Pet costs

This is the se­cond of a two-part se­ries on where the money goes with pets

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - An­i­mal Talk Dr. Heather Gunn McQuil­lan

The se­cond of a two-part se­ries on where the money goes with our four-legged friends.

In part one (Dec. 21), I dis­cussed the ex­penses as­so­ci­ated with pet own­er­ship. This month we will look at how to man­age those costs.

Key points are to bud­get for rou­tine costs; es­tab­lish a good re­la­tion­ship with your ve­teri­nar­ian; and pay at­ten­tion to reg­u­lar ve­teri­nary care.

Con­sider pet in­sur­ance, or per­haps a sav­ings ac­count, for when emer­gen­cies hit.

Adopt­ing an an­i­mal from your lo­cal hu­mane so­ci­ety will save money on ini­tial costs and help a wor­thy cause.

Usu­ally, the an­i­mal will have been vac­ci­nated, mi­crochipped, de­wormed, and spayed/neutered.

You may re­ceive some ini­tial sup­plies and a month of free pet in­sur­ance.

An adop­tion coun­sel­lor will pro­vide you with vi­tal in­for­ma­tion on pet care, and the shel­ter will of­ten help with ve­teri­nary care if the an­i­mal gets sick im­me­di­ately af­ter adop­tion.

Es­tab­lish a good re­la­tion­ship with your ve­teri­nar­ian, take your pet to meet him or her and the staff, and come in reg­u­larly (it’s usu­ally free to bring your pet in to be weighed).

Pay your bills in full and when they’re due. This can help when you’re in a pinch. Most ve­teri­nary clin­ics don’t of­fer pay­ment plans-vet clin­ics are not fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, and for the same rea­son that your lo­cal bank doesn’t neuter your dog, your vet doesn’t han­dle loans.

How­ever, if you’re a good client who has es­tab­lished a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with your ve­teri­nar­ian, the clinic may be will­ing to work with you when you’re stuck.

Al­ways ask lots of ques­tions about pro­ce­dures and es­ti­mates. This is an op­por­tu­nity for your ve­teri­nar­ian to un­der­stand where you’re strug­gling and to clar­ify and ed­u­cate.

We don’t tend to vac­ci­nate our pets yearly any­more, but this doesn’t lessen the im­por­tance of an­nual ve­teri­nary well­ness vis­its. You can dis­cuss any be­havioural con­cerns as well as preven­tive care for your pet (e.g., par­a­site con­trol, den­tistry, nutri­tion).

And your vet may di­ag­nose a con­di­tion at an early stage which, be­sides be­ing bet­ter for your pet, may be less ex­pen­sive and eas­ier to deal with than af­ter it be­comes chronic or se­vere.

Like any in­sur­ance, pet in­sur­ance is valu­able when you need it and not so much when you don’t. Con­sider whether you have the means to pay for an emer­gency. The re­al­ity is that pet own­ers should plan for at least one se­ri­ous med­i­cal emer­gency or con­di­tion in their pet’s life­time, and th­ese can cost thou­sands of dol­lars. Pet in­sur­ance plans vary — from cov­er­ing ve­teri­nary bills for an un­ex­pected ac­ci­dent or ill­ness to in­clud­ing preven­tive care.

Ask lots of ques­tions to un­der­stand what is cov­ered, what isn’t, and what costs you will be re­spon­si­ble for as a pet owner (see in­for­ma­tion box). In­sur­ance tends to cost from $15 to $50 plus per month.

If you have ques­tions about pet in­sur­ance or other fi­nan­cial is­sues per­tain­ing to pet own­er­ship, ask your ve­teri­nar­ian.


Oliver, a choco­late lab, was di­ag­nosed with a rare heart con­di­tion when he was eight years old. With med­i­ca­tion he was able to live a good qual­ity of life for nine more months al­low­ing him to do the things he loved, like fetch­ing sticks and swim­ming. Those drugs, how­ever, came at a hefty price, es­pe­cially as his con­di­tion wors­ened. For an unin­sured owner, the last nine months of Oliver’s life could have cost up­wards of $10,000.


Dr. Peter Fo­ley, from the At­lantic Ve­teri­nary Col­lege, ex­am­ines a pa­tient. Reg­u­lar ve­teri­nary care can save money in the long run as it can pre­vent dis­ease or di­ag­nose it in its ear­lier stages when it is eas­ier to treat.

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