The Story of Titan and the Problem with High Vet Bills
Man’s best friend. An age old name most associated with dogs. Growing up with dogs I never saw them as pets or animals I saw them as members of my family. Petie was my older brother, he was a golden retriever mix that lived well into his teens, Chase was my younger brother another golden who made it to about 12, and Chloe the German Shepherd well, she’s my baby sister. What’s funny to me is that most people would agree that they’ve all had pets that were like family, but when it comes to vet bills and aiding families in making the best choice for their furry family member the buck stops there. Every now and then I’ll really hear a story which really tugs at my heart strings… this week happened to be one of them.
It’s 8:30 at night and I just settled on my couch to snuggle Draco when I see a post which gets my attention. A friend of mine from high school reached out to tell me that her dog passed away, but more insulting she could not retrieve his remains until a debt to the vet was paid. Bonnie and her fiancé Emma were distraught when they’d taken their beloved fur baby Titan to a 24 hour emergency vet for help when he chewed and got into a bottle of ibuprofen and found 0 compassion from the people they trusted to help them. They instead became overwhelmed by steep Vet fees and a fur baby which they could not save. In addition to the fees, the Vet wouldn’t release Titan’s remains from their facility until the bill was paid in full. So how did it come to this?
Bonnie’s nightmare started off as an ordinary evening. Her loving fiancé Emma went to sleep early because she had to work early the next day. The dogs stayed in bed with her while Bonnie went into the living room to watch Grey’s Ananomy with a friend. It wasn’t until 1am, when Bonnie went back into her room and the dogs were excited. She noticed Titan had pooped on the floor and peed by the dresser so she started to clean it. While her fur babies were in the kitchen drinking water. On her way to throw out the trash Bonnie passed Titan and flicked his nose for going potty in the house.
Bonnie then went back in the room to clean up the rest of the mess they made and when she kicked the blanket in their bed over there was a chewed up, empty ibuprofen bottle. Since the bottle was up high on the dresser Bonnie could only assume that Apollo, she and Emma’s black lab mix, may have knocked it down since he can reach higher when he stands. At this point Bonnie was alarmed and woke up Emma freaking out because she didn’t know which dog ate them. Apollo was next to Emma and seemed fine but Titan hadn’t come back to the room. This struck Bonnie as strange since he always came right back for snuggles.
Bonnie ran to where she had seen him in the hall and was relieved that he was still there. Her relief was short lived when she noticed that at this point something was wrong.
His breathing was heavy, his tongue was slightly hanging out and looking a little white so she rushed to him. He tried to get up and walk but he kept shifting to the side. Bonnie picked him up and tried to open his mouth but his jaw was locked ( this is common with certain kinds of seizures) so she rushed into the room yelling to Emma that Titan ate the ibuprofen so they needed to find a hospital open and leave right now.
His breathing is getting worse as Emma and Bonnie rushed him out of the house. They got into the car and began their treck to Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital, a 24-hour veterinary hopital, which Bonnie called to inform they were coming. She told them his breed, how he couldn’t breathe, and that he ate a bottle of ibuprofen.
The woman she spoke to said to bring him in and they will have oxygen ready for him. A few minutes later Titan started vomiting and choking. His breathing got slower and Bonnie noticed he was losing conscienceness . When Bonnie and Emma arrived to the Veterinary hospital the nurse met and rushed Titan into the back for some oxygen and promised she would bring them to a room in a few minutes.
After several agonizing minutes, the nurse took Bonnie and Emma to an exam room and left. When the nurse arrived back to collect information, she asked if they knew what happened and Bonnie told her once again that Titan had eaten ibuprofen. It was a relatively new bottle that could have contained anywhere from 70-85 200mg tablets. He had not vomited any pills and he drank water before he started to show anything was wrong. They had not given him any medication or home remedies to try and induce vomiting.
The nurse said that was good and informed Bonnie and Emma that when he came in he was seizing so they had given him oxygen and a dose of Valium. Bonnie and Emma then signed a form saying they can treat him and acknowledging they accept that the ER visit would be $132. They sit and wait a while longer before the vet comes in. He explains that a lethal dose for a dog is 200mg per kg of the dogs weight and that Titan has had a minimum of 4 times the lethal dose. Bonnie and Emma just called the vet Doctor Um since every sentence, or half sentence, he said was broken up by “um”. “Dr. Um confused us by saying that the point of kidney failure, liver damage, stomach and intestine lacerations, and neurological damage has surpassed.” Bonnie said although she had no idea what he meant since he was not clear.
What Bonnie and Emma did understand was that Titan was critical and they needed to take extreme measures to get him through 24 hours and even then it didn’t look good. “They needed to give him fluids, medications (because he was still seizing), pump his stomach, and keep him on oxygen.” Emma recalled before he informed couple that they needed to contact ASPCA poison control to get a treatment plan (even though he is almost sure it will be the same as his) “he said it was because sometimes they have a different course of action. We need to get a case number and provide it to them so that they can contact poison control and review the plan with them. They can’t move forward with treatment until this is done.” Bonnie said.
Once the vet left, the nurse came back in with the number stating “I’m not sure if he told you but this will cost $65 that they require you pay over the phone”. So of course Bonnie and Emma do what any dog parent would, they take the number and Emma calls. Emma gave the man on the phone the same info that they have the vet. They are given the same info the vet gave us and a case number. “We provided the nurse with both and again we just waited…I felt completely helpless.” Emma explained.
When the vet came in he informed Bonnie and Emma that they will have to do a lot more to get Titan through the night. He had a list and the cost would be high. The next 24 hours to 72 hours would require a lot of treatment and he would be admitted for all of it. He also informed them that Titan may need to be put on a ventilator and they didn’t have that equipment there. Bonnie and Emma were then told he was too unstable to move and if he survives the first 24 hours he may need to be transferred to a longer care facility.
