When loving pets is painful for kids

Posted April 28, 2013, at 2:54 p.m.

My son and our cat Greys are best buds.

We are a family of pet-lovers. We have two dogs and a cat, and we treat them like princes. They bring a lot of joy to our home, and I think they have helped teach my son compassion and patience.

But they also bring stress. When they hurt, we hurt. When we can’t help, we feel powerless. And we also can’t ignore the sometimes very high cost, emotionally and financially, of taking care of ailing pets.

Lately, we’ve had a lot of pet stress in our house, and it’s been particularly hard on our 15-year-old son. It started at the end of the year, when our dog Butch was clearly hurting, and — three trips to the vet and $800 later — we couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Finally, the vet was able to pinpoint a back injury, which we treated with lots of drugs and has healed.

Shortly after, Butch (who also is epileptic and gets two pills a day for that) developed a terrible cough. This time, still smarting from the $800 vet bill, we held off on taking him to the vet, and thankfully he got better.

Next up was our cat Greys, and I fear his problems are much bigger. He started having seizures, and we raced him to the emergency vet, where he spent the night, and then we took him to our vet the next morning. He was diagnosed with diabetes, and I now give him two insulin shots a day. The bill so far? $1,100.

Greys was a stray we took in more than five years ago, when he showed up in our back yard. At that time, he tested positive for feline AIDS. So that could be the cause of the seizures. We don’t know, so we have to wait and see what happens.

My son, of course, wants to run every test imaginable (including a CT scan), and it’s hard to explain that we will do what we can, but there has to be limits. It sounds heartless, doesn’t it? We say we love our pets like family, yet we are forced to look at how much money we’re willing to spend.

To me, the prognosis is important. When Butch was a year old, he broke his leg badly and needed two surgeries, which cost $5,000. We were lucky we could spend the money, and we wanted to because he was a young dog and the prognosis was good.

Greys, though, already has a compromised immune system. When FIV-positive cats get sick, it’s very difficult for them to recover. The potential for recovery has to be a factor in how we choose to move forward.

But try telling that to a kid.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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