rays, blood work, treatments, etc. but excluding medication): $20,832
Food and medicine (estimated): $8,550
Rent increase related to dog (landlord was charging $100 extra/month): $5,400
My medical bills related to breaking up a minor dog fight where my nose got cut (not reflecting 70% coverage by insurance): $5,000
Boarding for 6 or 7 trips I had to take: $2,890

Total: $42,672 or approximately $8,500 / year

Dogs have medical needs, just like people do. Every dog I've owned has at some point required significant medical tests and/or intervention. A seizure disorder here, a torn ligament there, kidney problems, eye problems, cancer, you name it. All have issues at some point in their lives, and the costs of diagnosing and treating those issues is astronomical.  I have treated my pets with the only ethical standard I understand, extending to them the same support I would any loved one, human or canine.  If they have a medical need I will meet it, as best as I can, as best as modern medical science can, and their enjoyment of life allows.  The bills above include no radical treatments, no experimental procedures, and only one surgery (to treat entropion, where a dogs lower eyelid is turned inward and the lashes rub against the eye).  The bulk of the cost was for diagnostic testing (to test for Addison's disease, to investigate a seizure), for three brief hospital stays (following a seizure and to get fluids related to kidney disease), and the rest for routine blood work, x-rays, urine/fecal cultures, etc.

Let me make clear that I don't regret any of it, but as I am not wealthy and have few assets to speak of (no house, no IRA, no savings, no stocks/bonds), the absence of this money is certainly very palpable. So the question I can't help but think about is, could I have done anything differently to lower the costs, and related to that, is it morally right to spend so much on one or two dogs when a) so many other dogs are being killed in shelters for lack of resources, and b) I ultimately would like to have a family and resources saved today could be used for them on some tomorrow.

The question of lowering the costs is fairly easy to answer.  I could not have ethically made different medical choices for them.  If my dog has a grand mal seizure and there is no known epilepsy history the dog needs emergency medical attention to investigate the cause and ensure that if the cause is heart/blood clot related that the proper treatment is given.  To do otherwise would simply be unthinkable to me.  If altering treatment isn't possible the only option to lower costs is securing cheaper (but equivalent) services.  I ultimately have done just that, moving to the country where veterinarians charge half as much (an office visit that used to cost me $75 in Los Angeles now costs me $35, a hospital stay that would cost $3,000 now costs $1,500).

The morality question is a harder one to answer and in fact I think no answer is truly possible.  I do believe it is arguably immoral to divert resources to pets that ultimately could be saved and used to meaningfully benefit your children.  It may be I will always have resources enough to care for my future children, and that any money saved now would not matter, but I cannot know this now, and my resources and savings are so extremely limited that I truly can't morally make that bet.  And, I cannot argue that the resources I've tied up in significantly improving the life of two dogs wouldn't be better spent saving the lives of ten, twenty, thirty, or more dogs who otherwise have died in shelters.  My only answer to the question then is, yes, my actions in medically supporting my dogs in the way I am is immoral.  That said, having begun it, I am comfortable with and plan to continue this immorality for I see no other acceptable alternative; I owe a duty to those humans and animals I form bonds with, and I must on no account break those.  And as we are all in varying degrees immoral creatures, I am not uncomfortable with the recognition of some of my wrongs.

^ Quinxy

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Hi, there, Mr. von Besiex.
    Interesting subject you choose for pigeon-holing the expenses you incurred due to choosing to own pets.
    I’m married now, and my wife has [basically] made the same choice.
    [Personally, I had made the opposite choice, because my dad had raised bird dogs,
    and I had experienced the results he had, as a side effect (similar to your ‘future family’).]
    I think that, oftentimes,
    we ‘accidentally’ ignore the incredible burden that politics brings to bear on such decisions.
    Most of us little realize that, the absolutely immorally high expenses are the real result of politics.
    Politicians have deduced that they can ‘allow’ some segments of ‘society’ to ‘take advantage’ of others,
    on the ‘moral’ basis of which is ‘needed’ more;
    businesses ‘need’ to make a ‘profit’ to continue providing the ‘services’ they ‘sell’.
    IF that business is one of those that have strong lobbies, like doctors, druggists, veterinarians,
    or the great ‘immoral’ drug or food manufacturers,
    then those ‘favored few’ can legally extort huge, immoral amounts of money from their victims,
    all w/ the ‘government’s blessings’. [All the while, even poisoning or killing their victims.]
    Many businesses can’t do this, because they have to remain ‘competitive’, in order to remain viable.
    Those ‘favored few’, like doctors and hospitals, for example,
    have ‘legal protection’ against such competition.
    There are many such, that require a ‘government-issued license’ of some sort,
    to be able to open and to operate.
    Even barber shops and liquor stores have this ‘legal protection’ from competition.
    Its very much akin to the way the mafia ran[runs?] their ‘protection’ rackets,
    in that the ‘business’ pays fees to gain a measure of ‘protection’ from their competitors,
    and to be able to legally ‘extort’ huge ‘profits’ from their victims, in turn.
    All made [legally] possible by *YOUR* ‘elected officials’, and *YOUR* ‘tax dollars at work’!
    In my case, I had decided that,
    it being ‘immoral’ to spend the inordinate monies required for ‘moral’ pet ownership,
    that I would forego the benefits owning a dog, for the benefits of owning my money, instead.
    Alas, my wife has THREE dogs, w/ all the expenses tripled.

    Unfortunately, this situation will continue, until the God that you don’t believe in, rectifies it.

    Have a GREAT day, neighbor!

  2. sl0wj0n, here’s a simple solution to your dilemma: learn to be a vet yourself so you can take care of your own dogs. You won’t need to be officially licensed for that, and it’s obviously a trivial matter for you to learn the material as you don’t think it’s worth paying vets for the effort and skill that goes into their training. You should probably train to be a doctor too, while you’re at it, so that you can take care of your family – this would obviously be similarly easy and trivial for you. Then move to a country where you can give away your services without being licensed. Using reductio ad absurdum on your reasoning, one could go so far as to say that you are immoral if you *don’t* do all of this.

  3. 9000 dollars a year for owning a dog is way too much. I live in Romania and most people here earn half of that a year. I do not consider myself a 3rd world citizen. On the contrary – I own o house, a car , i have a dog myself… A dog needs food, shelter, love and sometimes medical care. My opinion is that you should travel a lot, because you could live for years with 45 grant in other countries. If you spend your money in the USA it’s like you never earned anything, you just borrowed and paid back.

  4. You fail to address an important facet of the morality of pet ownership. The protein (and other food) used to feed even a medium-sized dog in this country would feed – in abundance – a child in a 3rd world nation.

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