Looking past the first 24 hours they were looking at multiple surgeries to repair his stomach and intestines. She was also told that he would eventually need to be on dialysis for his kidneys and that was only offered in two clinics in the entire country. The neurological damage, however, would remain unknown. “Dr. Um told us that we could go into debt to try and keep him alive and still end up with a bad outcome. He leaves and the nurse comes back with the cost of treatment for the next 48 hours.
“There was a low number and a high number. On the bottom it says that 75% of this must be paid for treatment to start. We don’t have this kind of money and our boy is in pain.” Bonnie later told me. By the time the vet came in and they discussed the cost. Bonnie asked if they could write a check post dated for next Wednesday . “He said he would have to call the owner and he is on vacation. He said he probably won’t be able to reach him and they will need an answer.” Emma remembered. He informed both Bonnie and Emma that at this time there was no pet insurance, and that the hospital doesn’t offer payment plans. “He said we could apply for a care credit card but that his treatments and medical necessities will cost a lot more in the future. I informed him, and the nurse previously, that we have applied for this card and were denied.” Bonnie added. The vet then went into greater detail about the surgeries and medical attention Titan would need if he survives the first 24 hours. Titan would hardly be home, he will be in pain, and he wouldn’t get to do the things he loves ( running in the yard, chasing birds, and playing with his brother). Neither Bonnie or Emma wanted this for him.
The vet left to give them time and Bonnie explains her painful thoughts to Emma. They agree that the best thing to do is to let him go peacefully and with both of them there. “The vet cames in and we ask about this option. He said that he agrees that it is the best course of action and he would do the same thing if it was his puppy.” Emma stated.
When the nurse came back in with some questions about what they would like to do with his body, she gave them options and they agreed on a private cremation. “She came back a few minutes later with the cost. The cost is for the ER visit, the fluids, the oxygen, the medication he was given, his cremation, and the mold of his paws.” Bonnie recalled. “We signed the paper and informed her we don’t have our wallets since we ran out of the house so quickly. I say we may have a checkbook in the car.”
The nurse said Bonnie and Emma can go home to retrieve them and come back if it’s not in the car and she promised to ask the vet about it because if they did not euthanize Titan before Bonnie and Emma went that they would have to pay for more fluids and medication. They went to look and the checkbook was not in the car. On their way back inside the nurse was there to inform them that they will euthanize Titan before they leave so Bonnie and Emma didn’t have the extra cost.
Crushed beyond belief, Bonnie went go to get some water before she was taken to the back. Emma was already waiting and Titan was laying on a table. Even with the oxygen he was having a lot of trouble breathing. He was not conscious and he looked fragile. “I can tell he was in pain. I grabbed his paw and told him we’re here, that we love him and we aren’t going anywhere. I pet his head and neck (which is swollen) and called him my fluffy nugget. I gave him a belly rub and ask Emma to find out if I can hold him.” Bonnie remembered tearfully.
The nurse told her yes and moved the things out of the way. She got the vet to let him know they were ready. “Up until this point all of the staff in the back is sitting at computers and we can only hear the typing of keys and the sounds of Titan struggling to breath. I pick him up and the instant the oxygen is removed his breathing is worse. The sound is heartbreaking as his head lulls to the side. I’m quick to rest it in my shoulder and rock him back and forth. I tell him it’s going to be ok and his his paw. I tell him he gets all the kisses and he was the best pup ever.” Bonnie said.
When the vet injected the sedative the rough struggle of breathing stopped. Titan had one eye open and he was looking right at Bonnie. As the vet injected the last two syringes Bonnie saw his eye gloss over and she knew he was no longer there. “I just held him a little tighter.” She said. The vet checked for a heartbeat and informed her it’s stopped.
When Titan released his last breath Bonnie’s heart shattered. She held him for a little longer and gently place him on the table. She covered him up because he started to get cold and she knew he didn’t like the cold. “I turned to Emma and told, ‘I don’t want to stay. He’s gone and I don’t want to be there.’ ” Bonnie said.
Emma informed the nurse and she escorted she and Bonnie out after getting Bonnie’s friends’ information in case his ashes are ready while they were away. The nurse informed Bonnie and Emma that they can call to pay the bill instead of coming back. Once they get outside the nurse comes out and talks to Emma, letting her know she’s was getting the mold of his paw prints. Both Bonnie and Emma waited outside and a few minutes later the nurse came to give the mold to Emma. When she gets in the car, Emma explains how the nurse gave her instructions for the mold drying and told her that if the bill was not paid they would hold the body and not move forward with the cremation. “This has sparked our struggle with raising the money since we don’t have it at the moment and we want our boy home where he belongs. Surrounded by love.” Bonnie explained. Bonnie wanted her story told and I wanted to tell it. Not just for her and Emma, but for Titan.
Bonnie and Emma already lost a pet, the fact that Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital lacked compassion for two grieving pet parents is unbelievably insensitive. Sure, bills need to be paid, but usually they would go into collection before refusing to release the body of a beloved family member. So how can a tragedy like this be prevented?
A possible solution would be AFFORDABLE pet health insurance. Since costly Veterinary bills can stack up it’s only right our pets have emergency accident plans, yearly check up plans and even a spay and neutering plan. In order to keep premiums low there should be a cap on how much Veterinary hospitals are allowed to charge. Setting in place a charity care program would also be an alternative option.
Bonnie and Emma were able to bring Titan home, thanks to Emma’s Mom pitching in but they still need to pay her back…you can help Titan’s cause by sharing this article, visiting Bonnie’s Go Fund Me page to donate (or share it!)and talking to your local animal hospital about whether or not they offer payment plan options.
Titan’s Go Fund Me Link
Love you. Mean it.