An increasing number of pets are either euthanized or abandoned because owners can't pay the medical bills, and part of the problem is the impulsive purchase of "designer" pets, say Ottawa animal welfare workers and veterinarians.
The Ottawa Humane Society on Thursday charged an Ottawa woman with two counts of animal cruelty. The society said she allowed her dog, a 10-month-old pointer-mix, to suffer for months without seeking medical attention for a skin condition that led to complete hair loss, scabbing and swollen skin.
The woman told a veterinarian she noticed the issue eight months earlier but did not bring the dog in because she couldn't afford treatment. The dog was euthanized.
It was the second time in three weeks the Humane Society has charged someone in Ottawa for failing to properly care for their animal.
An Ottawa couple faces up to two years in jail after vets determined their black Labrador Retriever had advanced cancer and was likely sick for at least a month. The couple had also claimed they had not obtained earlier treatment due to financial reasons.
Fisher Glen Animal Hospital veterinarian Jane Gates said the public incidents are part of a trend: pet purchasers who fail to recognize — and plan for — potential medical costs.
Avoid flavour of month cross-breeds, says vet
Gates said designer dogs — such as the tiny dogs found in the handbags of Hollywood starlets — or any dog bred to extremes will often come with built-in medical problems.
Buggs, a cross between Boston Terriers and Pugs, often inherit the breathing issues of both breeds. Labradoodles, a cross between a Labrador Retriever and Poodle, are more vulnerable to hip problems or eye disorders.
"It's frustrating. People think they're neat but they don't realize some of the medical problems associated with those breeds and so then they get in over their head with bills," said Gates.
She said last week she pulled 10 teeth out of a pocket-sized dog. The $2,000 bill came as a shock to the owner, she said.
"These are tiny little dogs — three, four, five pounds," said Gates. "That tiny little mouth and they've got 42 teeth rammed into their mouth. And there's not room for that."
"Then [owners] complain the dog has bad breath and the teeth are falling out and the dog has a sore mouth," she said. "But this was all sort of a given from the beginning because we've bred them to be the way that they are."
The Ottawa Humane Society said 35 animals have been dropped off so far this year because of mounting health problems or unaffordable vet bills. Executive director Bruce Roney said the problem is avoidable.
"The best thing is to plan upfront. We highly recommend health insurance. If you have a pet it is a responsibility you need to take seriously," said Roney.