Understanding the Value of Preventive Care for Pets

BY Elizabeth Kowalski, CVT, FFCP

Vet, Dog and Owner all shaking hands

Ensuring their pet’s health and well-being is a top priority for pet owners, who increasingly consider their pets vital family members. However, veterinary care costs for a sick or injured pet can quickly add up. Cost-conscious pet owners may try to reduce costs by skipping their pet’s preventive care, especially if their pet seems healthy.

However, pet owners who budget carefully for annual preventive care expenses are likely to save money in the long term, because preventive care focuses on proactively safeguarding pet health rather than addressing disease that strikes down the road.

What is preventive care?

Preventive care, also called wellness or routine care, proactively works to maintain health, prevent disease, and detect health changes in the earliest stages. During a preventive care veterinary visit, your AAHA-accredited veterinary team evaluates your pet’s lifestyle, age, and special health needs and formulates an individualized plan. Your furry pal’s recommended routine care schedule may include:

  • Annual or biannual wellness visits
  • Vaccinations
  • Parasite prevention
  • Dental care
  • Nutrition consultation
  • Parasite testing
  • Diagnostic screening tests

The value of preventive care

Skipping your annual veterinary visit is easy to justify when your pet appears healthy, but this could cost you in the long run. Most diseases are more responsive and require less expensive treatment when caught in the early stages, but are often easily missed. Routine visits allow your veterinarian to identify and address changes as soon as they occur.

In addition to identifying disease, preventive care visits can actively prevent the development of new conditions. Obesity, dental disease, infectious diseases, parasite infestations, and tick-borne illnesses are some of the most common—yet preventable—health problems pets develop.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a good example of how preventive care can save a pet owner money and benefit the pet. CKD affects many aging dogs and cats but often goes undetected until the disease has advanced. A wellness exam, routine blood and urine screening tests that can identify CKD in its early stages, and a prescription diet to slow progression and add healthy years to your furry pal’s life will cost approximately a few hundred dollars. In contrast, pets diagnosed in late-stage CKD may require hospitalization, daily fluid therapy, a prescription diet, and multiple prescription medications, which amounts to a considerable ongoing expense and generally a poor prognosis.

Paying for preventive care

Treatment for a serious illness often costs many times the amount pet owners spend on annual preventive care, although preventive care costs can still feel like a hit to your wallet. To help make paying for routine care easier, consider the following:

  • Budgeting — Set aside money each month in a pet-specific bank account or bank account “bucket” to pay for annual wellness services.
  • Wellness plans — Many veterinary clinics offer wellness plans, which are discounted preventive care service bundles often paid in monthly installments. Wellness plans typically include vaccinations, exams, parasite prevention, spay or neuter surgery, screening tests, and discounts on sick pet visits.
  • Third-party payments — Most veterinary hospitals offer at least one third-party payment option, such as CareCredit. which will help you spread out the costs of larger bills.
  • Pet insurance — Pet insurance is valuable for pet owners seeking financial protection against unexpected veterinary expenses. By definition, pet insurance doesn’t include coverage for routine care, but many providers offer reimbursement plans that help defray annual pet care costs.
Pet insurance for preventive care

Pet insurance provides financial coverage for veterinary expenses. Most plans offer customizable coverage using various deductibles, annual limits, and reimbursement rates, allowing pet owners to budget for accident and illness coverage. Many—but not all—pet insurance providers offer wellness plans as standalone or add-on benefits. Unlike veterinary hospital wellness plans, insurance add-ons provide flexibility and freedom to choose any vet you’d like.

Each plan is structured differently—some provide set reimbursement amounts per service (i.e., a fee schedule), while others allow more flexible spending within a specified dollar amount. Because pet insurance wellness plans vary widely in coverage and pricing structure, pet owners considering this option should carefully read the plan’s fine print. Compare the cost of the wellness plan to the total and itemized annual benefits to calculate your yearly savings, and whether you must use all the package’s services to see any savings.

Investing in preventive care for your pet not only protects their health, but can also save you money in the long run. Additionally, it may add years to your pet’s life, which is priceless. Learn more about preventive care services, life-stage care recommendations, and preventive care payment options by calling or visiting your local AAHA-accredited veterinary hospital.