Sunday, July 05, 2009
Animal lovers have more options than ever to keep their pets healthy. To keep pets healthy, American pet owners are spending big bucks so that their pet can receive MRI exams, ultrasounds, cruciate ligament repairs, hip replacement surgery and other specialized procedures. High-tech scanning equipment and complicated surgeries are driven by client demand.
Some procedures cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and some pet owners admit to spending $10,000 or $20,000 on vet bills. Still, dedicated pet owners aren’t complaining because they consider and treat their cats and dogs like family members and whatever is takes to care for them.
A poll released last week by the Associated Press and Petside revealed that 50% of respondents believe their pets are full-fledged members of their household.
Moreover, about 62 percent of U. S. households own a pet, and pet owners will spend $45.4 billion on their animals this year, the American Pet Products Association estimates. Of that total, $12.2 billion will go to veterinary care, a 10% increase over 2008.
Pets require more care because, as a result of better preventive care, medicine, vitamins and diet, they are living longer. But this extra money also is paying for new and advanced veterinary procedures.
“With almost every specialty comes specialized equipment,” says Jim Flanders, a small animal surgeon said. “It’s usually something that’s been around for a while in human medicine, and we adopt and adapt it.”
Not every pet owner has the means, or the desire, to pay for expensive procedures. And surgery or radiation treatment isn’t always the right answer for a sick pet, experts said. Owners have to weigh the age of the pet, how stressful the surgery and post-surgery recovery will be and what the pet’s quality of life will be afterward.
In response to rising costs, some owners have turned to pet health insurance, though estimates suggest just 2 percent to 4 percent of Americans have done so.
High-tech veterinary care isn’t the only outlet for pet owners. Alternative and holistic treatments such as pet acupuncture are growing popular, though some two-legged skeptics question their value.
And the specialized care doesn’t end when a pet dies: Grieving owners now can retain the services of a pet funeral home.