September 15, 2009 08:23 PM

To many of us, our pets are our babies and we often put their needs before our own. But should your pet’s health take priority over your own? We began to ponder this question when we received the following dilemma from one reader:

A friend is spending $5,000 on her dog’s hip replacement but won’t see her own doctor about a health issue, saying she can’t afford it.

We consulted Jan Yager, Ph.D., a friendship coach, sociologist and author of the book When Friendship Hurts, for her advice on handling this situation. She said it’s important not be overly judgmental of your friend.

“Don’t belittle your friend’s commitment to spending that money on her dog’s surgery,” says Yager. “That will just make her friend feel defensive and misunderstood. Empathy goes a long way in helping a friend especially if she is making a decision that others might find questionable.”

Yager says this situation definitely calls for a discussion about the importance of taking care of oneself and one’s own health, as well as taking care of those one cares for. The friend “can spend $5,000 on her dog’s hip replacement surgery, but she also has to examine what’s making her feel that she doesn’t have enough money for just a visit to a physician for her own health issue,” Yager says. “Is there a clinic for her dog that might charge less than the $5,000? Appeal to her in that way so hopefully she will see that she does not have to choose between the surgery for her dog and her own care.”

Yager suggests mentioning to the friend how your well-being can adversely affect your pet. “Discuss with the friend how if her health condition gets worse, who will take care of her dog if she is sick or incapacitated?” she says.

If the friend is determined to pay for the dog’s $5,000 surgery, one thing you can do is help suggest ways to find the money to take care of her own health issue. “Brainstorm solutions without making her friend feel guilty or embarrassed about her choices,” Yager says.

Helping the friend find solutions is the most constructive way to help, “rather than you telling her what to do and passing judgment based only on the money issues,” says Yager.

How would you deal with this situation? Leave your suggestion in the comments below!

Do you have a Petiquette dilemma you’d like to share? Email us at!

More Petiquette on PEOPLE Pets:
Petiquette: Why You Shouldn’t Pet a Service Dog

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