How Old Is Too Old When Treating a Pet?

How Age Can Impact a Pet's Value

When faced with a question like this one, I always have to wonder: Am I being asked to opine on the state of Margot’s health, comfort and overall quality of life, or is this a financial discussion we’re having?

Which isn’t as cutthroat as it sounds. It only makes sense that money would enter into it. After all, $3,000 to $5,000 worth of treatments will likely ensue in cases like Margot’s.

Nonetheless, I’ve just been asked a very specific question about “worth” in the context of a specific illness, its treatments and one dog’s longevity. And it seems to me that given my role (I’m their veterinarian, not their banker), my job is to explain that Margot could easily live an additional three years if treated successfully (never mind Banfield’s stats) — long enough to have her enjoy almost a full fifth of her lifespan!

Why Shortchange Older Pets?

Now, this “good news” should be a reason to celebrate — but isn’t always. Because when faced with expensive treatment options, many pet owners will latch onto almost any uncertainty by way of seeing the problem solved — for better or worse. And, let’s face it, longevity is among the most uncertain factors in a pet’s life. So it is that even owners who can easily afford the expense of treatments like Margot’s are more likely to forgo it than you might think.

Given cases like Margot’s, is it any wonder that plenty of veterinarians count age discrimination among our staunchest foes? Perhaps what we really need at a time like this isn’t a study that reinforces old notions of too-short lifespans, but one that shows us how long pets can live when cared for well.


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