Podcast Episode - The Real Cost of Having A Pet, It’s More Than Just Money

Emergency Fund, Family, Health Insurance, Kids, Podcast, Saving, Saving Money, Savings

September 04, 2022

Listen to Podcast Episode:

On this very special episode Suze invited her friend Dr. Mary Gardner to talk about the real costs in owning a pet.

Podcast Transcript:


Suze: September 4th 2022. And in the entire history of the Women & Money podcast, I've only had one guest on previously till today


Suze: and that was Mark Kantrowitz who was really the expert on student loans. You needed to hear it from him.


Suze: Today, I have such an incredible, incredible woman, doctor, friend, somebody who cares so much about you and your animals. Your dogs and your cats. It's not even funny. Her name is Doctor Mary Gardner. And the reason that I love Mary so much is besides the fact she makes me laugh all the time,


Suze: is because she has given me, and others that I know, practical tips. Practical ways. That especially as your animals are getting older,


Suze: how you can do things to help them health wise without spending a fortune. So why now? Why did I want to bring Mary on now? I'll tell you. You know, I've not been the most optimistic about the possibilities and the probabilities that could happen in the economy over the next year or two.


Suze: I do believe that we're going to go into recession at either the end of this year, 2022 or the beginning of 2023. But I also know for a fact that inflation


Suze: really is still hurting you in the places that it counts. Meaning food, rent. I get that gasoline is going down, but not so much to tell you the truth.


Suze: And I just think it's going to get more and more expensive over the next few months, a year or two to just live and I don't want you to have to cut back spending money


Suze: on things that are really important. Such as the health of your animals.


Suze: Therefore, that's why Dr. Mary is here on the second guest ever in the history of the Women & Money podcast. Girlfriend say hi to everybody.


Dr. Mary: Hi Suze, thanks for having me number two on as a guest. That's awesome.


Suze: Yeah, you you're supposed to say why wasn't I number one, Suze, what's the matter with you?


Dr. Mary: That's true.


Dr. Mary: Listen, I wanna I wanna give you a little trivia. Uh do you know what species of animals don't have a gallbladder?


Suze: No, I don't. Fish?


Dr. Mary: Besides Suze Orman. No, the horse. Horses do not have gallbladders. So you're like a horse.


Suze: I kind of am like a horse.


Dr. Mary: And like me because I don't have one either.


Suze: You want to know the truth is when I used to give talks and you know, I'd be behind the curtains, and they would be announcing me getting ready for me to go out to speak to 20,000 50,000 people, I did this thing with my feet like a racehorse.


Suze: And KT would always say what do you think you are a horse, what are you doing? And I would be like getting ready to gallop out there. So now, I'm kind of like a horse. And I'm sure at this point in time that my gallbladder has been removed. And I hopefully and absolutely fine. You know what was always so strange, Mary, is that


Suze: over all the years that I did the Suze Orman show,


Suze: people would call in and they would say to me, Suze, I don't have enough money to feed my kids. I'm maxed out on my credit cards, I don't have a pot to pee in. What can I do? And I would always say to them, how many animals do you have? And they would always come back and say four or five. It was almost as if the more debt they had,


Suze: the more animals they had.


Suze: And it was a very difficult thing because you can't say to people will just get rid of your animals, because they love their animals more than life itself. So tell everybody. So I have a few questions for you. How much does it cost to have an animal like a dog?


Dr. Mary: Alright, so there's been studies done that that including food, toys, clothing because sometimes you know there's clothing that that that are bought and veterinary care, it is $125 a month on average. Of course too,


Dr. Mary: depending on the size of your dog, you may need a bigger bag of dog food. So a great dane is gonna cost you probably $200 but the average pet is $125 a month. So that's $1,500 a year that people need to budget for just for the basic care, basic.


Suze: And what does basic care include?


