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Sick Pets and Unpaid Bills: The High Cost of Veterinary Care


Having a pet, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, can be a wonderful thing. Raising an animal can reduce stress, feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression, so it should be no surprise that pet ownership has skyrocketed in recent months. Adoption centers in New York, Los Angeles, and other major U.S. cities have run out of animals to give away.

However, being a pet owner comes with plenty of anxiety as well. The high cost of veterinary care can dissuade some people from adopting animals in need.

Aspiration Pneumonia in Dogs

Aspiration pneumonia is a serious medical condition that can affect dogs just as much as it does humans. It refers to the inflammation of the lungs, which can lead to coughing, loss of appetite, rapid breathing, listlessness, and fever. Dog owners should watch out for these symptoms, as pneumonia can come on suddenly and be fatal. If you think your dog is having trouble breathing, contact your vet right away.

The condition is usually caused by a bacterial infection in the lungs. The dog may have ingested or breathed in fluids that can lead to contamination and inflammation. When providing treatment, the vet will take an x-ray of the dog’s lungs. They will also do a complete blood count (CBC) to look for elevated white blood cell levels.

The treatment process usually also includes fluid therapy or advanced O2 flow therapy to help the animal breathe normally. It can also include pneumonia coupage, which is used to dislodge pockets of fluid in the dog’s lungs.

Treatment for aspiration pneumonia can take several days, so you may need to leave your dog at the hospital at least overnight. Once they return home, experts say it’s best to create a safe, quiet area for your pet to relax. 

The Cost of Owning a Pet

According to industry experts, the cost of fluid therapy can be anywhere between $210 and $395, or more if the animal needs to be hospitalized for several days. The vet may also prescribe antibiotics, which can cost around $40. Add to this service fees, boarding fees, testing fees, and it’s easy to see why a visit to the vet can quickly become a financial crisis. For some families and individuals, this is more than they can afford. 

High veterinary bills can easily take pet owners by surprise. A recent survey shows that most people dramatically underestimate the true cost of caring for an animal over its lifetime. According to the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a U.K. organization of pet owners, an astounding 98% of animal owners dramatically underestimated the true cost of pet ownership; 12% of respondents expected to pay only $644. A majority of pet owners thought costs wouldn’t top $6,445.

However, these estimates do not match up with reality. The organization says caring for a dog through its lifetime can cost anywhere between $27,074 and $42,545, depending on the breed. For cats, the number drops to $21,917 to $30,942.

Participating pet owners were quick to point out that their furry friend makes them happy, so the cost of owning an animal is worth it to them.

There are around 85 million pet owners in America, but many people are short on cash, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. This could lead to a wave of sick pets and unpaid veterinary bills. According to CNBC, just 41% of Americans would be able to cover a $1,000 emergency with savings, and that was at the start of 2020. With millions still out of work, things have likely gotten worse since.

Shopping for Insurance

If you are considering pet ownership, don’t make the mistake of underestimating the cost. A sudden emergency could leave you and your pet strapped for cash at the worst possible moment.

The pet insurance industry has come a long way in recent years. Pet owners are looking to protect themselves from surprise medical bills and costly procedures. Head over to Investopedia to compare policies from some of the biggest and most trusted pet insurance providers in the country. Many policies let you see the provider of your choice with deductibles as low as $100.

Pets are bringing joy to millions of Americans as we continue to ride out the pandemic, but owning a dog or cat shouldn’t lead to more anxiety. Invest in pet insurance to give yourself some peace of mind.

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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