As the cost-of-living rises, many pet owners have found themselves wondering if the cost of medical care for their pets will also rise and if they’ll be able to afford the care their pet needs for a long and healthy life.

While there’s multiple factors that determine the cost of your pet’s health care, prices are not expected to rise exponentially and there are multiple ways your family can offset the cost of medical care for dogs and cats.

A small orange and white dog wearing a stethoscope

Why is Veterinary Care So Expensive?

It’s not uncommon for pet owners to express they often feel like they spend more on health care for their pet than they do on themselves, especially if they have a multi-pet household. “Why is veterinary care so expensive?” is a common question.

In comparison to the rising cost of human health care, the cost of veterinary care has risen very little over the course of the last 20 to 30 years and pricing has remained far more stable than human health care.

Your veterinarian serves not only as your pet’s general physician but also as your pet’s surgeon, radiologist, dentist, dermatologist, neurologist, ophthalmologist, psychiatrist, ears, nose, and throat specialist, and their pharmacist. When this is taken into mind, you might find the cost of pet care is not unreasonable.

Your veterinary bill is also a reflection of the costs associated with maintaining suitable facilities, equipment, and the staff and support personnel needed to provide your pets with the level of care they need to stay healthy through all stages of life.

Although at times it may feel as though you are paying more for your pet’s health care than your own needs, when human health care costs are added up, including the price of insurance, deductibles, separate specialists, and pharmaceutical costs, there is no comparison to the much lower cost of veterinary care.

The American Animal Hospital Association strongly advises all pet-owning families to assess their financial situation and consider their ability to face unexpected expenses that may be incurred for veterinary care.

For some families, these expenses may be covered through existing income or emergency savings, for others, these costs can be offset through credit card reserves, medical payment cards, and budgeting. Others may want to consider protecting their pet’s health through pet health insurance policies.

Does My Pet Need Health Insurance?

Pet health insurance can help owners cover the cost of everyday medical expenses and help offset costs in the event of a medical emergency or diagnosis that will require ongoing care, such as cancer. While the average cost of pet health insurance is far more affordable than human health insurance, you may decide it is not the best decision for your pet.

For those considering pet health insurance, AAHA offers the following suggestions:

  • Be sure you understand what the policy covers.

Like human health insurance, coverage varies between policies and insurance providers. Some policies may cover preventative care, such as vaccinations, and some may not. Some policies may cover dental care, and some may not. It’s important to understand what is covered under your pet’s policy so you can make the best choice for your pet’s health.

  • Understand the exclusions and how expenses will be reimbursed.

Certain policies may exclude pre-existing conditions, hereditary conditions, or conditions that are unique to your pet’s breed. Almost all policies will have some form of deductible or co-pay requirement. Some policies pay on a set schedule based on usual and customary fees, while others pay based on actual incurred costs.

  • Understand if the policy allows you to seek care from a veterinarian of your own choosing or if you must go to a veterinarian that participates in the company’s network of providers.

When your pet is facing a serious illness or critical injury, almost all pet owners want the right to choose the veterinarian who will be caring for their pet during these sensitive times, but some policies may require you to visit a veterinarian in their network of providers rather than your chosen veterinarian.

While veterinarians do not sell insurance, most have experience with the policy or provider you are considering. Speak with your veterinarian or someone on their practice team for guidance and helpful advice.

Regular veterinary care can provide your pet with many years of healthy and happy life. Managing the expense of veterinary care can be done in a number of ways, including pet health insurance, but the best time to think about how your family will cover pet medical expenses is before the need for medical care arises.

“If My Veterinarian Truly Cared About My Pet, They’d Lower Their Costs.”

Providing medical care to beloved pets is a highly emotional situation.

No pet owner wants to imagine their pet going without the medical care they need due to the cost, while no veterinarian wants to imagine a pet being denied care because it is outside of their owner’s budget.

At the same time, there is sometimes the expectation medical care for pets should be cheaper because they are animals and therefore providing medical care to a cat or a dog is less complicated.

While your pet’s body may be much smaller than your own, your pet’s health is as vast, intertwined, and complex as your own health.

You would never expect your own physician to provide a diagnosis, care, and medication free of charge. Your veterinarian cannot provide this level of care for your pet for free either.

When determining the cost for their services, veterinarians must consider additional factors such as the cost of their schooling and ongoing training, the cost of their staff’s ongoing training, the cost of medical supplies, the cost of maintaining equipment and facilities, the cost of utilities, the cost of a fair salary for employees, and more.

Many veterinarians, including myself, ensure their costs are kept as low as possible for pet owners and are willing to go the extra mile and work with our clients, but we simply cannot jeopardize the quality of care we offer by waiving fees. Doing so could prevent us from being able to properly care for your pet or could endanger our entire practice.

Remember, you can always ask your veterinarian for an estimate before proceeding with treatment so you can make an informed decision regarding the care of your pet.

The extent of care given to any animal is ultimately determined by its owner. Every pet owner has different ideas regarding what they consider acceptable costs for pet health care. As a pet owner, you are the person most equipped to make the best choice for your pet when it comes to their health and the cost of their medical care. Veterinarians can only make their clients aware of the services and products that are available and then provide guidance on their choices and decisions.