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Monday, September 24, 2007

Money Talk

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while (no, not the Name Game, but I am working on that too!). This post is about money…. The dreaded talk of how to pay for all the love and are we provide our pets.

I hate to say it, but I would have spent any amount of money on Watson's care. Irrational and totally emotional? Yes. But in the heat of the moment and when faced with the option of more quality of life, absolutely, I would have remortgaged our house if that needed to happen. He was my son (in lieu of a real human one, anyway). However, that emotional surge is exactly opposite of how you are supposed to handle money. Over and over again I have read on various forums and boards just how many treatment options there are out there for cancer dogs. Only a few times has someone actually written the group about finances or even shown a hint of financial strain. It's almost like it's too taboo to even mention that, although you love your dog with all your heart, you just don't have the money for the best treatment.

Let's face it: we are not made of money. I, for one, am not a trust fund baby, but luckily I have a good job and tend to save my pennies. Watson was extremely ill for one month.... yes, he was sick before then but we just didn't know. But just in that 30 days, we spent thousands of dollars between diagnostic exams, vet and onco visits, medicines, extra special foods to get him to eat, the ER visit to Tufts Medical...... the list goes on and on..... I can't imagine the cost had he lived longer! Does that sound cold? I hope not, because I would have paid it.

My point is this: it is okay to talk about money and about canine cancer treatments at the same time. We like to think we are noble people who are caring for creatures who cannot speak for themselves; that money is no object. Well, money is often a huge obstacle, especially for households that are already financially strained. We may think it is too crass or below-board to talk about expenses. Should a dog's care have a price tag? Maybe, if it means you can't feed yourself or can't pay your bills because of the dog's cancer treatment. That does not make you a bad person in any light. But there are programs out there that can help ease the impact of financing canine cancer treatments. (These are just a few that I know of.... if there are more, please let me know and I will post them!!)

CareCredit *– CareCredit is a credit card issued by GE Money Bank. You apply for it as you would any other credit card. The program offers you a chance to finance your vet costs of $300+ from 3-12 months interest free. Terms are available for longer than 12 months at a certain interest rate (I think 7.9% but am not sure. Rates change all the time.) Here's how it works: Check with your vet to make sure they accept CareCredit (not every vet does). Let's say the total vet bill is $1,200 (low for a cancer dog!) and you decide to use your CareCredit card to finance it for 12 months. You will soon get your statement in the mail with that charge on it and have 12 months to pay it off interest free.

Here's the 2 "catches" with using CareCredit:
(1) They do not dictate how much you pay per month. Using our example, it makes sense to pay $100/month for 12 months. However, your statement will show something like $30 for a minimum payment. You only have to pay the minimum to keep your account in good standing, but it won't pay off the balance in one year.
(2) If you miss a payment or send in a late payment, your interest free terms change to something ridiculous like 28.9%!!! If you are not good with paying your bills on time, then CareCredit may not be a good choice.

Pet insurance - Pet owners in the US have been slow to adopt the practice of pet insurance. I think other countries like the UK are a bit more advanced in this respect. After experiencing the endless vet visits, meds and treatments for Watson (and the ensuing bills), I decided to sign Waldo up for VPI Pet Insurance* with the additional routine care rider. Total cost was around $230 for the year and it covers illness, accidents and some routine care. They also cover cancer treatments.

Canine Cancer Awareness* - This site offers information as well as a downloadable application for financial assitance. The site has helped many pets and their owners with expensive chemo and other cancer treatments. You can also visit their online store to buy items that help support their mission. Watson was added to their Rainbow Bridge poster last month.

HELP-A-PET* - Help-A-Pet is a nonprofit organization with a single purpose: to provide financial assistance nationwide for the medical care of pets whose owners are unable to afford the expense. According to their site, they help the physically and mentally challenged individuals, senior citizens, and children of the working poor.

There are also numerous state-specific and breed-specific non-profits who can provide financial assistance. There are too many to list, but can easily be found via Google.

Bottom line: treating your dog for cancer is not the path to financial ruin! There is help out there......

*DISCLAIMER: I do not in any way endorse these programs. This information is presented for informational purposes. I do not stand to gain in any way by directing people towards these web site links.

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