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JoAnna Lou
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Affording Vet Care
Pet lovers worry about high vet bills.

The high cost of veterinary care is always a constant worry of mine. I don’t buy pet health insurance, but I always put a little bit away each month in case of emergency. Unfortunately, you never know when you might need it. 

Last month my dogs’ annual checkup gave way to a huge vet bill thanks to asymptomatic Lyme and Giardia, and an ear infection on top of that. Thank goodness everything was easily treatable, but all those tests and medication add up quickly! My bill easily topped $1,000 and it wasn’t even an emergency!

According to a new survey from the Associated Press and Petside.com, I’m not the only one concerned about vet bills. Forty percent of pet lovers worry that they won’t be able to afford care when it’s needed. 

The poll, which interviewed 1,112 people by phone, found that 62 percent would likely pay for $500 of pet health care. The number drops to 33 percent if the veterinary bill were to reach $2,000 and 22 percent if the cost were to reach $5,000.

Interestingly income didn’t appear to influence feelings about how much to spend on veterinary care. I think this shows that our relationships with pets are truly priceless.

I do find it a bit shocking that 38 percent of those polled would not spend $500 in health care for their pet, given how easy it is to rack up a bill of that size (though I understand that some people simply can't afford it). Consumer Reports puts the average annual check-up at $140-340 (depending on the age of the pet). On the other hand I know plenty of people who fit into the 22 percent category, people who would eat Ramen noodles in order to afford their dog’s health care. And this predicament will only become more common as more advanced veterinary technologies are developed.      

My pets are part of the family and I’d definitely want to do everything I could do to help them live as long and comfortably as possible. Realistically there are financial limits, but I don’t know what that limit is for me. I just can’t imagine putting a hard number of my pets’ health.

Do you have a financial limit on pet health care?

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by Lisa, Flickr.

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