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Why is the Cost of Veterinary Care Skyrocketing?


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With the cost of veterinary school continuing to increase, students may be relieved to find out that pet owners are willing to pay out more money to keep their animals in good health and living longer. However, the celebratory atmosphere may not be shared with pet owners who are scrounging around trying to find ways to pay for the pet bills after expensive procedures have been completed.

While grooming and training are simple enough do-it-yourself projects to research for free (for example public libraries, Internet articles, video tutorials), there are some tasks that a pet owner just cannot complete alone, and those are traditionally handled by professional veterinarians.

Common Veterinary Costs

Examples of common veterinary visits include vaccinations, heartworm prevention tests, fecal exams, worm treatment, spaying and neutering, allergy prevention and tips, and routine exams. More focused grooming exams may require the help of an animal professional, including clipping nails, teeth cleaning, and stain or odor removal.

Something as simple as professional teeth cleaning may go unnoticed by a pet owner unless the dog shows signs of discomfort. However, just as humans need teeth cleaning, a dog without proper oral hygiene may suffer from gum disease, tooth loss, bleeding gums, gum recession, and discoloration.

And while both shorter and lengthier services have always been available for pets, why is the price continuing to increase?

Veterinarians Making a Profit

One of the five biggest reasons is profitability. As would be the case of Stock Market pricing, the more interest and demand there is in a product, the more people will invest in it. This also means the rates may increase to make money from the product. Before jumping to conclusions here and assuming veterinarians are getting too greedy, “profitability” doesn’t necessarily mean trying to rake in big bucks.

The cost of veterinary school can put aspiring veterinarians deeply in debt by the time they graduate. As with any business, they may want to try to, at least, break even. This may come in the form of higher rates for medicine through online pharmacies, exam fees, and diagnostics.

Advancement in Science for Pet Health

The second has to do with science. Similar to the way human beings are living longer because science continues to find new ways to find cures or ways to live a healthy life with ailments ⎯ or finding ways to avoid sickness altogether through better fitness and nutrition options ⎯ pet health care has also advanced. Dog vitamins and supplements may significantly improve a dog’s obesity risk, possibly slow down the aging process (such as arthritis) and help with hormonal problems.

Pet Owners Willing to Spend More

The third reason closely parallels reason number two. Pet owners are willing to spend more money to take care of their pets. With the popularity of animal insurance, owners are setting aside a little money at a time for health-related activities that may have gone by the wayside in earlier years.

Depending on the company, pet parents may find better health deals by investing in insurance as opposed to paying out of pocket. Procedures like exams, lab tests, X-rays, surgery, hospitalization and chronic conditions may all be covered by paying a monthly fee, so pet owners aren’t up against the wall when the bills come.

The Popularity of the 'Purse Dog'

The fourth reason may be a big thank you to flexible landlords and pop culture. While some landlords do not want to deal with tenants who are pet owners at all, others are more flexible when it comes to smaller dogs or cats. While this may not be the case for every animal, some are less disruptive and make less of a mess than others. Small breed dogs, popularly referred to as “purse dogs,” have popped up on the celebrity scene more often, including in entertainment publications and social media accounts.

Fans of these celebrities, who may already be more likely to mimic their lifestyles, scoop these animals up in droves. They dress them up. Showcase photos of them. And if they’re responsible pet owners, they’ll also be just as adamant about proper care.

The biggest difference between larger breed dogs and smaller breed dogs is smaller ones tend to live longer, possibly a decade longer. And the longer that dog lives, the more expensive the dog is to take care of. While the average lifespan of a larger dog could be anywhere between seven to 13 years, smaller dogs can live as long as 20 or more years. Cat owners can end up with their feline friends having long lifespans, too.

The most dangerous side of the drastic difference in lifespan is pet owners may not always be prepared to take care of a dog that long. While some will fight the good fight to take care of the animal by any means necessary, others may find themselves in over their heads in debt due to lack of preparedness.

When It's Time to Let Go

The fifth and final reason correlates to the fourth point. Responsible pet owners love their four-legged family members. These may not just be the “guard dog” or the “kid’s pet” to them. These animals are mandatory in holiday greeting cards and get their own pages on social media sites. While the Internet is flooded with studies confirming how beneficial a dog is for fitness and fighting against heart disease and obesity, there’s a level of camaraderie that comes with owning a pet. This camaraderie may make pet owners more likely to do anything possible to keep their pets alive longer, hence the demand and profits from veterinary costs.

Pet illnesses that would usually be cause for putting the animal to sleep by euthanasia are skipped over to try to find more ways to keep animals alive, even if the pet owner is unintentionally letting the dog suffer due to their own dependencies. Veterinarians not only work out of hospitals and their own offices. They’re also earning pet care funding from pet hospice care (palliative care) centers, where owners may send their terminally ill pets before eventually choosing peaceful euthanasia or hoping the animal will die of natural causes in their sleep.

While hospice care is not intended to find a cure for the pet, there are still pet health expenses involved: diet and nutrition, bandaging, wound treatments, pain recognition and basic treatment, cleaning up from potential bladder control issues, and health advice on end-stage care. Euthanasia costs may vary, and should pet owners also want their animals to be cremated or get a burial plot; this also may add on more debt to the sky-rocketing pet health bills.

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