Dr. Mary: That is the bag and cans of dog food, not you know um some of these boutique brands that are that are out there, right? That it includes the vaccines, it includes the the the exams that you need just for the health, so not if something happens, it includes um some toys and things like that. So if you think of a veterinary visit once a year is probably about $300 just for vaccines and just an exam,


Dr. Mary: but if anything goes wrong then it's going to be more. So the majority of things that people spend money on for their pets is their food.


Suze: All right. Now. What are typical things that can go wrong in the first year with the dog? Because you know Colo just


Suze: got a little Yorkie. Okay. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's a Yorkie. And I was asking him the other day how much do you think you spent on that dog since you got it? He said about $2,000.


Suze: Alright, right. Because he takes it to the doctor every time, it had that.


Suze: So let's talk about that right now.


Dr. Mary: Actually let me let me start with something that that I struggle with. So the purchase of animals and I'm not saying Colo did. But but here's the big thing is that so many people love a certain breed. And listen, I love a certain breed to Suze and I am a Doberman lover and a Samoyed lover. However, to purchase a dog from a breeder could be 2 to $5,000. And a Yorkie, and again, he might not have purchased a Yorkie but,


Suze: He most certainly did.


Dr. Mary: So, there's a purchase price which is very different. However, so many um there are so many rescue organizations that specialize in certain breeds. So for me, I actually truly adopted and rescued a Doberman from a Doberman rescue. So if you love a certain breed, there are Yorkie rescues and they have puppies,


Dr. Mary: adults, seniors. So they have dogs of all ages. So if if you are financially, you know, strapped or not, maybe consider just adopting because the expense of that dog to purchase from a breeder should should actually go towards the savings for an emergency. So


Dr. Mary: I don't know if his $2,000 included the purchase of the Yorkie –


Suze: His was $400 because that's what it was in Colombia. Right, but but what can I tell you? So let me ask you this, you get a dog, right? And you told me what the basic expenses are, about 125 to $225 a month


Suze: usually. What if there is there an emergency the first year of some kind that the owner has to come back to the vet


Suze: what does that cost usually?


Dr. Mary: So it's okay. Uh we should be spaying and neutering all of our pets. Right? So so that is an expense that could be about $400. That's not really an emergency. But you have to consider that if they're adopted, they're already spayed or neutered from the from the shelter. So Colo needs to spend that money to get the little one spayed.


Dr. Mary: That is an expense. Perfect. Okay, so that's about $400, let's say. Within the first year, the two things that will happen are either a congenital problem will will arise, so this little Yorkie, maybe it's going to have a collapsing trachea. Every breed has certain things that go wrong with it. Luxating patella’s, Yorkies are known for kneecaps just flopping in and out.


Dr. Mary: Um heart disease. So, so things that are, genetically, they're prone to may raise their their ugly heads. Now uh something that's also common is hernias. So these little guys will get umbilical hernias and intestines will come through and things like that. So, so congenital issues, the first thing that's gonna happen or that you're gonna see in the first year. And the second thing are accidents. Uh I can't tell you how many times


Dr. Mary: uh you know, a Yorkie is put up on a countertop and he jumps off and he breaks his legs. When I was in general practice, I had somebody that come that came in with a little mini poodle and it's both his front legs were broken because he got slammed in the door. The kids closed the door and it slammed his legs in the door and that's thousands of dollars because that's not me fixing it, its a surgeon.


Suze: Realistically speaking when somebody gets an animal,


Suze: right, cause I always say to people you need an 8-12-month emergency fund for yourselves, make sure you do that. For your animal, if you want to really be respectful of having an animal, how much would you say they should have in an emergency savings account just for the animal?


Dr. Mary: I would I would really recommend $2500 for for an emergency event. And it could go from, you know, $500, because usually stuff happens, Suze in the middle of the night or on the weekend when your regular hospital is closed. So you need to go to the emergency hospital which is more expensive, and there's a lot of work up and x-rays and things to be done. So I would really recommend a couple of $1000 in savings for that emergency.


Suze: Now, people always want to know,


Suze: should they buy insurance. Is insurance worth it? What do you what do you want to say to that?


