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Meeting the cost of pet care

Our pets provide us with fun, companionship, and unconditional love. In return, we incur the responsibilities that go along with pet ownership, including veterinary care. More dogs receive veterinary care than cats, even though cats outnumber dogs as pets. Cats are a very “underserved” species in the veterinary profession, and it is important they receive appropriate health care as well.

Providing our pets the preventive health care they deserve, as well as keeping them in a safe environment, significantly reduces the risk of illness and injury. When pets do become sick or injured, today’s veterinary profession is capable of providing all levels of necessary care from the basics to highly sophisticated diagnostics, procedures, and treatments.

The American Animal Hospital Association strongly recommends that those considering adopting a pet, and families who currently share their home with a pet, consider the following:

  • Costs for regular preventive health care, such as immunizations, parasite control, and dental care
  • Costs for treatment of unexpected illness or injury
  • Costs to provide appropriate daily care, including proper nutrition for the lifestage and lifestyle of the pet
  • Breed-specific predisposition to certain conditions, such as:
    • Allergies and dermatologic diseases
    • Ear and/or eye disease
    • Cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune-related diseases
    • Orthopedic conditions

The ability to budget for these pet health care costs varies greatly. Some individuals and families simply pay for these things out of the household budget as they arise. Others may need to consider other options for funding proper care for their pets. These options include:

  • Regular contributions to a savings account designated for veterinary care
  • Credit card reserves
  • Medical credit cards
  • Monthly payments to a preventive care plan available through many veterinary hospitals to cover normal preventive care services
  • Pet health insurance to cover unexpected illness or injury

For those considering pet health insurance, AAHA offers the following suggestions:

  • Be sure you understand what the policy covers. Some policies will cover some preventative care, such as vaccinations, but there may be additional cost for this coverage.
  • Understand the exclusions. Almost all policies exclude pre-existing conditions and some exclude hereditary conditions. Some may exclude certain conditions unique to certain breeds.
  • Almost all policies have a deductible and a copay requirement. Some pay according to a set schedule of “usual and customary fees,” while some pay based on the actual incurred expense. Be sure you understand how expenses will be reimbursed.
  • Ask whether or not the policy allows you to seek care from a veterinarian of your own choosing or whether you must go to a veterinarian that participates in the company’s network of providers. When faced with a pet’s serious illness, most pet owners want to be able to obtain care from their regular veterinarian.
  • Speak with your veterinarian or someone on his or her practice team. While veterinarians do not sell insurance, chances are they have had experience with the policy you are considering and can provide helpful advice.

Pet owners are in control of their pet’s health. Providing appropriate nutrition in a safe, enriched environment is the obligation of the pet owner. Seeking proper veterinary care and developing a strong relationship with the veterinary practice team is also essential in promoting good health and longevity. Providing an appropriate environment, nutrition, and veterinary care is a small payback for the unconditional love, enrichment of our lives, companionship, and joy that our pets give to us.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors, June 2007.
Updated June 2013.

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