Got the Pet Healthcare Blues? This Pet Parent Did

Great Danes Jazz (left) and Blues (right)

Jazz and Blues are big dogs, and their owner, Emily McVeigh, has an equally big heart. Since rescuing the dogs in 2009 and 2011 respectively, Emily estimates that she has spent over $15,000 on the dogs’ health care, not including the $1,000 she spends monthly on prescription foods and medications.

And because Emily does not have pet health insurance or a membership plan like PetPlus, these are all out of pocket costs.

“When I adopted Jazz I was not aware of pet insurance,” Emily says. “By the time I became aware of it, she had already bloated and had too much health history to really make it cost effective.” Jazz has been plagued with a number of health issues from a young age, starting with a diagnosis of hip dysplasia at 11 months, followed by bloat at 12 months. Despite having two procedures to prevent future bloat, she has suffered many more episodes. Jazz also has Cushing’s disease, chronic pancreatitis, food allergies, and irritable bowel syndrome. And last summer, she tore her ACL and a tumor was discovered on her abdomen.

From left: Jazz, Emily, her Yorki mix Preston, and Blues

From left: Jazz, Emily, her Yorki mix Preston, and Blues

“Jazz’s health status is a daily struggle,” Emily says. “She is my heart and soul. I hate to see her so ill. Jazz has also taken a significant toll on my finances. That brings a whole different level of stress. Not knowing what the next round of testing will bring, what new medications she will be needing.” But there’s more. The same summer that Jazz tore her ACL and a tumor was discovered, Emily’s other Great Dane, Blues, was diagnosed with cancer. “My world stopped spinning when I found out Blues had cancer,” Emily says. “I was actually notified on my birthday. Blues was my travel buddy, we went everywhere in town [together]. We volunteered together, trained together, at the house he was velcroed to my side. The thought of him no longer being there was almost more than I could handle.”

Coping With the Unexpected Costs of Pet Illness

Emily picked up extra shifts at work and asked family for help so that she could pay for both Jazz and Blues’ treatments simultaneously. Jazz needed surgery, and Blues needed both surgery and radiation to have a chance at survival. “Trying to get funds together for that treatment when we only had a 30-day treatment window — from day of surgery to starting radiation for treatment to work — was horrific stress,” Emily says. Today, Emily is happy to report that Blues is cancer free and only suffers from seasonal allergies. All of Jazz’s illnesses and treatments, however, are still a lot to handle without insurance. “Knowing we are in a chronic state so that costs will never go down only up is hard,” Emily says. “With Blues it was a one time hit; it hurt but it was over as quickly as it came. Jazz’s financial strain is here to stay, so I just constantly look at alternative income sources [and] cost saving measures.”

There are times, Emily says, when there is no spending outside of basic necessities. She has also made some significant life changes to pay for the dogs’ health care. “I switched full time jobs to one that had better pay and more flexibility so that I could get the dogs to the vet more efficiently,” Emily says. “I started working weekends to earn extra money, did odd jobs, more competitive shopping — anything to ease the burden.” Emily has also looked for ways to save on the dogs’ medications. “We call local pharmacies for [the] lowest price and take advantage of discount programs. I also use manufacturer coupon/rebates, [and] buy in bulk from warehouse stores for non prescriptions to save money.” While none of it is easy, it is all worth it for Emily, who keeps two blogs about her dogs — and “The dogs are such an important part of my life,” she says. “First and foremost they are my family and I treat them as such.”

Lessons Learned

When asked if she had any advice for other pet parents about how to pay for their pet’s health care, Emily said: “Get pet insurance; [a] savings account does not prepare you for catastrophic events, especially if you were to have more than one, which can and does happen. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a pet due to financial hardship.” Here at PetPlus, we were so moved by Emily’s story that we decided to offer her a free year of PetPlus coverage. “That is absolutely amazing!” she said. We think so too and are honored to be help! We’ll look forward to checking back in with Emily after she’s had a chance to take advantage of all the benefits offered by PetPlus. For now, check out a video of Jazz and Blues playing in the snow below, and head over to Emily’s blogs to keep up with the whole gang.

Have a story you’d like to share or know a pet-family deserving of a free trial of PetPlus? Contact the Pet Savvy editors at content [at] petplus {dot} com or leave a note in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you. 

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  1. 1

    I rescued my Yorkshire Terror, Tommie (SHE was named after a friend )about 13 years ago when she was 1 1/2 yrs old. We have been glued together since then. She’s my pocket puppy. She goes everywhere with me.
    I call her a Terror because she thinks she’s a grizzly bear. Before my 2 back surgeries we did a lot of hiking and she would go for 9 hours straight with her nose to the ground. I was always afraid if we came upon a bear that she would try to attack it. Last year I had to leave her for 6 months to look after my aunt who had cancer……it broke my heart to be separated from her, but my aunt needed me.
    Tommie went blind within the first month of my leaving. I knew it was coming but I didn’t expect it to happen so fast. After some quick research I called the small vet clinic at UT and made arrangements for my friend who was watching Tommie to take her in to see if she could have the cataracts removed. They said she was up to it and my boyfriend who adored Tommie said he would see her through the surgery……So Tommie with the help of Discover and Visa got her sight back….I got home just in time- Tommie was not healing well – for her to get an ulcer on her right eye. It took 3 more months of round the clock eye drops for her ulcer to heal. Then Tommie’s allergies and sneezing got worse…..Our new vet recommended a rhinoscopy at UT……well 2 grand later we found out great fully that Tommie doesn’t have anything fatal, but she does have a chronic condition that causes allergic like reactions. Now her ulcer is back….

    • 2
      PetSavvy Editors

      Hi Julie, thanks so much for sharing. It’s difficult to deal with pet health concerns, particularly for older pets. We’d love to help you and Tommie. Please send an email to, and we’ll get you set up with a free trial membership of PetPlus! This will save you lots of money on Tommie’s prescriptions, and give you some peace of mind. Hope all is well, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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