MONEY MORAL DILEMMA: Pet versus debt?

MSE_Martin Posts: 8,273
First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
Money Saving Expert
This week's Money Moral Dilemma

A family’s pet dog is ill. They take it to the vet, who proclaims that there’s a chance the dog will get better with a course of treatment costing £900, yet even then the dog may need to be put down at the end. The family already has severe debts and is struggling to stay afloat. Should they borrow more to have the treatment or is it time to say goodbye to the family pet?
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Also read last week's MMD: Give Santa the sack?

PS. And just to confirm this is an entirely hypothetical situation. Each week in the email I will be asking those questions. And yes, the lack of detail, the phrasing, all of it is deliberate to envoke debate (nice debate too). Enjoy the money moral maze.
Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert.
Please note, answers don't constitute financial advice, it is based on generalised journalistic research. Always ensure any decision is made with regards to your own individual circumstance.
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  • wigginsmum
    wigginsmum Posts: 4,150 Forumite
    Speaking as a pet-owner, I put pet medical needs on a par with children's medical needs, and both above money. If the dog would statistically have a decent quality of life thanks to the treatment, I'd opt for it because I view pet ownership as a binding commitment. If they definitely can't afford it, then they could look at getting the dog rehomed - even facing a serious condition, there are sometimes people who take on pets like this. And if they consider having another dog in the future, make sure they get pet insurance!
    The ability of skinny old ladies to carry huge loads is phenomenal. An ant can carry one hundred times its own weight, but there is no known limit to the lifting power of the average tiny eighty-year-old Spanish peasant grandmother.
  • I have in fact done this to the tune of £1,000 for a little stray kitten that we took in, sadly despite the money spent she died.

    I didn't borrow but did cash in an ISA.

    Pets cost money, fact, make sure you think about the consequences before taking on any animal.
  • gwinnie
    gwinnie Posts: 9,881
    Combo Breaker First Post
    First of all, the owners should go for a second opinion, and maybe a third.

    Second, the only option IMO is the one that means the least suffering and the most quality of life for the dog. Even if it means putting them to sleep. Why put a dog through painful procedures, giving it a slightly longer life of pain?

    Third, if there was a good chance for the dog, I would try fundraising for its operation!
    Context is all.

    "Free your mind and the rest will follow."

    "Real eyes realise real lies"
  • meerustar
    meerustar Posts: 8,560
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    If you are in receipt of benefits, look in your yellow pages and you will see some vets that don't charge for treatment if you cannot afford it.

    A few years back my mum took her dog to a centre like this in Salford where the dog was treated, kept in for a few days and then let home fit as a fiddle, so that is something to consider if you are on benefits.
  • I can still remember the last few months of my mother's pet dog. She was very ill and kept going back to the vets, we gave no thought to the cost, purely to what was best for the dog. The day the vet finally put her to sleep was very hard as the dog had appeared to be happy in herself and had walked into the vets practice without any help. So when the vet said she was still getting worse it was a surprise.

    I would gladly get into debt for a pet such as a dog or cat, but strangely I have never been sufficiently attached to rodents or fish enough to do much beyond the most basic stuff before deciding the best thing was disposal. I guess it is down to how much mutual 'love and respect' you believe exists, the lifespan of a dog helps here.

    Finally, should I ever be faced with a similar situation again, I would remember a story I found on the internet ( and click on 'scuddy' on the left ) that alternative treatments can help animals as well as people.
    something missing
  • fubar_2
    fubar_2 Posts: 123 Forumite
    I have a dog called Rocky (cross German Sheppard/Collie) he's aged about 12 now, I have him insured (via Tesco) and every year I keep seeing his premiums go up and every year I think he is worth every penny, I would hate to be put into the position of thinking about costs over his welfare, would I go into debt for him....yes I would but I would not prolong his situation if there was any chance he would suffer for it.

    to sum it up as some one said in a funny notice I seen.

    "To you, it's an animal. To me, he is an adopted son who is
    short, hairy, walks on all fours and doesn't speak clearly."
    Be ALERT - The world needs more LERTS
  • i think that if the family have severe debts already, then the dog should be let go - either to a charity or put down.

    this family could end up with more debt, no dog, and end up losing their house, and then what? people commit suicide because of debt - i know i sound harsh, i have pets, but its a gamble. If it was a definate 'no more treatment required' and dog will be fine, then (still only) maybe, but with no guarantee.... i would dream of spending £900 on my cat (sorry chilli, love you loads, but you are getting on a bit....!)

    i'd say no - put the dog down.

    but as the poster said above - some vets and animal charities could help - my mum had a cat that needed some work and could not afford it and she was on benefits and she only had to pay the first £40 (i think) thanks to the Cats Protection League, so i would say phone around and see what help you can get
    Willow: I knew it, I knew it, well not in the sense of having the slightest idea, but I knew there was something I didn't know!
  • catkins
    catkins Posts: 5,703
    I've been Money Tipped!
    fubar wrote:
    Ito sum it up as some one said in a funny notice I seen.

    "To you, it's an animal. To me, he is an adopted son who is
    short, hairy, walks on all fours and doesn't speak clearly."

    Love this quote - it is exactly how I feel about my dog. I have no children, my dog is my child. A lot of people think I am mad but I honestly do not care.

    As to the dilemma. Well if it was myself and OH if there was a good chance the dog would come through the treatment and live for at least another 6 months and was not suffering then I would somehow get the money, even if it meant selling almost everything we own. If, on the other hand, the outcome was not that good and we thought the dog was suffering we would have him put to sleep as, in our opinion, it would be the kinder option. Quite a while ago we had a dog who had a tumour in his stomach. The vet said if he removed it the dog would probably live for at least another year. We agreed to the op (which we could ill afford) and the poor dog only lived for a few more weeks, seemed to be in pain and was not in control of his bodily functions. Neither I nor OH regret spending the money but we do feel guilty that we put our dog through that and if we could go back in time would not do so again.

    I would definitely get a second opinion and make sure in the future any pets are insured.
    The world is over 4 billion years old and yet you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie
  • 105k
    105k Posts: 14
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    I owned a dog for 14 years and wouldn't have parted with it for any amount of money...but, the only vets bill I ever paid was to have it put down when it got cancer. The amount of money people pay for health bills for animals these days is obscene and is not for the benefit of the animal IMHO.

    Hard though it may seem to some people, I would have the dog put down and get another one from a shelter. That way the original pet doesn't suffer anymore, the new pet gets a loving home and the owner gets to enjoy the idiosynchrasies of another animal.
    It will take time to get over the loss but at least you are not watching it suffer anymore.
  • I have had dogs for 40 years. They are ONLY animals and it is pandering to our own personality that makes us even think about spending large sums of money at the vets without a 'guaranteed' outcome.
    My wife spent nearly 400 pounds on a Jack Russell last year and she was put down three days after returning home. We loved her dearly BUT what a waste of money AND more importantly what happened to compassion. She must have been through hell and back before her super life was ended, in all good faith.
    Treat 'em well in life and learn to recognise when it is better to show compassion over sentiment.
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