Modern medicine behind rise in pet health care costs

A report from Healthy Paws Pet Insurance shows the costs of pet health care are skyrocketing

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Pet health care costs are skyrocketing, and new veterinary treatments are the rocket fuel, according to the “Cost of Pet Care: 2016” report from Healthy Paws Pet Insurance of Bellevue, Wash.

The insurer used data collected from 215,000 claims submitted in 2016 to compile the report, which looked at the most common accidents and illnesses for U.S. cats and dogs, new treatments and diagnostics available to pets, and the associated costs.

“This report was developed to better understand the financial decisions facing pet parents today,” company co-founder Rob Jackson said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to keep our pets happy and healthy.”

Gone are the days when people looked at pets as commodities. Today they often are seen as family members, and their owners are more apt to shell out big bucks for veterinary treatments that can rival human medical care in some instances.

Working with Healthy Paws Foundation, which provides medical grants for homeless pets, the company found that 26 percent of rehomings resulted from a pet owner’s inability to pay for the animal’s medical care.

Twenty years ago, a CT scan was not available to the average pet owner, but it is an option today, as are MRIs, laser surgery, joint replacements and alternative treatments like hydrotherapy.

The report listed the following costs associated with different conditions and modern treatments:

  • Stomach (digital X-ray, endoscopy, ultrasound, CT scan, intestinal biopsy), up to $6,400.
  • Skin (Apoquel, Atopica), up to $3,000.
  • Eyes (parotid duct transposition), up to $5,000.
  • Growths or lumps (biopsies, radiation, chemotherapy, CyberKnife, melanoma vaccine), up to $15,000.
  • Pain or limping (digital X-ray, CT scan, MRI, laser therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage therapy), up to or more than $5,000.
  • Cruciate ligament injuries (digital X-ray, surgery, physical therapy, laser therapy), up to $6,000.
  • Kidney disease (lithotripsy), more than $3,000.
  • Heart (major surgeries and treatments), up to $20,000.
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Combing a five-year database, Healthy Paws found one claim to beat all others: a French bulldog with intervertebral disc disease who racked up $44,296 in medical bills. Healthy Paws paid 80 percent of that, leaving the dog’s owner with out-of-pocket costs of more than $8,850.

“While advances in veterinary care are leading to more effective treatments for dogs and cats, the costs associated can become a big burden to pet parents,” Jackson said.

The report may be downloaded here.

Originally published in the February 2017 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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