Arizona cat owner faced with tough choice as vet bills are on the rise

PHOENIX - Our pets are getting more and more expensive. Everything from food to vet care has increased in the last few years.

It has led to a lot of difficult decisions for families facing economic hardship.

You might have savings set aside for your car or medical bills, but are you prepared if your dog or cat needs a $7,000 treatment tomorrow?

Many understandably aren't, and the cost of veterinary surgery is only rising.

A tough question

Skyelee Rock first laid eyes on Nala when she was just a kitten.

"I just instantly fell in love with her," she said about Nala.

A decade later, they're best friends.

Trouble began last year though, when the no-fuss cat developed an eye problem.

"Her eye, it kind of became a marble color, glossy," she said.

The vet confirmed not long after that Nala's eyes needed to be removed, but the quote was eye-opening.

"$7,000 for both eyes," she said.

She wasn't prepared to pay such a high vet bill and was faced with an impossible question.

"I was getting so upset, and I was like, ‘Do you think I should put her down?’" Rock said.

Doug Patriquin at Dr. Kelly's Surgical Unit says many pet owners ask that question.

"Then it's, ‘Do I have to put my cat down who otherwise is healthy? Because surgery is possible. It’s an instant remedy. What do I do?'" Patriquin said, putting himself in the shoes of pet owners.

At Dr. Kelly's Surgical Unit, they perform multiple surgeries a day. They try to keep costs low, especially as bills add up for owners.

"Those things are extra costs you don't put into your budget each month. And the next thing you know, you can't afford your animal, and they go back in the shelter and that's the worst," Patriquin said.


The Arizona Animal Welfare League (AAWL) and The Arizona Pet Project partnered to hire a social worker to help people find resources for their pets.

Patriquin says pet insurance can help, but be aware that oftentimes you have to pay at the time of the procedure and then get reimbursed.

"In some instances, they don't," Patriquin said.

Skyelee got creative with Nala and started shopping around. She found Dr. Kelly's and paid a fifth of the cost.

"It was emotionally lifesaving for the owner and lifesaving for the cat," Patriquin said.

<div>Nala after her surgery. Photo by Skyelee Rock</div>
Nala after her surgery. Photo by Skyelee Rock

Rock chose to take on an additional responsibility so that she could earn more money.

"I have a second job because of what's going on, and I think that helped a lot. A couple of hundred dollars a month did help quite a bit," she said.

Nala is back to being herself.

"She went back to her normal self. All cuddly again, doesn't hide under the bed. So she's doing great," Rock said.

The best advice Patriquin has for pet owners is to get the best quality pet food you can afford.

He said the upfront investment of buying high-quality food for your pet can save you from a lot of expensive health problems later on.