Family members became increasingly concerned after Bailey began ‘crying’ with pain.
Initially they thought he was cramping or had even strained ligaments in a knee.
But an examination by Dr Ben Porter, from Peninsula Vet Care, later confirmed worst — Bailey’s right back knee was prone to dislocation and he needed major surgery to rectify it.
The surgery was estimated at about $2000 — a tough ask for the De Araugos family, who were already going through tough financial times.
Dr Porter put the family in contact with the Pet Medical Crisis Fund, which helps disadvantaged pet owners prevent their pets from being unnecessarily euthanised when they cannot afford the cost of veterinary care.
Pooches learn to doggy paddle!
Fund head Jennifer Hunt said the charity donated $800 while Peninsula Vet Care discounted its fee — leaving the De Araugos family with a more manageable $400 to pay.
Ms De Araugo said the family was rapt Bailey had recovered from the surgery and following a period of rehabilitation was back to being his loveable best.
The Pet Medical Crisis Fund relies on public donations to continue its work and is run by volunteers. Donations over $2 are tax deductible.
Australians have among the highest pet ownership rates in the world. But when it comes to medical care for furry friends — the industry is in turmoil.
Jennifer Hunt forked out tens of thousands on vet bills to keep her pet dog Jed alive.
“I got asked by the vet if I would put him down as it’s expensive surgery and many pet owners can’t come up with the money.
“But then I thought, Jed is part of the family you wouldn’t put a family member down,” she told 10 daily.
Hunt ended up paying a total of $30,000 for various spinal treatments for her border collie.
While she managed to come up with the funds, she soon came across countless heart-wrenching stories of Aussies who couldn’t afford to keep their pets alive.
“For example pensioners whose pets are companions and bring them so much love and joy.
“Or families where a loved one is autistic, disabled or stressed, there’s a lot of evidence of how much a pet improves their outcomes,” Hunt said.
Owning A Pet Hits The Hip Pocket Hard
The Melbourne-based nurse decided to start a crowdfunding charity to help families save their pets.
Eight years later, the Pet Medical Crisis Fund (PMCF) has raised and distributed almost $400, 000 to save more than 450 pets across Victoria.
“Many of the people we’ve helped are single mothers with sick or disabled children as well as pensioners,” Hunt said.
Australian pet owners are forking out a $1.3 billion annually on the vet, according to recent research by comparison website Finder.
Hunt said she is working to take her service national and she knows it will “open a floodgate of need.”
The PMCF also covers the cost of some vets who agree to do procedures where an owner can’t pay.
The Human Cost Of Treating Pets
But it’s not just pet owners paying a high price.
Dr Oliver Liyou has been a vet in regional NSW for 25 years. He says he’s struggled to stay in the industry — where staff shortages, mental illness and clients who can’t afford to pay for treatment — is rife.
“The general public thinks all vets are rich and that’s just a misconception,” he told 10 daily.
Liyou estimates that around 50 percent of Australians can’t afford reasonable medical care for their pets, yet many clients he encounters own multiple animals.
“Many vets are walking away rather than being prepared to put their mental health at risk doing such long hours, managing financial stress and dealing with client expectations,” he said.
According to the Australian Veterinarian Association, suicide among vets reached “near epidemic” levels in 2013.
“I’ve had five vet friends commit suicide, and a few years ago I was lucky to survive a suicide attempt, I ended up in a coma and ICU,” Liyou said.
Liyou says access to information and misinformation online compounds the problem.
“I have seen attitudes change in the last five to 10 years. Clients often have distorted views and expectations not only of costs but how to treat things based on what Dr Google says,” he said.
How Vets Are Fighting To Keep Animals And Themselves Alive
“People often say ‘treating my dog is more expensive than my medical costs’ but they don’t see all the costs of caring for humans”, Dr Paula Parker, President of Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) said.
Parker says most local vets are equipped like small hospitals, and the huge medical equipment costs are absorbed by small business owners.
“We do not get state and federal government funding, Medicare and PBS,” she said.
According to Australia’s largest veterinary employment website, Kookaburra Veterinary Employment, there are currently 430 vet roles that haven’t been filled.
“We are seeing shortages, largely in rural areas and also where more specialists skill sets are required,” Parker said.
In response to dwindling vet numbers, isolation and stress, the AVA has introduced a 24-hour counselling hotline, a mentoring program as well as a benevolent fund to support vets in need.