The Tragedy of Economic Euthanasia

Pets Put to Sleep Because of Rising Veterinary Bills

Photo of Veterinarian Examining Cat
Veterinarian Examining Cat. photo © Getty Images

The term "economic euthanasia" has long been used in veterinary circles to describe the kind of decision that results when a client simply cannot pay the high costs of saving or prolonging a cat's life. In a deepening recession, with no foreseeable end, more and more veterinarians have to euthanize cats and dogs. Why? Because their owners do not have the money to pay the mounting expenses of treating cats involved in accidents, other medical emergencies, or seriously escalating chronic disease.

JoNel Aleccia, Health writer, described this increasing trend of economic euthanasia in an article for

I can empathize with the plight of cat caregivers who have to make this difficult choice. In 1997, our Arthur, a white DSH cat, developed cancers common to white cats on her nose and ear tips. Although quality of life was a definite factor in our decision, when our vet suggested surgery as a last option, cost was the deciding factor. I pray to never have to make this kind of choice again.

Although pet insurance can help with some of these high veterinary expenses, even the pet insurance companies are either downsizing coverage or increasing premiums, to defray their own rising expenses.

I conducted a poll on ways to cut cat costs in a falling economy. Of all the votes, 29% voted "I only call the vet for extreme emergencies." Janet Crosby, DVM, former Guide to Veterinary Medicine, wrote a list of Tips to Save Money on Pet Care and Vet Bills.

Among these helpful tips, two considering veterinary care are particularly pertinent:

Sooner, Rather than Later, Veterinary Care

If your pet is sick or injured, getting a diagnosis and treatment plan started as soon as possible will save money in the long run. Of course, each case is different, but getting things fixed before more things "break" definitely saves money.

 Although it might be a strange simile, compare your cat to an automobile. Timely engine care can save years of life, and keep your vehicle running at maximum capacity.  Likewise with your kitty.


CareCredit works like a credit card, but is exclusive for veterinary care (and other human health care services). Not every provider offers CareCredit or all of the available payment plans through CareCredit. Talk to your veterinarian to see if CareCredit is an option for your pet's care.

Decisions Worse Than Euthanasia

If you are not only low on cash, but also out of work, it may be tempting to drop your sick cat off at an animal shelter, or worse, just abandon her on the street. This is what is called in the vernacular, "stinking thinking." Sure, by some miracle, a kind stranger may take in your cat and give her the medical care she needs. More often than not, though, the cat will starve and grow weaker, then die alone in an alley. At a shelter, she will be humanely euthanized by strangers. Would you want either of those endings for a cat who has given you many years of unconditional love? Of course not. The very kindest decision you can make under those circumstances is to ask your vet to perform the euthanasia, and hold your cat while she drifts away.

Have You Had to Consider Economic Euthanasia?

Help other readers by sharing your experiences, including your final decision, by posting on our Facebook Group, All About Cats.