Dr. Mary: I say yes, double yes, underlying bold. Yes. And the sooner you buy it the better. So Colo should get it now while the puppies younger because it will increase over time. Just like us, right? When we're when things happen, and we get older stuff is more expensive if we want to get insurance now. So,


Dr. Mary: probably around $40-$50 a month. And there's different plans, Suze. So just like in human medicine there's different plans. A lot of plans don't pay for the normal preventative care that you need to do throughout the year. And that's okay. So you should be able to afford the vaccines, an annual exam for your pet. Before you ever think about getting a pet.


Suze: That's like $1,500 a year. You should be able to afford that


Suze: without any insurance.


Dr. Mary: Correct. And then the insurance is there for when stuff happens. And it's not just the accident. It could be you could have a seven year old dog that gets diabetes. And now you have to do blood work you know, a couple times a month. In the beginning you're gonna have to get medication and some of these diseases,


Dr. Mary: the medication can completely keep them healthy. But it could be anywhere from $50 to $400 a month. My own Doberman had heart disease, it's called dilated cardiomyopathy. A big, big word mean big floppy heart. And he was a big Doberman. So 110 pounds. So the larger the dog, the bigger the pill needs to be. And that means bigger the expense, and me myself as a doctor, I don't get discounts. I was $400 a month just for his meds.


Dr. Mary: And


Dr. Mary: that is a lot of people can't afford that. And that is where insurance came into help.


Suze: Is there a specific company that you like that sells insurance? Is there something that people should look for as a warning sign? No, this is a scam. Don't buy it. What would you tell people?


Dr. Mary: There's a number of pet insurance is out there. Nationwide is is the one that I usually get. There's Truepanion and a number of them. I think also the SPCA has one as well. I think you just need to consider your own finances because there are some policies that do pay for that. Um annual maintenance like I said, so there are some that cover vaccines and things like that,


Dr. Mary: which is fine. But I just think you should be able to afford that anyway. You also need to look for breed-specific issues. So they may be excluded. So let's say you have a German Shepherd. German Shepherds are very prone to hip dysplasia, and there may be an exclusion for hip dysplasia because we know they're gonna get it. So be on the lookout for breed specific exclusions, and and, just like, just like health insurance, you have to think about your um your deductibles and things like that. And oh this is really important Suze. It is not like


Dr. Mary: human health care. So you don't bring your pet to the to the doctor, and they submit it to the insurance company. You must pay that doctor first, and then you, this is huge, right? So you need to be able to have that money or be able to pay for that surgery, and then you get it back from the


Dr. Mary: from the insurance company. So you submit all the claims, and you'll get about 80% back or whatever your policy is, there's all different policies, but you need to know that. So you may have insurance but it doesn't cover the initial cost. You got to get the reimbursement, which is very different right, than us.


Suze: All right now, that is why everybody number one I wanted to have Mary on. But that is why when you do your emergency savings and you're figuring out how much money do I need per month to live,


Suze: you have got to figure in these things that Mary is talking to you about. She wants you to have at least a $2,500 a year


Suze: savings account just for one animal. Mary, if somebody has two animals does that mean they should have 5,000, if they have three should they have 7,500? I'm serious about this.


Dr. Mary: No I know this is your risk in your bets, right? It's like going to Vegas. What do you, what do you want to bet on? And you could have multiple problems. I almost all my animals usually have problems as they get older. So I've got the jalopies.


Suze: So what's important for those


Suze: of you who are thinking about getting an animal, or you already have animals, you have to care about them financially speaking, as much as you care about your own children. As much as you care about yourself. It's what you want to do. That's being responsible for things that you bring into your lives. For people that you bring into your lives, for animals that you bring in to your life. Now


Suze: Mary.


Suze: You've done two things that I love more than life itself. You've written two books. I know you have another one coming out, but you've written two books that I love. Because you know my background is in social work and geriatrics. That's what I went to school in. I didn't go to the university to be a financial person, I went because I really cared about older people.


