By Contributing Author
Taking a pet to the vet for regular checkups may be routine for some, but it’s a totally alien concept for others. In fact, nearly 80 percent of pets living in households in high poverty areas have never once been to the vet. Their owners simply can’t afford it. And even in areas where a trip to the vet is generally affordable, the dramatic increase in vet care costs may start to push owners past their financial limits.
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Vet care costs have been on the rise over the past decade, according to a 2011 American Pet Products Association report. The cost of surgical as well as routine vet visits has increased nearly 50 percent for dogs and nearly 75 percent for cats over the past 10 year span. The average cost of vet care in 2000 was $8 billion, with the average jumping to more than $14 billion by 2013.
High-Tech Means High Fees
Organ transplants, radiation and other treatments that were once only limited to human patients are now available to pets. While technological advances in vet care have brought the ability to treat pets with life-threatening conditions, they have also brought higher fees right along with them.
Higher Salaries Mean Higher Fees
Vet salaries have also been on the increase. A Veterinary Medical Association report noted vets in private practice earned about $60, 000 in 1995, a figure that shot up to more than $90, 000 in 2007. Industry insiders say this increase helps to bring vet fees up to par with inflation, since it had sorely lagged behind it since the mid-1960s.
The increase in vet salaries can also be associated with the increase in student debt, along with the proliferation of online pharmacies where owners are turning to purchase their pet medications. An increase in exam and diagnostic fees can help offset the lost pharmacy revenue.
Instead of skipping a trip to the vet altogether, or the even more disturbing option of euthanizing a pet when medical care is too expensive, several solutions are at the ready.
Payment plans are one of those solutions, although they may end up costing consumers much more in the long run unless it’s a personal plan worked out directly with the vet. A popular plan that has cropped up in both human and pet medical offices is CareCredit, which can charge more than 26 percent APR after the promotional period.
Low-cost pet care options are often available in local shelters or non-profits. Humane societies and similar organizations may have low-cost spaying and neutering, microchipping, vaccinations or other routine procedures available on a regular basis.
Pet insurance is another way to ensure pets can receive the care they need without breaking the budget. Numerous pet insurance plans are available at various price points and coverage options to tailor to a pet’s specific needs. More than 1.4 million US pets were enrolled in insurance at the end of 2014, with the numbers likely to climb right along with cost of vet care.
The cost of vet care appears to be on a steady rise, and bracing for the continuous increase can help ensure pets never have to skip a trip to the vet, especially when it’s needed most.