yikes … my vet bill is how much?

Like people, as animals age there seem to be more medical bills … and more discomfort about linking care and costs.

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I adore Oscar. We have been together for almost 15 years and I cannot imagine life without him. Yet, in the past six months, he has been a rather expensive fellow. He has bad teeth – always has had – and needs to have his teeth cleaned … again. For anyone with animals, you know this is outrageously expensive and I have shelled out the cash every couple of years to have his teeth cleaned. 

On top of that, he now has a heart murmur – diagnosed about six months ago by his regular vet and confirmed by a cardiologist … yes, you read that correctly. Needless to say the visit to the specialist was a bit pricey as well, but it seemed like a good idea to establish a baseline and make sure he can tolerate the anesthesia. Of course, cardiologist also found something that needs to be x-rayed – some “extra tissue” that could be perfectly normal for Oscar or could be a mass of some sort. <*sigh*>

Now, Oscar is a fairly healthy cat, with mild asthma, a touch of arthritis and this little heart murmur. So, there is no question that I will have his teeth cleaned. However, as he nears 17 years old (the equivalent of a person between 80 and 85 years old), I cannot help but think about a) what other costs may be coming my way in his old age and b) what procedures will cross the line of  “too risky”, “too unmanageable”, “too invasive” or … yes, “too expensive” … to undertake. How far am I willing to go? I have somewhat limited resources. Yet, the thought of not doing all I can makes me a little queasy and the thought of losing my little guy breaks my heart. So, what is my limit … how much is too much?

Fortunately, his quality of life is arguably better than mine, so I don’t think I have to make a decision right now! This is important to note because these later-life issues are  NOT just about money. Oscar enjoys life. He runs around the apartment, jumps up on the bed (though more often these days, he takes the stairs), plays with his toys, hangs out with Mom and me, begs for an alarming number of treats, and so on. When he stops doing these things … it will be tough for all of us.

Mom and I have started having these discussions about Oscar. It’s nice to have someone with whom I can discuss these issues. An interesting thing happened in the course of these conversations in that they unexpectedly led to conversations about Mom’s lines-in-the-sand when it comes to her own care. For that matter, it makes me think about my own health decisions. My mother doesn’t want heroic actions taken or to just be “kept alive”. I feel the same way about my own life and death decisions. So, I think we have made the same decision for Oscar!

I’m no longer sure which are the “real” discussions and which are discussions-by-proxy. I guess as long as we can talk it all through, we’ll figure out the limits and the preferences and make these decisions together. Thanks, Oscar, for helping us find our way through uncomfortable territory.

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