Suze: Because I worked in nursing homes, and I saw what would happen to them. And I used to think, oh, why’d they end up here, they must not have had any money. And I realized they ended up there because they you know they had money, but they had to stay there and the nursing home took all their money.


Suze: So I'm a real big fan of getting older. Not –


Dr. Mary: I know, me too!


Suze: We got to get older, although I'm so much older than you I can't even stand it. You're gonna have to take care of me when KT can't take care of me anymore. Alright, alright. So


Suze: you care about geriatric animals a lot, a lot. And you and you wrote a book called "It's Never Long Enough: A Practical Guide for Caring for Your Geriatric Dog." Can you just tell everybody why you wrote that book,


Suze: and how this book can save them money? Because that's what I care about.


Dr. Mary: I know you do. Now and it can. So I wrote the book because I am now, well for the past 12 years, I've dedicated my life to end of life care. So the geriatrics and saying goodbye and hospice and I have learned so much along the way,


Dr. Mary: not only uh from from vet school and medicine, but from the families that I'd visit. So I visited thousands of families with geriatric dogs and cats and I learned ways to manage them at home. And so in this book that I I decided to to write, it took me like a few years to write. So thank you for COVID that gave me the time to write it.


Dr. Mary: And I really talked about the aging process, and also all the different ailments that a geriatric dog is going to face. The number one issue that that dog's face is mobility issues. So they can't get around as much just like us. We got hips and joints and things like that, right? Um, so mobility issues. And so I talk about ways to set up the house better. So that way they have better traction. What's the best booties to use, the harnesses, things like that.


Dr. Mary: I cover incontinence, which is also a big issue. So these guys are starting to lose their their bladder, and and and do some stuff around the house. So the other thing that is great is that in every chapter, it has lists of things to be on the lookout for, and things to ask your veterinarian. I also have a lot of checklists and diary, and I think I think what happens is uh, you know, just like us, you may go to the doctor and you leave and you're like, oh, I forgot to ask him to check this mole. Right?


Dr. Mary: So I'm, I've listed all the things that you should be looking out for. Because families don't know what's going on with their pets. So many pets are in pain and discomfort and they just don't recognize it. So I'm, I'm telling people how to recognize that, and also what are the things you should be tracking. So that way you can make, if you do go to your veterinarian, you make one visit and you talk about everything that's going on,


Dr. Mary: and not needing to go back multiple times. But it's about setting up the environment is so huge. If you remember in human geriatrics, right, it's it's you have to set up their house to be safe, to be practical,


Dr. Mary: and


Dr. Mary: care for them in their in their old age. So there's a lot of tips in here that can help families manage their pets and also save money. And and make visits to the veterinarian a little bit more impactful because they know what to ask. You just you just don't know sometimes what what what you're dealing with, and you're scared.


Suze: What's the one thing about this book that you love most of all? One thing?


Dr. Mary: The stories.


Dr. Mary: And I think stories are so helpful for families to realize that they're not alone. And I have included many of my own stories. I, I've been to dealing with diarrhea all over my own house. Right? So, I want people to know that


Suze: Diarrhea from your dog?


Dr. Mary: Right. Not me, not yet. Maybe in like 30 years.


Suze: All right, so, I get your book, am I going to be able to understand it?


Suze: I really dislike books where people talk to me in their language versus my language. I mean, I think one of the reasons that I've been so successful is I don't talk in finance language. I talk in Suze speak.


Suze: Right so how do you, how do you talk?


Dr. Mary: I talk in Mary speak. And and not Dr. Mary speak. So I want - that is probably the second favorite thing, and I maybe should have said that is my first. It is written to the average person, it is written to the pet families. This is not a veterinary textbook. I've written one of those, you don't want to read that. It is so user-friendly and it's got doodles in it. It's got pictures. And I have 250 pictures in this book so people can really see what I'm talking about.


