Mum told to put dog to sleep if she couldn’t pay vet bills amid cost of living crisis

A single mum was told to put her beloved dog down if she couldn’t raise enough money for veterinary treatment amid the cost of living crisis.

Having lost her job and been hit by the escalating cost of living crisis, Toni Rushton even considered selling her home in order to save the pup’s life.

Rushton, 48, from south London adopted Maddie, a yellow Labrador, during one of the toughest times in her life – her 90-year-old mother was placed into a care home by the local authority in the same week as her previous dog died unexpectedly.

Toni took rescue dog Maddie home to live with her on 20 December last year, just a week after the pooch’s first birthday – but almost immediately, she noticed something wasn’t quite right.

Toni recalled: “I’d been told that she had a clean bill of health. But I began to notice very early on that her joints didn’t seem to be working as they should.”

After taking her new pup to the vet in February, it was obvious that Maddie’s hips were in a shocking state and she needed immediate surgery to avoid suffering a huge amount of pain.

Eventually, she would become totally lame and euthanasia may be the best option, Toni was warned. Meanwhile, the rescue centre initially refused to pay out and advised her to put Maddie down.

Putting the dog to sleep was not an option for Toni.

She said: “Even though at this stage Maddie had only been with me for four months, there was no way that I was going to let her down.”

She took the pooch to an orthopaedic referral centre for X-rays, where Maddie was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia on both sides.

To give her any kind of quality of life, her only option was total hip replacement.

“They said that with both hips replaced, Maddie should be able to live as near to normal life as any other dog,” Toni explained.

The pet owner has spent her savings and maxed out her credit card to pay for Maddie’s treatment.

She has already shelled out around £5,000 ($5,600), and the estimated cost for her full treatment from initial consult to recovery is in the region of £23,000 ($26,000), depending on the amount of therapy the dog needs.

Although the rescue and insurance have helped contribute towards some of Maddie’s treatment, Toni has had to raise the majority of funds for her surgeries and ongoing treatment herself.

Maddie, described as ‘adorable, funny and affectionate’, had her first hip replacement in May this year. But, at the worst possible time, Toni lost her job working in the voluntary sector.

Toni, who worked for a charity that supports parents of disabled children, said: “About a month after she’d had her first surgery, I got made redundant.”

As she’s no longer working, Toni is having to cut back to afford her canine’s treatment. And with the cost of living crisis worsening, she has had to make drastic decisions.

She said: “I have been reading all the tips on trying to save money and every switch in the house is off unless I need it, and I have become pretty good at finding the reduced items in the supermarket.”

Toni’s social life has also come to a halt, and she has had to decline visits from her friends as she cannot afford to pay for anything.

She said: “My life has completely been put on hold. I just can’t justify spending.”

Toni, who lives on her own, is considering cancelling her Sky TV subscription too.

She said: “My TV is probably my only comfort other than Maddie, but I’m trying my hardest to keep that off as much as I can during the day.

“It’s my only vice, but it feels like that’s a bit of extravagance that maybe I could do without at the moment.”

Toni, who volunteers for Missing Paw Team UK which helps reunite lost or stolen pets with their owners, has also been fundraising for Maddie’s treatment. She has been selling calendars, hosting raffles, and also has a GoFundMe page which has so far raised just over £5,500 of a £12,000 target.

She said: “I probably would have sold my house if I couldn’t raise it.”

The Labrador had her second operation three weeks ago, and both surgeries have been a success. But Maddie has a long road to recovery ahead of her.

She will need regular hydrotherapy and physio as well as medication and supplements for the rest of her life.

Toni said: “I have a way to go in raising the rest of the funds for the surgery and the therapies that she will need until she is fully recovered.”

Many animal lovers are resorting to giving up their pets as they struggle to afford to keep them amid soaring food and energy bills, with the RSPCA reporting more than 100 a day are being abandoned.

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