High-End Veterinary Care

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Anyone who thinks American-style healthcare is a good idea has never had to open the coffers for extraordinary measures to save a beloved family pet.

This is Muffin, one of my daughter’s pet rabbits:

Out of nowhere, he started limping and holding one foot up off the floor. X-rays, blood work, examinations = pain meds and monitoring. A wound appeared on his thigh, what looked like a burst abscess. Antibiotics, cleansing, adjusted feeding to include syringes. Behaviour doesn’t get better and he starts to get lethargic. Abscess is far more extensive than anyone possibly thought it could have been. Sepsis, imaging, surgery, blood transfusion, ICU. And we still don’t know how it started. The room they lived in is so bunny-proofed, it’s crazy and the rabbits only interact with each other and a couple of humans. We may never know.

It never occurred to us to get health insurance for the rabbits (really hard to find for rabbits) and it’s far too late for that now anyway. Critical care involves a lot of equipment, people, and medication. It’s not pocket change. I know that someone reading this is thinking something like, “It’s just a rabbit. Be humane, put it down and get over it.” I have a few answers for that.

  1. That’s a decision for when there is no hope of recovery or improvement, for when the animal’s quality of life is so low that it’s constantly suffering with no hope of relief.
  2. When you welcome an animal in your life, you agree to become its primary caregiver. Period. Not up to a certain dollar value or convenience level.
  3. I don’t put a dollar figure on a life, and Muffin, like any other pet, is part of our family.
  4. How do I look my daughter in the eye and tell her that I didn’t do everything I could because I didn’t want to run up the credit card?

I’m not sure which of those has the heaviest weight in my mind, and I don’t think it matters. Any one of them would have been enough for me.

Right now, Muffin is in recovery mode. Not out of the woods yet but fighting to get there, and we’re hopeful. It’s been a roller coaster. It may still be. He’s not coming home yet, but his chances of rejoining us are improving.

Here’s the thing, though: if our update this morning is that the stresses on his system (there’s a lot going on) have added up to too much, I’ll have no regrets about our choices to try to save his life. If he comes home, he’ll be a house bunny again. A little slower, a little stiffer, but a house bunny for as long as we can keep him. Any time my daughter has with him from here forward is a gift. So yes, I’m tired of driving to the vet and the animal hospital and I’m tired of the heat on the card, but ultimately, neither of those things matter. Muffin does.

And in quiet moments here and there, I remember that in countries with for-profit healthcare, without health insurance the amount of care Muffin has received so far would have been worth the mortgage on a small house.

Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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