Your Pet's Health

Your Pet's Health: Ways to be a Responsible Pet Owner

Every day, veterinarians and pet owners are faced with the moral crisis of putting a pet to sleep due to nothing more than the cost of a much-needed surgery, diagnostics, or other treatment that might otherwise save its life. Unfortunately, this situation is becoming more common. Advances in veterinary care have made it possible to routinely save more pets who have life-threatening conditions and restore quality of life for those with chronic illnesses. But the truth is that many people have not been educated about the cost of unexpected care and therefore are not prepared financially when that care is needed.  

In fact, according to the New York Times, fewer than half of the owners polled in a recent survey said that they would be willing to spend up to $1,000 on their pet's care. And only a third of the owners polled were willing to spend $2,000 to save their pet's life. Yet, the cost of fixing a cruciate ligament tear, for example, ranges between $1,200 to more than $4,500, according to the Canine Journal. As for cancer treatment, those costs can skyrocket quickly. A standard course of chemotherapy, according to CBS News, will empty an owner's bank account of between $3,000 and $5,000. 

So, what can a responsible pet owner do to ensure that they won't have to put their pet to sleep unnecessarily? 

Insure to Ensure Peace of Mind 

It’s important to educate yourself on the financial options available to you for the care of your pet. It’s a great idea to be proactive and consider quality medical insurance as soon as you bring home a new puppy or kitten. The right policy could cover a large percentage of your veterinary bills for surgeries and other treatments and could even pay the bill for you before you leave the hospital.  

While you consider medical insurance for your pet, it’s important to remember that insurance is not an investment plan, but financial protection for the unexpected. Lucky pets that have very few injuries and illnesses will not have many insurance claims; where unlucky pets will have more than their fair share. But who is to know if your pet will be lucky or unlucky? You have to be prepared for both. 

Look for insurance that offers a zero-dollar deductible option and allows you to pick your premium price if you do choose to have a deductible. You should also consider the way insurance plans reimburse their policyholders. For instance, Trupanion offers a proprietary service where it pays the veterinarian directly, so you are only left to pay your portion of the bill when you check out. This is directly opposite of how traditional pet insurance companies operate, requiring pet owners to pay the full bill up front and then wait weeks for reimbursement.  

Quality Medical Insurance Allows Your Vet to Do His or Her Job 

The veterinarian’s oath states, in part: 

“I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering…I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.” 

Veterinarians have been trained to do what is best for an animal, yet they must also respect the fact that their clients may have economic barriers. It goes against everything veterinary professionals believe in to provide sub-optimal care, or worse – euthanize a pet, when treatment readily exists. Repeatedly being asked to act in a way that is inconsistent with what they believe is the right thing wreaks mental havoc for both the veterinary team and for the pet owners who trust vets with the care of their family pets.  

In fact, an organization called MightyVet was recently established to help solve these issues and evolve the veterinary ecosystem for the common good of pets, families, and veterinary professionals. The site provides continuing education classes for veterinary professionals and offers a course on this exact subject. Entitled "Cost of Care and Economic Limitations: The Impact on Animal Welfare and Your Career Satisfaction," this online course was designed, in part, to help address the stress that impacts both veterinary professionals and responsible pet owners when financial barriers to care arise.  

So, while you may not realize it, having medical insurance for your pet also helps your veterinarian by allowing him or her to do what they have been trained and want to do -- and that is to provide your pet with the best care possible. 

Communicate with Your Veterinarian 

If you don't have insurance and can't afford to pay for your pet's treatment at the time of service, speak frankly and honestly with your veterinarian. They may work with an organization such as Scratchpay, which offers simple, friendly payment plans that do not affect your credit score. Your veterinarian might also choose to set up a page for your pet on Waggle, a crowdfunding platform devoted specifically to pets in need of emergency medical care. Waggle makes payments directly to the veterinary provider rather than individuals, so donors are assured that 100% of their contribution is being used for the intended purpose.

Prevention is Key 

Some bills are preventable. For example, dogs that are allowed to wander are at risk of getting hit by a car or attacked by another canine. A number of health issues, including type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, may also be preventable with proper exercise and a good diet. And don't underestimate the importance of oral hygiene and routine preventative care for your pet. According to the Drake Center, oral surgery could end up costing you a few thousand dollars. 

Do you have a pet that’s in need of emergency surgery or treatment? Submit your pet to Waggle today to get started raising funds for your pet.