The Cost of Pet Care – Are You Prepared?
by Lorie Huston, DVM on October 6, 2013
I found this article in the Huffington Post about pet health care costs quite interesting. The post raises the issue of planning for the cost, both expected and unexpected, of keeping a pet. The post tells the story of the author’s pet, a Bearded Dragon, and a health problem that occurred with the lizard. In the end, the lizard was fine but the whole incident lead the author to question what might have happened had the pet suffered a grave illness that was expensive to treat.
The post raises some good points. The author touches on a scenario in which a 13 year old dog is given months to live unless drastic measures are taken to save his life. She also speaks to the increasing number of people who have fallen on hard times, being forced to give up beloved pets because they can no longer afford their care. She summarizes by saying “Families need to have an open discussion, both with each other and with their veterinarians. There are many measures that can be taken to manage medical costs. Pet insurance is a consideration… A healthy diet, safe environment and basic training have all been shown to reduce stress induced illness as well as accidents.”
I agree that a good first step is to do all you can to protect your pet from accidents and preventable illnesses. It may seem counter-intuitive but regular visits with your veterinarian for preventive health care can actually save money in the long run. Your veterinarian can help you detect subtle signs of illness early on, when treating them is likely to be not only more successful but cheaper as well. In addition, your veterinarian can help you choose safe and effective parasite products. Preventing parasites for your pet is far preferable and much cheaper in many cases than trying to deal with their aftermath once your pet becomes infected or infested.
A safe environment is a must. For cats, living indoors is the safest lifestyle but be sure to provide plenty of enrichment for your cat to avoid boredom and stress. As the Huffington Post article correctly points out, stress can play a huge role in the development of disease for both dogs and cats. For more information about enrichment for both dogs and cats, I suggest visiting The Indoor Pet Initiative offered through The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
For dogs, a safe environment means being leashed (or harnessed) and supervised when outdoors. Do not allow your dog to run at large. Doing so opens the risk of car accidents, dog fights, exposure to rabies and other contagious diseases, and other injuries which may be expensive to treat and painful for your dog.
Feeding a good diet is an important consideration in keeping your pet healthy also. Remember that cost does not always equate to quality. Avoid being victimized by clever advertising campaigns as well. Trendy is not always healthy for your pet. Your veterinarian can help you choose a good food for your pet, based on your pet’s individual needs. Avoid feeding a diet that is nutritionally inadequate. If feeding a home-cooked diet, consult with your veterinarian to make sure the diet meets all of your pet’s needs.
Above all, monitor your pet closely. If your pet starts exhibiting abnormal or unusual behaviors, seek veterinary care. The sooner you identify and diagnose the problem, the sooner treatment can be initiated and the more likely it will be that the treatment will be successful. Waiting until your pet is seriously ill will have negative consequences for your pet as well as for your pocketbook.
Pet insurance is an option but it is not necessarily right for all pet owners. Pet insurance, however, can mean the difference between being able to treat your pet or not treat him, especially in the case of treatments with large price tags. Insurance can, to a large extent, take finances out of the equation and allow you to focus on what is in your pet’s best interest.
A pet savings plan can be another successful way to cover the cost of your pet’s health care. Setting aside a few dollars every week is more manageable for many people than having to come up with a sizable sum of money within a very short period of time. A savings plan will only work if you are committed to contributing to it on a regular basis and not delving into the savings for other purchases. It is possible that, should an unexpected pet expense occur, your savings plan may not have enough funds to cover the cost. However, if you can offer a reasonable part of the payment, your veterinarian is more likely to be willing to work with you.
If finances are tight and you are unable to afford your pet’s care, discuss the situation up front with your veterinarian. It may be a difficult conversation to start but your veterinarian will respect you more for it and may be more willing to work with you toward a solution. Having an established relationship with your veterinarian is helpful also. If your veterinarian knows you and your pet, and knows that you’ve always taken good care of your pet and done all you could to keep him healthy, you’ll likely be more successful in convincing your veterinarian to help you with funding. Walking into a veterinarian’s office as a complete stranger and with a pet that hasn’t received adequate health care in the past will be a more difficult road to travel.
There are services in many communities that help pet owners cover the cost of their pet’s health care, but these services often operate on a limited budget and have only so much funding to offer. Contact them if you find yourself in a difficult situation and know that you cannot afford your pet’s care. However, realize that these organizations may or may not be able to help you. In some cases, they may be able to provide part of the funds for your pet’s care, requiring you to be responsible for the remainder. If one of these organizations is able to help you and your pet in a pinch, consider paying them back when you are financially able so that they continue to help other pets.
It’s your turn to sound off. What are doing to manage your pet’s health care costs? Have you made specific plans in case of an emergency?
About Lorie Huston, DVM Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.
This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette