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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The True Value Of Pets

Can you place a monetary value on pets? Many people do. "I paid $1200 for my labadoodle!" "This was a free cat, so I ain't spending much money on her." "It's just a guinea pig. Your office visit is more expensive than buying a new one." Lawyers also put a specific value to a pet's legal worth, which normally isn't much. Here in the US pets are considered a special form of property, and therefore people aren't entitled to settlements for more than the replacement value, or possibly the future breeding revenue. However, I don't think this really give the true value on pets. Whether or not somebody finds "value" in a pet is more a factor of emotional bonding, and may not have anything to do with how much they paid to get that pet.

Back in march I saw a hamster for a lump on its chest. It ended up being an abscess, which I drained and then put the hamster (Bob) on antibiotics. The way abscesses form in rodents, the material is very thick and doesn't come out easily. This means that there is a pretty decent chance that the infection will return and will have to be surgically removed. That happened with Bob. When they brought him back in for a recheck, the abscesses had fuly returned and I told them we were going to have to do surgery. After some discussion they agreed, and on Tuesday we had him back in to take them off. Once I had this 39 gram hamster anesthetised I noticed tha the abscesses were more wide-spread than I had first thought, and some of them were small but inoperable. I called them and said that I did not recommend going through with the surgery because of the high likelyhood of more cropping up at a later time. However, they insisted on it so I proceeded. That little guy underwent extensive surgery to remove as many abscesses as I could, taking longer than a large dog neuter, and using more suture material than I use in an average spay.

The first time I saw Bob the visit cost the owners about $60. The follow-up was $35. The surgery was $210. A total of a little over $300 over two months for a $15 hamster. And this isn't the first time that I've seen this. I had a client spend close to $400 for diagnostics and amputation of his hamster's food because of an unusual tumor. I had a client spend $80 on a skin problem for a mouse that she had originally purchased to feed her snake and ended up becoming attached to. And I've seen people who bought dogs for $800 that wouldn't spend $30 twice a year for heartworm prevention.

A pet's "worth" or "value" has little to do with their price tag, and more to do with the bond and emotional attachment. People consider something valuable for reasons other than money, and pets are no exception. Someone can be willing to spend much more or much less than what they paid to get that pet. And someone may be willing to spend hundreds to help a very small hamster. Personally, I think that bond between a person and a pet is invaluable, and I strongly admire anyone who sees a pet's life as worth more than what they have in their bank account.

Oh, and Bob is doing well and was runing around like nothing was wrong the next day. Now we have to hope that his antibiotics clear up what I couldn't remove and he continues to have a normal life.