CBC’s ‘Pets, Vets & Debts’ looks at costs, ad­vances in an­i­mal health care


When it comes to treat­ing an ail­ing pet, Toronto vet­eri­nar­ian Dr. Michael Ethier is the first to ad­mit it can get ex­pen­sive.

As di­rec­tor of emer­gency and crit­i­cal care medicine at the Toronto Vet­eri­nary Emer­gency Hospital, he’s seen fam­i­lies spend up to $20,000 on their an­i­mals.

It may be a hard fig­ure to swal­low, but when you break down the costs - from a weeks-long stay in an in­ten­sive care unit to surgery and per­haps trans­fu­sions or MRIs - it makes sense, he adds.

With Canada’s pub­licly funded health-care sys­tem, most peo­ple don’t re­al­ize the ex­act costs in­volved in med­i­cal treat­ment, both for hu­mans and an­i­mals.

Ethier is hop­ing the doc­u­men­tary “Pets, Vets & Debts,” mak­ing its world pre­miere on CBC-TV’s “The Na­ture of Things” on Thurs­day, will help clear up such mis­con­cep­tions.

“There’s not a per­son in vet­eri­nary medicine, es­pe­cially within spe­cialty re­fer­ral medicine, that will ever say to some­one it’s not ex­pen­sive to treat se­verely ill or com­plex pets,” says Ethier, who ap­pears in the doc.

“What we’re hop­ing is that peo­ple un­der­stand why it costs more and that sure, in the ideal world we would love that this was sim­i­lar to hu­man medicine, where there weren’t costs passed on to the fam­ily mem­bers.”

Liam O’Rinn wrote and di­rected the film, which looks at the busi­ness of vet­eri­nary care and the lat­est med­i­cal ad­vance­ments for an­i­mals, from stem cell trans­plants to 3D printed pros­thet­ics.

Ac­cord­ing to the doc, Cana­di­ans col­lec­tively spend more than $2.25 bil­lion an­nu­ally on vet bills.

The doc also looks at the cost of pet in­surance, which it says most Cana­di­ans don’t have.

“Look­ing into in­surance and get­ting ed­u­cated on in­surance I think is a huge ben­e­fit for most fam­i­lies,” says Ethier.

“Un­less you’re in a po­si­tion to be fis­cally re­spon­si­ble and put money aside ei­ther be­fore you get your first pet or ac­cu­mu­lated over the years of the pet and hope that its ill­ness hap­pens later on where you’ve de­vel­oped that nest egg.”

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