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In the article “Who Suffers Most From the Rising Cost of Vet Care?” by Steven Dale1, an anonymous responder to a previous article on preventative veterinary care was quoted saying, “The healthcare crisis is a crisis for humans and animals alike.” And so it is.
The truth of it is that healthcare — whether it’s for humans or animals — has become outrageously expensive, thus making pet insurance an attractive alternative for owners to defray veterinary costs.
In this article, we’ll take a look at why veterinary costs are increasing, and show you how you can protect your pet — and your wallet — from the rising cost of care.
Pets Are Family
Before we take a look at cost inflation, let’s take a look at ourselves. In a study done by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), pet owners spent $28 billion in 2011 on veterinary expenses2 — an increase from $24.5 billion in 2006.
While veterinary costs are certainly rising, we can’t avoid the fact that pets are part of our families now more than ever. That strong bond not only means that we’ll do what we can to keep them healthy, it also means we’ll go to great lengths to ensure that they’re part of our family for a long, long time.
With technology that was once only available to humans, MRIs, CAT Scans, transplants and chemotherapy are all now available to animals. The cost of these procedures are often greater than we, or our bank accounts, ever imagined.
Why Are Veterinary Costs Rising?
The increase in pet care can be attributed to the Great Recession, which lasted from December 2007 to June 2009 and high unemployment rates. However, there were also significant upturns in the pet care industry: more specialized care and more advanced clinics.
Just as we humans sometimes have issues that can no longer be properly managed by a general practitioner, so do our animals. Our pets can now be referred to board-certified oncologists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists and neurologists. With advanced care comes advanced knowledge, and with higher knowledge comes higher fees.
Think of it this way, if you were sick and went to your general doctor, they couldn’t perform surgery (should you require it) right then and there. The doctor you’re visiting lacks both the equipment and the knowledge to perform said surgery.
If you take your pet in for a check-up, and he or she does need surgery, then it’s likely that the same veterinarian that performed your pup’s check-up will also perform his surgery. Maybe not right then, but certainly right there.
With this option comes more expensive equipment (x-ray machines, monitoring systems, etc.) and more advanced equipment requires more advanced people to run it. Between purchasing and maintaining the equipment, and paying a more highly trained staff to facilitate it, veterinary costs are bound to increase.
How Can Pet Insurance Help?
Pet insurance works much the way your health insurance works. When you get sick, your insurance is there to make sure you don’t clean yourself out financially while taking care of yourself. It works the same for your pet.
Instead of having to dig deep into savings to cure your four-legged family member, you can rest easier knowing that pet insurance will cover some of the cost of the treatment. There are also a few big reasons that pet insurance is a smart bet for you and your pet.
Sadly, it’s the truth, accidents do happen. And with many pet insurance plans, you’re guaranteed that just because this fluke occurred, you’re not going to be left to pick up the pieces, and the check, alone. Make sure though when you’re checking out potential policies that the one you’re interested in does indeed offer accident protection, and you are prepared to cover the deductible.
Certain Breeds Have Health Issues
You may love your English Bulldog, but that doesn’t mean you can wish away his or her hip dysplasia, cardiac disease or respiratory disease. You can, however, protect yourself against the odds. Many pet insurance policies offer protection against hereditary and congenital conditions, as well as pre-existing conditions, so you’re financially covered.
Basic Care Costs Increase With Age
Human healthcare cost increase with age, and it’s the same for our pets. Prepare for their senior stage by starting your pup off with a policy in their earlier years, and looking for a company that won’t increase monthly premiums as your pet ages. While not all companies will guarantee not to hike the price on your senior pup, some will.
To learn more about which pet insurance company is best for your pet, visit our Pet Insurance Comparison Article
When Pet Insurance Isn’t An Option
We get it, pet healthcare is still a luxury for many animal owners in the U.S. While we strongly suggest trying to find a policy that fits your needs and budget, we do understand that sometimes, pet insurance is just not an option.
Whether you’re able to cover your pet under a policy, or you just want to keep your insured pup healthy with preventative measures, here are a few tips for taking the edge off rising vet costs.
Start an Emergency Fund
An emergency cash stash can keep you from financial hardship should an accident or sudden illness happen. Set aside money as you can, and you’ll feel less stressed when it comes time to actually use it.
You may even want to create a pet health savings account where you automatically save $20 a month “just in case.” Because let’s face it, you will need to use it for your pet at some point.
Buy Quality Food
As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” The same is true for your pet. Feed him highly processed foods, and you’ll reap the unpleasant reward from that decision in the vet’s office. Spend a little more on better food, and you’re much less likely to pay unwanted vet visits — and bills.
Use Free Clinics
Several times a year, vets may offer free clinics where they nix appointment fees. It’s a great time to schedule your pet’s vaccinations and annual check-ups. If your vet doesn’t provide this service, check with your local Humane Society or animal control; they should be able to offer you a list of available options.
Order Pet Meds Online
For non-life threatening prescriptions, trying using an online pet pharmacy for your pet’s prescription needs. Learn more about safe practices when ordering pet medications online.
Spay and/or Neuter
This should really be the first item on the money-saving list. By spaying or neutering your pet, you not only save the cost of caring for an unplanned litter of pups down the road, you also don’t contribute to the thousands of animals already crowding our shelters and streets in need of a home.
Also, non-neutered males can develop prostate issues as they age. By neutering your pup, you’re able to beat these odds and not contribute to the overcrowding of shelters. We think it’s a win-win.
Prevention is Prime
We’ve explored why the cost of veterinary care is rising, and ways that you can keep your costs down in the event your pet needs medical care. However, whether you choose to cover your pet with insurance or not, the key to a long, happy life with your four-legged family member is prevention.
Do you have any vet money-saving ideas to share?
Sources:  Who suffers most from the rising cost of veterinary care?,  AVMA Stats