As pet ownership continues rising, there are also more financial tools to help pet owners with the cost of owning a pet. From the fixed costs, to the unexpected vet bills, owning a pet has become more expensive over the years. Many pet owners adopt a pet for companionship; however, they feel unprepared and alarmed when they find out how much everything a pet needs costs. According to a recent report from the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent $95.7 billion on their pets in 2019, which included pet food and treats, supplies, live animals, over-the-counter medication, and vet care. (1) In 2020, Americans were projected to spend a record high of $99 billion on pet care.
Finances around pet care are surprising to not just pet owners but even to veterinary professionals who work in clinic. The prices set by many veterinary hospitals take into consideration several factors. The cost of a service includes the complexity of the task, lab costs, the amount of time a service takes, and the number of people and expertise needed to deliver the service. Pet owners may benefit from learning about all of the components that comprise the cost of a veterinary service to understand how a price is set.
In addition to the cost of services, the veterinary staff receive pay on an hourly rate or a salary, and the money that comes into the hospital is divided up between operating costs and expenses. All of the operating costs ensure the hospital operations continue and allow for the continuation and advancement of veterinary medicine. One common misperception about veterinarians, is that they make a substantial amount of money. As of 2019, veterinarians accumulate an average of $167,534 in student loan debt, with the top 20 percent owing more than $200,000. As of February 2020, the average annual salary for a full-time veterinarian, working in a hospital, is approximately $73,000 for a recent graduate and $95,000 for a veterinarian with more than one year of working experience. (2)
How to Prepare for the Costs Associated with Owning a Pet
To prepare for some of the costs associated with owning a pet, pet wellness plans and insurance options are great tools to mitigate the financial risk associated with pet ownership. It gives pet owners peace of mind. In the event of an emergency, they have the support of an insurance plan to make appropriate health decisions for their pet. Awareness about pet health insurance can help pet owners and veterinary professionals overcome challenges related to the cost of pet care. Pet owners can rest assured if their pet comes up with an illness or injury, the pet insurance will cover a certain amount of the treatment based on their policies and provisions. The number of conversations around cost could decrease, as well as the amount of stress around financial planning and spending for pet owners.
Wellness plans and insurance plans differ in that wellness plans usually consist of preventative care for a pet, whereas insurance plans cover a portion of the cost for illness. With numerous pet insurance companies out there, it can be difficult to decide which one to choose. When looking at pet insurance plans, take into consideration the pet breed, the monthly cost, the amount of the deductible, the waiting period, and if there’s a cap on the payout amount for medical conditions. Many pet insurance companies also have breed-specific exclusions, so be sure to read the fine print when choosing which option is best for you.
I can say from my personal experience, not having pet insurance for my first dog, Heidi, put me in a position of having to take out the majority of my savings to save her life. She had a malignant splenic mass that required an ER visit, numerous blood transfusions, hospitalization, emergency surgery, pain medications, and fluids that amounted to just under $10,000.
When she was a puppy, I wasn’t aware pet insurance existed. Had I known it did, I would have enrolled her in a protection plan from the start. The advantage of signing up for pet insurance early in a pet’s life is that plans rarely cover treatment deemed to result from a preexisting condition or chronic illness. I highly recommend that any current or future pet owners look into pet insurance options. Nowadays, some employers even offer this benefit as part of an employment package.
Needless to say, no questions arose when I enrolled my dogs — Simba and Leo — in pet insurance plans. Having pet insurance allows me to pursue more intensive diagnostics and treatment without which I may not have been able to. Having the security of knowing that my pet insurance company will be there to help me with the financial costs provides me with the mental piece of not having to worry about money at the expense of my pet’s life. Pet insurance helps me ensure my pet’s longevity. Pet owners may not have enough knowledge about pet insurance, but it can help tremendously to overcome the stress of the cost associated with pet care.
Adopting a pet is a lifelong commitment, and should be made with consideration. There are many components of pet ownership, and one should consider adopting a pet after looking at the full picture. Your pet becomes part of your family, relying on you for their basic necessities. A pet is a family member and should be treated as such. Make sure to do your research before adopting a new pet!
There are various pet insurance options that exist. A couple of companies that I’ve had good experiences with are Nationwide, Trupanion, and Healthy Paws. Do you have pet insurance or a wellness plan for your pet? Which company do you use, and what are the pros and cons? I ‘d love to hear from you!
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- David Weliver, “The Annual Cost of Pet Ownership: Can You Afford a Furry Friend?” Money Under 30, Modified July 7, 2020.
- Melissa Horton, “Average Student Loan Debt for Veterinarians,” Lendedu, November 27, 2019.