Clients come in all shapes and sizes. What I mean is that some people will do absolutely everything possible for their pet, while others have to be talked into a rabies vaccine. It is important to remember that my job as a veterinarian is to be an advocate for your pet’s best health care. Good veterinary medicine is expensive. When you decide to get a pet you should think how you are going to pay for its care.
There are 2 major methods of paying for care. Obviously you can pay as you go with either cash, check, or credit card. This can be made easier by having a savings account for your pet – put something away monthly to be prepared when expenses do come up. A second method of payment is health insurance for your pet. There are many companies offering good policies now. You must do home work to decide what type of coverage you want. It is important to realize you will not be able to get coverage after your pet is diagnosed with a chronic condition such as diabetes.
When our pet friends are young ,generally the cost for their care is fairly minimal. Trauma is the major exception to this rule. If your dog or cats gets hit by a car, expenses can be several thousand dollars. This is especially true if multiple surgeries have to be done. It is important to have a plan if an emergency comes up. In some cases people attain a special credit card for animal expenses. We work with a company called Carecredit. They often offer 3 months no interest, but you need to pay this card off promptly as the interest rates can be steep after the grace period.
Young pets should come in at least once yearly for a physical exam. Normally at that time your pet is updated on any needed vaccinations and a stool sample is done to check for intestinal parasites. Dogs in our area are also checked for heartworms and the tick borne diseases. So yearly expenses for a young pet can range from $150 to $500.00 depending on circumstances. This is actually less than a daily cup of coffee at Starbuck’s.
Why do pets need a yearly physical exam? The main two reasons are to discuss any signs you have noticed and to check for hidden problems. Probably at least 30-40% of the pets we see have some degree of dental disease. These animals may be in constant pain. This problem also leads to other issues in the animal e.g. heart disease, liver problems, and kidney problems. This is just one example of what we are looking for in your pet. We also like to discuss if there are any behavior problems. The main reason that owned pets are given up to shelters is behavior issues e.g. separation anxiety, inappropriate urination, or intractable barking. Many times we can help with these issues before they reach the breaking point.
Older pets usually require more frequent veterinary visits. Besides a physical exam and history taking, we usually need to do some blood screening. Often chronic problems are seen in the geriatric population, and the sooner we identify the issues the better the outcome we are likely to have. Expenses are likely to be higher as your pet ages. Plan on $250 to $ ???? per year. Expenses can add up fast if your pet is diagnosed with a chronic condition e.g. diabetes. These animals require twice daily insulin injections plus frequent monitoring.
Lantus insulin costs approximately $170.00 per bottle.
If your pet is older, but does not have chronic problems yet, it might be an excellent time to think about health insurance.
A very delicate subject is the issue of clients that cannot afford the services their pet needs. As veterinarians we try to offer alternatives if possible. Sometimes we treat problems symptomatically to try to help the pet. Sometimes there is no alternative except euthanasia. This is very unsatisfying to both the client and the veterinarian (and the staff). Occasionally people act as though they are entitled to free care. The problem is that medicaid is not going to pay the bill. Either I have to charge all the other clients extra fees, or I under-pay my staff, or not buy new equipment, etc.
Plan ahead for your pets needs. Having a pet is both a joy and a responsibility. Be an informed client. Ask questions if you do not understand. Good communication is the cornerstone of a good relationship with your veterinary team.
Note: I am not endorsing any particular companies. The companies listed are ones we have dealt with in the past. Please do your homework.