If you think it costs more to take little Taco the Chihuahua or Whiskers the Cat to the see the vet, you’re not imagining it. It’s not unusual in many parts of the country for a simple checkup and basic shots to run over $200; and the average consumer with a pet is spending $655 a year for animal care and medications.
Sticker shock at the vet is prompting many people to reconsider the whole idea of owning pets. For others, basic economics drives them to play fast and loose with their pet’s health; skipping or shorting them on medications, and delaying seeking medical care when they suspect something is wrong.
Even the veterinary industry’s own statistics show pet care market revenue continuing to climb through 2018. On the economic timeline, this is a fairly recent development. Prices for veterinary care have gone up faster in the last 10 years than the previous 30 years.
Despite the economic reality, even during times of recession, people are still spending money on their pets. There are also more options these days. It wasn’t that long ago that if your family pet was diagnosed with cancer or another serious illness, euthanasia was the most likely recommendation. Today there are fantastically expensive operations, cancer treatments, and medications available — and many consumers are paying big bucks to keep their pets alive another three-to-five years. Consequently, there are sometimes things left unsaid when it comes to the health of your pet.
You Might Qualify for Low Cost Vaccinations
If you’re on unemployment or Social Security, you can qualify for vaccination programs offered through your local pet shelter or Humane Society. The qualifications for the programs vary from city to city, so call ahead for details and clinic hours.
Mail Order Medications Really Are Cheaper
Your vet wants to sell you medications because they make money, a lot of money, off medication sales. If you take your prescription and shop online, you can save quite a bit. Many people don’t know they can ask for a prescription — and a few vet clinics here and there won’t supply them. I once got a lecture on the evils of mail order pet medications from a local vet clinic, which refused to give me a prescription. The situation where a vet won’t supply a prescription is rare, but it’s better to check first than be surprised.
Some Lab Tests Are Not Absolutely Necessary
Most people don’t know they can ask to sign a waiver to skip the heartworm blood test, called a “spot test.” There are risks associated with doing so, and the American Heartworm Society recommends against skipping it. All the same, if your pet is primarily an indoor pet, and you routinely keep them on a heartworm preventative, most veterinarians will let you sign a waiver that details the risks of not getting the test done.
If your vet is ordering a raft of labs on a healthy animal for a routine checkup, you have the right to answers about which tests have been ordered, and the risk factors justifying the expense. On the flip side of that coin, if you bring your vet a sick pet, don’t expect them to be able to figure out what’s wrong without doing some labs.
Not All Vaccines Are Necessary Every Year
With pharmaceutical companies coming out with more and more vaccines for different diseases, not all of which may be a risk in some parts of the country, proper pet vaccines are not a one-size-fits-all regime anymore. In many areas rabies vaccines are certified for three years, though a few states require them yearly. Talk to your vet about what makes sense for your pet’s vaccinations.
Radical Treatments Affect Quality of Life
Just because options are available for treating your pet’s cancer or other serious illness, doesn’t mean it’s the best decision to put them through the ordeal of radical treatment. Radiation and chemotherapy have serious side effects that can significantly impact your pet’s quality of life.
In our own experience, one of our dogs got a condition called bloat, where their stomach turns around inside the body cavity. The surgeon assured us our pet was a good candidate for the operation, but much went unsaid in that conversation. Statistically dogs with bloat only live an average of 2.5 years after the operation. Our dog died one week short of 2.5 years on the dot. In hindsight, the better decision would have been to let her go. I know first hand what a gut-wrenching decision it can be — but if you maintain quality of life as one of the deciding factors, you’ll be more likely to reach a better decision for you and your pet.