Get pet insurance. Veterinary medicine is advancing at a rapid pace. It always has, I guess, just like human medicine. We can do things now that were impossible 20 years ago, but 20 years ago we were doing things impossible 20 years before that, so in that respect progress is unchanging.
Now, though, I think that the advances are relatively more expensive. New stuff always costs, but I think the technology that backstops the latest advances is costing more of a paycheck percentage-wise than the lower-tech advances used to. A new surgical procedure, suture material, or antibiotic are cheaper to implement than a million-dollar MRI machine.
Perhaps steps just used to be smaller. In any event, this hike in cost presents a problem when it comes to providing excellent care to my patients. Veterinarians have access to many technologies that provide rapid and accurate diagnoses, and we like that. If your pet is sick I’d like to find out exactly what’s going on instantly when possible, and certainly within 24 hours, and I want to use the most effective, safest treatments. This might mean running blood tests, taking x-rays, maybe doing an ultrasound. I might need to refer you to a specialist. I might need to refer you somewhere else for diagnostics (not every vet clinic has every piece of equipment).
All of that costs money. If we don’t have the financial resources, we’re left with educated guesses (I’m pretty good at those, but not quite perfect) and suboptimal treatment options. If your Golden Retriever gets lymphoma (a very common cancer in these dogs) I really want to treat him. I want to do chemotherapy (which he’ll tolerate really well with a good quality of life, because we’ve got excellent protocols for this) and we might buy him an extra 2 years beyond the 3 months he’ll have without it. You’ll be set back $5000 to $8000 when it’s all said and done.
I want to repair your Rottie’s torn cruciate ligament ($1300-5000) and give her a normal life. Without it, her knee will scar and become horribly arthritic and she’ll be in constant discomfort, even with medications.
I want to refer your Dachshund for surgery ($5000-6000) when he blows a disc in his back and loses hind leg function, because Dachsies have an excellent prognosis with surgery in this situation and are paralyzed without it.
I want to save the life of your pitbull puppy when he’s hit by a car ($1000-6000), because he’s a baby and he deserves a chance at life.
On a smaller scale I want to start your dog with Addison’s on the most effective medication we have ($150 a month). I want to do allergy testing on your dog ($300) and start allergy shots ($300 a year) so we don’t have to keep him on steroids half the year. I want to test your hyperthyroid cat every few months so we can make sure his medication dose is optimal as his thyroid tumor grows ($100 a test).
There is so much we can do for your pet if we have the wherewithal to do it. Pet insurance allows us to do this for you and for your pets. I encourage anyone who doesn’t have the ability to come up with at least $1000 in an emergency to get insurance. Yes, it costs money, a chunk every month ($35-75). But you should think of it like forced savings for your pet.
I know that many people say, “But I’ll put that money in the bank and save it, then I’ll have it.” That’s fine, but
- I’ve never known anyone who actually does this, and
- what happens when an emergency occurs before you have much money saved?
Isn’t it better to have an unlimited (depending on the company you choose) amount of money to tap into when your pet needs it?
(Note – I have no ties to any insurance company. I linked to Trupanion above because I’ve had lots of clients with this insurance and they report smooth and fast claims processing and a high level of satisfaction with what is covered and for how much. As with anything financial, do your homework, compare apples to apples, and read the fine print on any policy!)