SURVEY SAYS: Pet Expenses or Retirement Savings?

We covered a survey which found if an emergency pet expense were to present itself, more than one-third (37%) of respondents said they would sacrifice contributions to their retirement account to pay for it.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, “Do you own a pet, and what would you sacrifice to pay for an emergency pet expense?”


Eighty-one percent of responding readers own a pet, and 19% do not.


Asked which steps they would take to pay for an emergency pet expense (readers could select more than one choice), 17.5% said they would borrow from a retirement account, and 22.8% said they would suspend contributions to a retirement account. The most popular selection, by 73.7% of responding readers was “reduce or give up discretionary spending (e.g. dining out, movies, etc.). Nearly one-quarter (24.6%) reported they would give up TV services, while 10.5% indicated they would give up cell phone services. More than one-quarter (26.3%) said they would borrow from a friend or relative, 14% would forego paying credit card bills, and 7% would forego paying other bills. “None of the above” was chosen by 17.5% of respondents, and “all of the above” was selected by 12.3%.


In verbatim comments left by some respondents, there was a good mix of those who would sacrifice more financially for their pets in an emergency and those that would not. Some indicated they have pet insurance, and others reported they have an emergency fund to cover such things. One reader went further into credit card debt to pay for emergency pet expenses. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “Our pet is a very important part of our life (family). That being said we have been there and done that before. We usually have extra money stashed should that happen. I will say I am sure my wife would sacrifice me to save the dog…LOL.” I found another comment very funny, but didn’t want to offend the husbands.


Thanks to all who participated in the survey!



I pay over $600 each month for my dog’s chemotherapy and medical visits. Though she is 14 she is playful, happy, insists on 3 mile-long walks every day, and loves life. She is worth every penny and makes life worth living!

some emergency services are OK but I think it’s ridiculous when people spend hundreds of dollars a month on pet medicine, chemo etc

Isn’t this one of the categories one would use an emergency fund to cover? Interesting that reducing one’s emergency fund balance isn’t one of the choices.

I briefly thought about obtaining pet insurance but in the end elected not to purchase it. That said, like a child our dog’s expenses are more than I signed up for. If something happens where he does need emergency care I’m sure we’ll end up weighing the cost vs benefit and his quality of life. Since he’s only two I’m hoping this day never comes.

As someone who owned a diabetic cat, I paid over $200 for a vial of insulin every 68 days. I gave up discretionary expenses to keep her alive. With that being said though, when she had a stroke and her quality of life was expected to be poor, I sent her across the rainbow bridge. I am willing to pay just about anything if the quality of life is expected to be good.

I decided from my first cat who got ill at age 14 that after I tried to save him and had a $1000 vet bill, that I would not go to that length again. I will make the hard choice to stop the suffering sooner.

My pets are like my children…..I’ve spent a lot of money on them for medical care. It’s worth it!

Pet’s – especially Dogs contribute so much to our health and quality of life- unconditionally. They understand us better than most of our family do. They become family.

I love my cat, but would not spend more than a few hundred dollars for his medical care. I certainly would not sacrifice family income to prolong the suffering of a pet with severe injuries, cancer etc.

We have an emergency fund for unexpected expenses, so if the expense couldn’t be covered reasonably with the discretionary money we have, then it would come from the emergency fund. If it was more than the emergency fund could handle, then it would be a big expense and our pet would likely be in pretty bad shape. Sadly, we might have to give up the pet.

Depends on the pet…

We have such great medical insurance at work that the amount I pay for pet insurance is more than I pay for our people insurance!

If you have a pet and you consider it a family member, perhaps you should have health insurance for it.

I have saved money and would pay them from my emergency fund.

There’s not much I wouldn’t do for my fur babies. They are part of the family, and probably liked more than some members of the human family!

Fortunately, I have earned and saved enough that this has not been an issue, but my pets are my furry children, and I would do whatever was necessary to get them the care they need.

Some people are really connected to their pets, treating them like children. I can understand how they can react when an emergency comes up–the same way I am with my kids.

I keep a Care Credit card with a $3,500 limit for emergency pet care.

Savings account

I would sacrifice just about anything that didn’t hurt my human family. Keeping the mortgage paid, the lights and heat on and food on the table would trump pet care. But everything else is fair game. My dogs are family, too.

Our pet is a very important part of our life (family). That being said we have been there and done that before. We usually have extra money stashed should that happen. I will say I am sure my wife would sacrifice me to save the dog…LOL

The value a pet brings to your life is far more than the money involved to keep them healthy.

We have actually done this on a few occasions. One option not given was going further into credit card debt, which is what we did.

There is, however, a limit. Years ago I had a Siberian Husky that I took in for tests. She was acting strangely and so we started with a few hundred dollars’ worth. At about 1K I told the vet it has to stop. Because I wouldn’t have any money left over for treatment. And they could nickel and dime me to death trying to figure it out. So I do have a limit on what I will spend

It would be a last resort to have to dig into one of the methods above. My husband and I put quite a bit away into savings for a “rainy day” fund…or an emergency pet fund…or one of the many things in my house broke down fund…etc etc etc…

It truly depends on how much the expense was going to be. Anything more than $500 would probably be too much. There are lots of pets needing homes and care.

I’d take all the steps for my dog no matter the cost or expected results. For the cats, well… I’d reduce discretionary spending.

For some, pets are like their children, but it seems ridiculous to spend thousands on them. Friends recently spent thousands on their dog for chemo and cancer treatments, knowing full well that there was no hope for recovery. They were just buying a few more months. They sold some personal belongings to cover the cost. Not having pets to begin with prevents me from having to make decisions like this!

Dogs are better than husbands. I don’t know any husband that greets you at the door crazy happy that you’re home!!

I would pay for emergency pet expenses….out of my emergency fund.

We have an emergency fund for unexpected pet bills so hopefully I would not have to take any of the steps above but we would do anything we have to for our pets.

Pets are family, period.

When our pet got sick we didn’t think twice about how much the treatment would cost. Our largest concern was for his quality of life in light of the treatment. Fortunately we had the ability to pay for the treatment without making major sacrifices.

This is why I have pet insurance: so I am never forced into the position of having to make a financial decision over the life and well-being of my pets.

My three dogs are my kids. I’d do just about anything for them. In fact at one point I was laid off, and didn’t have much money for food after paying rent. At that time I was making my dogs meals due to allergies they had. I lived on pasta and salad, and my dogs ate chicken breasts, grains and veggies.

If an emergency pet expense jeopardized my retirement savings, I’d sacrifice the pet!



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Strategic Insight or its affiliates.