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How Much Is That Doggy in the Cancer Ward?

Here's a picture that didn't make it into today's column:


That's Dr. Nancy Bromberg, canine ophthalmologist, examining Grizzly.

Grizzly was fine, eyes-wise, as were all the dogs I saw Dr. Bromberg examine yesterday. But what if they hadn't been? How much would you spend on a pet's health?

I ask this because one of the bomb-dog handlers mentioned that one of his personal dogs had been treated for cancer by a canine oncologist -- at a cost that I couldn't quite hear.

"Did he say $1,600?" I asked Dr. Bromberg after he'd left. "No," she said. "Sixteen thousand."

That's a lot of dog biscuits.

When we were living in England our black Lab, Charlie, developed little growths on his lip and on his foreleg. The vet removed them (at great expense; the dollar was worth half the pound at the time) and asked us if we wanted them biopsied, in case they were malignant.

We thought about it and said no. It wasn't the cost of the biopsy, though it wasn't cheap -- about $200, I think. It was what we would have done if they had turned out to be serious. I assume that cancer treatment would have cost thousands of pounds and, much as we love Charlie, we just couldn't afford it.

The vet understood and said she would save samples, freeze them, and if Charlie's growths came back, she could test them then. Luckily, he's been fine ever since.

What about you? Does $16,000 in canine chemotherapy sound extreme? Or is that just part of having a companion animal?

Share your experiences in the Comments section below.

By John Kelly  |  May 7, 2009; 9:12 AM ET
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It depends. When the 9 year old cat was diagnosed hyperthyroid and could be treated with I-131 to be normal for the rest of her natural life, I spent the money. She lived 9 more happy years. When the (different cat) 17 year old cat developed an aggressive cancer, we provided palliative care only, knowing that aggressive treatment would only make him suffer for very little benefit to him.

Posted by: SAF_dc | May 7, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I agree with SAF_dc; what I'm willing to spend really depends on the animal's prognosis and quality of life. I'm willing to spend the money if there is a decent chance that the treatment will work and there will be minimal suffering, but otherwise it's best to let go.

Posted by: tmmm | May 7, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

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