Pet Bills: My $18,000 Pug

How much money would you pay to save someone you love? Would you pay a thousand or a million dollars? What if it wasn’t a person but a beloved pet? When I tell people we spent over $18,000 on operations for my pug, they shake their heads and laugh, but what is money compared to the health of someone you love?

Marge (formerly Max) came to live with us on April 28th, 2015, after a friend of my daughters was looking to re-home their pug. Even though we weren’t ready for another pug after our precious Max died, I couldn’t let him go to a shelter. We named him Maddox, thinking we could call him Mads for short and it would sound similar to Max. Somehow, over time, his name changed to Marge. I am still not sure how that happened, but it seems to suit him.

The Operations

Marge has had four operations in his time with us. It wasn’t just one operation that cost 18,000. 

Operation #1

A little over a year after Marge moved in (June 2016), I mentioned to the vet that he had bad breath. She checked his teeth and noticed that three of them were rotten and needed to be pulled. Since he hadn’t been fixed yet either, we decided to do it all at the same time. The vet called during the operation and said that he needed seven teeth removed, not three. Poor boy!

He came through the operation with flying colors, but he still hasn’t forgiven me.
Final Cost $5000

Operation #2

I took Marge back to the vet to have a growth on his eye checked (March 2018). Fortunately, it was only a cyst, but it needed to be removed before it caused damage to his eye and left him blind. Marge had a bit of trouble with the anesthetic after the surgery, but he did well and rebounded quickly.
Final Cost $1400

Related Story: Why People Have Pets

You can see the cyst in the corner of his left eye.

Operation #3

Marge had a mole-like growth on his left rear leg that changed. After a trip to the vet (October 2019), they thought it was cancer and recommended surgery. It was a much bigger surgery than we thought it would be. They took extra wide margins around the growth and sent it for a biopsy. He still has quite the scar. His cancer was a mast cell tumour but fortunately, it hadn’t spread, so he didn’t need any further treatment.
Final Cost $4400

Operation #4

On New Year’s Day 2021, Marge was not feeling well and tried to find some grass to eat to settle his stomach. He had had little appetite for a few days. He had a previous bout with colitis a few months earlier and we were concerned he was getting worse. After rushing him to the emergency vet (our vet was closed), my daughter and I spent several hours waiting in the car (they only allowed pets in the office because of Covid-19) while they performed a few expensive tests. They discovered Marge had a growth on his spleen. We had two options: take him home and keep him comfortable for a few weeks until he passed or try an operation with only a five percent success rate.

The vet was good at answering all our questions, and we finally went ahead with the operation to give Marge a chance. They let us come in and visit him just in case something happened. He lived through the operation and they sent the growth out to be tested.

After Care

The vet kept him overnight to monitor him. When we called in the morning, they said we could take him home as soon as he ate. Unfortunately, he still had no appetite, but that evening they let us bring him home with a ton of medicine and a feeding tube. There were so many medications that had to be given every few hours, plus the tube feedings. We charted it all out and set alarms on our phones. The longest we could sleep was 4 hours without having to do something. We brought the mattress down from the spare room to give him more space to sleep without having to do the stairs (which I blocked off – we had baby gates everywhere) and I slept there with him for 10 days.

Back to the Vet

Three days after he came home, Marge was violently sick. I thought he was going to die. We rushed him back to the vet. They pulled the feeding tube from his nose. After giving him a shot to calm his stomach and control his vomiting, they let him come back home after a few hours.

Without the feeding tube, we got to sleep a little more, but trying to get him to eat was a challenge. Continuing with the medication, we wondered if we had made the right decision with the operation. Our intention was to give him a chance, not to make him suffer.

And Again

A week after his operation, he still wasn’t getting better, so we took him back to our own vet, who prescribed more medication and gave him a shot. I was really not feeling good about his recovery. After talking with my daughter, we took him off all the medication. The next morning, he started eating a little and behaving like his old self. Every day after that, he improved. 

Good News

The results from the biopsy were fantastic. His growth was benign – with only a five percent chance – the vet said she rarely gets to deliver good news in this situation. The only downside is without a spleen, he can’t regulate his body heat, so we have to be mindful of the time he spends outside. Sometimes we even have to put on the air conditioning just for him.
Final Cost $7200

Final Thoughts

The total cost of operations equals $18000 dollars, and that doesn’t include his food, toys, beds, ramp, stairs, and treats. Would I spend the money again? Absolutely! My dog is family, I would do anything for him. What would you do in the same situation? Let me know if the comments.

Until next time


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1 Comment

  1. Lesley

    Lucky Marge. I once calculated the average daily cost of our cat including all food, litter, vet bills etc. It was only about $1.12 a day. She is much older now, on a gold standard special diet, daily meds, 2x yearly monitoring of her condition. Price per day has gone up but I’m happy to pay it!


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