What Does Pet Ownership Cost?

COSTSCost of Pet Ownership

Are you a pet owner?

If you’re a pet owner, you know that the costs add up over time.  There’s food, toys, equipment, wellness veterinary visits and, sometimes, illness and emergencies.

The costs that add up are a concern, but also is the fact that you may have a hard time knowing what things cost.  This is the topic we address in the June 2015 issue of Trends Magazine, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. It’s addressed to veterinarians who need to know how important cost transparency is to owner. If you are an owner, you will identify with the same concerns.

The article is entitled, “Show Them the Money.” In it we answer four questions:

Do you know the cost of the pet ownership, including the long-term cost of pet care?
What mechanisms are available to give pet owners a better understanding of costs?
How does price-shopping impact costs and price transparency?
Is there a way for pet owners to plan for long-term costs?
In this post, we address the first question – cost of pet ownership. Watch for future posts, when we will get to questions 2, 3 and 4.

What Does It Cost?

“You can get a pet for free at the animal shelter,” said one pet owner. “In fact, they will pay for the neutering and initial vaccinations.” So, begins the myth that the care of pets does not cost much.

But you know that is not true. To help pet owners anticipate costs, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has published estimated first-year pet care costs, including food, litter, license, toys, equipment, and training, with totals ranging from $1035 to $1843.

What about long-term costs? Chuck Marsh of San Diego, admittedly not going to the clinic “for every little thing,” estimates the cost of his dog to be an average of $1000 a year. Rebecca Rose, founder of CATALYST Veterinary Practice Consultants, has worked in the profession for many years and appreciates what it takes to maintain optimum health of a pet. When she recently acquired a four-month old puppy, she estimated that it would cost her $20K-25K over the dog’s life. She would agree that few people understand that, but she is able to project the cost. She said that she plans to choose a veterinary clinic with a Wellness Plan, giving her a fixed monthly cost, which she can budget. Then she’ll add insurance for emergencies, at a known annual cost.

Veterinary healthcare costs, like all healthcare costs, have risen.

Over the last fifteen years, technology and specialties have expanded, providing the opportunity for advanced diagnostics and care. Sophisticated equipment is available to general practitioners to help them, including ultrasound, surgical lasers, digital x-ray, dental x-ray machines, flexible endoscopy, and anesthetic monitoring equipment.

According to Consumer Reports, dogs with potentially fatal cardiac problems can get a $3000 pacemaker. Cats suffering renal failure can have an $8000 kidney transplant.

Pet owners do not know about the costly investment of equipment purchased by their veterinarian, and, furthermore, they like to assume that they will never need such expensive services. This makes it hard for them to appreciate what pet care costs.

Medical solutions are not like cookbook recipes.

Unlike a recipe in a cookbook, medical care must be tailored to each patient and cannot be outlined without an exam. This means that the cost of the veterinary service cannot be known until there is a diagnosis.

In our next post, we will discuss what mechanisms are available to veterinarians to give pet owners a better understanding of costs.

For an expanded discussion and review of the entire topic, read our article in the June issue of Trends Magazine.

That will do it for today.

Carolyn and John

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