If you Google the phrase "what is the average cost of a pet over a life time?" there are several sites which pop up (such as this one) which list a dollar amount that may give one pause. But aside from the jaw-dropping realization of "sticker shock" it is also beneficial to become aware of the true cost of a pet when it comes to the animal's well-being, as well as the importance of investing in a relationship with your veterinarian to provide quality care throughout your pet's lifetime.
How much should I anticipate spending when my pet is a puppy or a kitten, and how much will I need to spend on veterinary care after that?
It is probably a blessing that people who adopt a pet as a puppy or kitten will be confronted with an initial laundry list of expenses, thus giving the new owner an idea that adopting a pet is not something that should be taken lightly.
Aside from the costs of vaccines, neutering, medicine, and a general veterinary evaluation, a new owner can expect to shell out for training, bedding, toys, leashes, food and other pet essentials. The cost of veterinary care in the young to adult years can stabilize, but one should expect it to rise again as the pet ages. Pet insurance can help to mitigate these fluctuations in cost, and can come in handy for more expensive procedures. However, some of the best advice your veterinarian can give you is about the importance of preventative care. It bears repeating that "prevention is better than cure" and this certainly applies to many aspects of pet ownership, including regular check-ups, keeping current on vaccines and parasite control, and even obedience training.
Why does veterinary care have to be so expensive?
Your vet is not only your pet's "family doctor" but also its surgeon, radiologist, cardiologist, neurologist, dermatologist, dentist and pharmacist. Your vet's practice and facility consists of a lot of expensive equipment as well as continuing education and salaries for qualified staff. As you might imagine, when you add it all up, a veterinary practice is an expensive business to maintain, but these costs are necessary to provide the level of care your family member and companion deserves.
How can I save money on veterinary costs?
- Our best advice is always to let pet owners know that "prevention is better than cure." This includes regular checkups, spaying/neutering, parasite control, vaccines and training (pets who are better behaved tend to avoid dangerous situations). Waiting until the last minute to address health issues can result in emergency treatment, which can be quite expensive. It also puts your pet at risk.
- Develop a relationship with a veterinarian who you trust and who can provide your pet with a full range of care over its lifetime.
- Pet insurance is also a good idea. As with human health insurance, different companies offer various levels of coverage with a variety of deductibles and premiums. Check with your veterinarian for specific information on pet insurance, or take a look around the web to compare plans and find one that will work for you.
- While there are purported savings associated with online pharmacies, we have pointed out some of the pitfalls involved. You should be aware that the promise of savings from purveyors of medication and online diagnoses are not always forthcoming when it comes to their limitations.
What resources are available for pet owners who love their pets but have fallen on hard times?
If you are worried about personal finances and the impact this might have when it comes to paying for veterinary care, the best thing to do is to contact your veterinarian in advance and ask about payment options. Your veterinarian will appreciate your concern for your pet, and most will be flexible enough to provide some options and clarify the animal hospital's payment policy.
Many veterinary practices also have resources to help pets and their owners through difficult financial times. At the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital, we have a Fixed Income Family Fund to help with emergency treatment which is available for clients of our clinic or members of the community who have recently moved to the area and have a record of providing consistent and regular veterinary care for their pets. The fund is replenished with donations at our annual charity event, as well as by people who care to donate to the fund at the Animal Hospital or via our PayPal link.
The importance of responsible pet ownership
Pet ownership is not a right, but a privilege.
Some may ask why the Fixed Income Family Fund is not available to ANYONE from the community at large who is confronted with the difficulty in paying for emergency treatment of their beloved pet. The reason is that Ann Arbor Animal Hospital takes the human-to-animal commitment very seriously. Pet owners are stewards of the health and well-being of their pets, thus is is incumbent on them to take the responsibility to nurture that animal and provide the quality of care it deserves—this includes an ongoing relationship with a veterinarian. We are assured by the consistency of care our clients provide to their pets, so we reserve the fund for those with whom we have built that relationship.