Managing pet care costs

Published: May. 19, 2017 at 8:37 PM EDT|Updated: May. 19, 2017 at 10:09 PM EDT
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(FOX19) - Some people would do just about anything to keep their pets healthy and happy. Now, thanks to veterinary breakthroughs, even pets with difficult diagnoses can get the treatments they need to live longer. But, if you aren't careful, that care could sink your budget.

Dianna Laurence takes her dog Saffee for her radiation treatment to Pet Cure Oncology in Sycamore Township.

The journey started there with what seemed like a routine x-ray.

"She was coughing and hacking and she's known to eat cat toys, so I thought for sure something was lodged, so I went and had x-rays made, and they told me the news that she's got lung cancer, and only 1 percent get lung cancer," she said.

Laurence is hopeful the targeted radiation therapy will mean a longer, happier life for her pet.

"We're hoping that it's going to shrink the tumor, which is actually pressing a little on her esophagus, and that could be a lot of the coughing she had," she said.

Cancer is common in pets, with more than 12 million dogs and cats diagnosed every year. Cancer treatment centers like PetCure, are at the forefront of providing high-tech care to veterinary patients.

Dr. Kelsey Pollmann is the radiation oncologist who leads the team here.

"We're the closest facility within 500 miles. We have people coming from Cleveland and from Nashville to get treatment for their pets," she said.

Pollmann said pet tumors tend to be advanced when they're discovered, since dogs and cats can't relay their symptoms as human patients could. So having the latest technology to deliver targeted radiation can buy those pets more time with their loved ones.

"People come here to pursue cancer therapy for their pets, because they think of their pets as family, and they are," she said.

But that extra time comes at a price.

A standard course of canine chemotherapy costs between $3,000-$5,000; radiation typically costs more. A dog with lymphoma may even need a bone marrow transplant with a price tag of $20,000.

That means a difficult discussion, where pet owners figure out what they can and cannot afford.

"If we know it's going to be worth it, you know, we'll put it out, if they say it's only for a few months, we've got to talk about it. But this treatment's looking really good," Laurence said.

If you have a pet, you need to be ready for vet bills.

As soon as you get your pet start saving money for their care. Even $25 or $50 a month helps.

Look into pet insurance, too. More veterinarians now accept it, and it's covering more procedures. Just make sure to shop around when your pet is young and healthy.

There's also a card called Care Credit, which advertises zero percent interest introductory periods. But if you don't pay off your balance when that period ends, your rate could reset to nearly 27 percent.

Another idea, look for a credit card with a longer zero percent interest period.

There are also organizations that help pet owners cover the cost of care.

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