Dr. Mary: I don't talk a lot of you know hard medicine. I do explain things, because I want people to understand what is a corticosteroid if they see it. But I, I make it in a way that is easily to digest, and not feel overwhelmed. Because no one wants analysis paralysis.


Suze: And if you were to say what do you think is one of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to taking care of their animals?


Dr. Mary: I think with the geriatric animals they think, well that's just because he's getting old and it's no


Dr. Mary: no big deal, right? It's just he's getting old. We can do so much for these guys. You would never say that about Grandma sitting on the couch. Like she's just getting old so we're not gonna do anything with her, right? We we really can do so much to help them around their house to feel safe and comfortable. And when I go to the homes I've seen so many times. Suze, it breaks my heart because did you know that 50% of pets are not seen by a veterinarian a year before they're euthanized. So for their last,


Dr. Mary: You know, basically it's like the last 10% of their life, imagine us last 10% of our life not seeing somebody to help them? And I look at their house and there's just tile all over, and they're slipping and sliding, and they're like well I didn't know what you were going to tell me. We can tell you a lot and a lot is in this book.


Suze: You know, my niece, Dr. Katie Stender in the Jacksonville area does that. And she sent me this video once and all,


Suze: I'll never forget looking at it. She went to somebody's home and by the way if you're in the Jacksonville area you better use Dr. Katie Stender. But she went there, and the people really wanted her to put the dog down and she looked at the dog and she said, this dog isn't ready to die.


Suze: This dog just needs this, this, and this, and this, and then she went back months later and the little dog was jumping actually it was a Pit Bull, was jumping all over her, and licking her and everything and was fine. So sometimes just a little tweak or what they'll find in your book, can not only extend the life of their animal,


Suze: but give them a quality of life where they love their life again, and you get to love them even more. Now I know in a few months, you have one of these books coming out on cats as well, right? Called "The Nine Lives Are Not Enough." Alright, so everybody can look for that. But there's also another book


Suze: that you have written that I think touches my heart more than all of the books that you have out there, and that's your children's activity books that help them say goodbye forever you know, your forever friend. And you can see it that it's one thing when a child loses a parent, or a brother or a sister, it's equally as hard when they lose their dog.


Suze: So tell me a little bit more about that book, by the way. The name of that book is "Forever Friend" and why everybody should get that book.


Dr. Mary: I get asked all the time should I allow my kids to be present to say goodbye?


Dr. Mary: And they and I think we shield them were such a death adverse society and they were scared that kids can't handle it. And I have to tell you, I encourage if they're five or older, I encourage to ask them if they want to be present a lot of times. This is their best friend, this is there like a sister or brother, they're sleeping with them, they're taking care of them, they're playing with them.


Dr. Mary: And for them to not be a part of that experience can be, you know, actually quite hurtful. And I, I wanted to have something and I co-wrote it with Colleen Ellis, a good friend of mine and she's very big in the pet loss world and we wanted to write something that could help families come together and have discussions about what's going on. Right? So because a lot of times moms and dads don't know what to say to the, to the kid. They look to me sometimes, how do I explain death to their child or what they're going through?


Dr. Mary: And this activity book can be used before the death happens. So just to help prepare them. And I have things in there like creating a bucket list for the dog or cat. Right? So having things to do as a family before the death happens can really help you through the grieving process because what you never want to do is have a regret. And I think that's the worst part is never getting to say, I love you to someone or you know,


Dr. Mary: or a dog or a cat before they go.


Suze: I love you Mary!


Dr. Mary: Are special. I love you too! 00:25:25

Suze: I just had to say that.


Dr. Mary: But let's not go anywhere.


Suze: So try not to go anywhere. Trust me go on.


Dr. Mary: Okay. I know. And so I think and there's also other activities and crafts. So we can prepare, uh, you know, a shoebox or memorial frame,


Dr. Mary: and things like that, or paw prints and, and it just gives you ideas to do things and even write a blog, right? Do a vlog. You know, the kid for today are very different than me and you were back then, right. And I think just helping them prepare to say goodbye and it can be also done afterwards writing a letter to the pet that could be placed in there, you know, and their little coffin if they're gonna be buried or going off to the crematory. I think it really helps the kids, you know, express their own feelings and not feel scared or ashamed.


