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Plan ahead for pet health decisions

What if your 12-year-old dog needs ACL surgery in order to walk? What if your 4-year-old dog has cancer? What if your puppy is hit by a car and needs emergency surgery to live? There are countless scenarios.

When we are unprepared to face difficult decisions, it is easy to make the wrong choice, second guess ourselves or have regrets. That is why it’s good to think about how far you are willing to go for your pet before it happens. Know what you are able and willing to spend and also what you are comfortable putting a dog and yourself through.

Have an idea of how much you can realistically spend on a pet’s medical bills before your pet is hurt or sick.

Maybe your limit is $500. Maybe it’s $15,000. Maybe you have no limit. Your pet’s age might make a difference. I would be willing to spend more money on a young dog than an older dog, but that might not be the case for you. What if an expensive procedure only increases a pet’s survival by 10 percent? Is it still worth it? Talk it over with family members so you are all on the same page. Are you willing to pay for surgery with a credit card? Are you willing to dip into a certain savings account? Are you willing to ask for money from family members who don’t live with you? Would you buy pet insurance? If you know what you can spend on a pet’s medical bills, you’ll be able to make better decisions down the road.

Decide under what circumstances you will take your pet to the emergency veterinary clinic.

Most vets are closed on weekends and nights. Will you be willing to take a sick pet to the ER and pay more? Or will you hold off until Monday morning? Maybe your rule will be, “When in doubt, go to the ER,” or “As long as the pet is not in pain, it can wait.” Now is also a good time to make sure you have the emergency vet or on-call vet’s number handy for emergencies. Why not save the number in your phone right now?

Think about the end of your pet’s life.

Deciding when a dog’s life will end is never an easy decision. Sometimes it is pretty obvious when it’s time to let the pet go, but that doesn’t make the choice any easier. Other times, it’s not so clear. Some people will fight for their dog’s life until the very end when he dies naturally. Others will let the dog go before he suffers even at all. For most, it is somewhere in that large, middle range. Once you have decided when to let your dog go, there are still more questions to ask. Do you want to be at his side when he dies? Do you want him to spend his last moments in his favorite place in the yard? Or will you drop him off at the vet’s office and say goodbye?

These kinds of questions are easy to put off because they aren’t easy to think about. But thinking about them now will make it easier in the future.

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