Suze: So here we


Suze: are.


Suze: So everybody should get this book. Everybody, everybody should get that book. Everybody should get right. It's never long enough, and they can obviously get these books on Amazon, is that correct?


Dr. Mary: Yes.


Suze: Right? Because I'm not giving up my copies. I love my copies.


Suze: Well,


Suze: you want to know what, I know you're gonna think I'm a little crazy. But reading those books have also helped me because in my head there's not a lot of difference between an animal and a person.


Dr. Mary: No, it's


Dr. Mary: not. And you know, a lot of people will say just get rid of like, you know, just get rid of them.


Dr. Mary: That is


Dr. Mary: there. I mean a pet brings significance. They bring comfort, they bring care, there's there's so much love that we can get from a pet and vice versa, that I don't want that. I just want to make sure that we're prepared for what it can cost. And it's not just the financial cost, it's the emotional cost, it's time cost for some people. If you're working 10 hours a day,


Dr. Mary: a dog may not be the best option. You should probably look at a


Dr. Mary: cat, right?


Dr. Mary: So there's a lot to owning them, but they're both great.


Suze: And one last thing, what do people do who have animals, and they have absolutely no money to take care of them at all?


Suze: That's


Suze: a hard question to end with. I know, but what do they do?


Dr. Mary: I


Dr. Mary: I I think the best thing, if you do have a breed specific animal, to definitely look into breed-specific rescues. Like I said, I adopted my Doberman, he was six years old. There are people that will take your pet and care for them. So I, I and also bringing them to wonderful, the shelters and rescues are wonderful and they want to adopt.


Dr. Mary: I used to work at the Broward County Humane Society. We wanted to find families for these animals. So don't just think it's a death sentence dropping them off. It's giving them a chance. It's giving them something, right? And so, and I think that's important. Don't feel guilty about it, you know, do the best that you can, and and if and if providing


Dr. Mary: love food and shelter is what you can minimally do, that's okay too. You don't have to do MRIs and all these, you know, big things, but if your pet is suffering then you should do the best thing for them and whether it's to find care elsewhere, and give them up or sometimes unfortunately with some of these bigger problems, we do have to euthanize them.


Dr. Mary: And that is sad,


Dr. Mary: but we can make it, we can make it good.


Suze: You know, on some level, I think it's so great that animals can do that because I mean, just switching topics for a second. Like I always think about people that are in such severe pain,


Suze: they're sick, they can't walk, there screaming in pain, they're on medication. They're using up all their money, there is no hope for them. It's just you know, they like why couldn't we just do that with people if that's what they want to do on some level. But there comes a time and I've seen the suffering


Suze: of some people, and the only relief that the family sometimes gets is after the person has actually passed away because they know that they're no longer screaming in pain every day. It's such a fascinating topic. My guest today has been Dr. Mary Gardner. Her books are "It's Never Long Enough," which is a practical guide everybody for caring for your geriatric dog,


Suze: and her children's activity book to help with kids to say goodbye to their loved animals. Title is "Forever Friend."


Dr. Mary: Suze, thank you for having me. I hope it was helpful to some.


Suze: I hope it was as well. I hope all of you on the Women & Money podcast family enjoyed this little deviation from the typical Suze School and the KT and Ask Suze Anything,


Suze: but let me know how you felt about it. Because I just think Mary's great, and I think everything she has to say can really help you get those books and just keep a true perspective on what it costs to have an animal, to keep an animal, and what you do.


Suze: And maybe you can't do that anymore, girlfriend. I hope I get to see you again one day in person. It's been so long, long time, right? But until next time everybody, there's really only one thing that I want you to remember when it comes to your money, and it's this for you to be smart, strong, safe and secure. See you soon. Bye bye now.

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