An­i­mal health care isn’t cheap

Pets are like fam­ily. But as health costs rise, few are in­sured that way.

The Times-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - BY PAUL SUL­LI­VAN

PRO­TECT YOUR POCKETBOOK FROM PET MED­I­CAL EX­PENSES

Sell­ing pet prod­ucts to hu­mans is big busi­ness. Last year, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Pet Prod­ucts As­so­ci­a­tion, own­ers spent nearly $70 bil­lion on their pets.

While much of that money is spent on pet para­pher­na­lia, some of the big­gest, and most un­ex­pected, costs are for drugs and med­i­cal pro­ce­dures as pets live longer and oc­cupy a more cen­tral role in homes. By one es­ti­mate, own­ers spend $9,000 to more than $13,000 for med­i­cal treat­ments over their pets’ life­times.

While a new col­lar may be a happy ex­pense, emer­gency surgery to re­move a sock lodged in a dog’s in­tes­tine is not. And the cost for such surgery can stretch to many thou­sands of dol­lars, blow­ing up a monthly bud­get.

Con­sider Lord Tig­glesworth, known as Tiggy to fam­ily and friends.

He was liv­ing a fine fe­line ex­is­tence, as a fat cat with dot­ing par­ents in Wilm­ing­ton, Delaware. A few months ago, he be­gan vom­it­ing and eat­ing less. Claire An­der­son and An­drew Lo­gan, his own­ers (or pet par­ents, as some call them­selves), be­gan to worry. At first, they thought he just needed some teeth re­moved, so they had that done.

“He was in­cred­i­bly low main­te­nance in terms of any health stuff,” An­der­son said of her 8-year-old cat. “He had lost 7 pounds, and he only weighed 18 pounds to be­gin with. When he lost the weight, that’s when I knew it was more.”

It turned out that Lord Tig­glesworth had can­cer in his gas­troin­testi­nal tract. The treat­ment was ef­fec­tive, but he still didn’t eat. And giv­ing him a pill — not an easy feat with any cat — was stress­ful for him and his own­ers.

The cou­ple’s vet­eri­nar­ian pre­scribed an oint­ment, Mi­rataz, a drug that was orig­i­nally used to treat de­pres­sion in hu­mans but has a side ef­fect of in­creas­ing ap­petite. Lo­gan said he and his wife had al­ready spent $6,000 on Lord Tig­glesworth’s care, so they didn’t flinch at pay­ing about $30 for a two-week sup­ply.

Un­like hu­mans, only about 10 per­cent of dogs and 5 per­cent of cats are cov­ered by med­i­cal in­sur­ance, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by the Amer­i­can Pet Prod­ucts As­so­ci­a­tion. And since 2015, the costs of vet­eri­nary ser­vices have risen over 10 per­cent for med­i­cal treat­ments and 5 per­cent for reg­u­lar check­ups, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tion­wide/pur­due Uni­ver­sity Vet­eri­nary Price In­dex.

“It’s not what vet­eri­nar­i­ans are charg­ing,” said Dr. Carol Mccon­nell, vice pres­i­dent and chief vet­eri­nary of­fi­cer for Na­tion­wide. “It’s more what con­sumers are choos­ing to pay.”

The pet in­sur­ance in­dus­try grew 17.5 per­cent last year, but to only 1.83 mil­lion pets, ac­cord­ing to the North Amer­i­can Pet Health In­sur­ance As­so­ci­a­tion.

MARK MAKELA / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Claire An­der­son and An­drew Lo­gan spent up­wards of $6,000 on var­i­ous drugs to keep their cat, Lord Tig­glesworth, known as Tiggy, eat­ing and re­cov­er­ing from chemo­ther­apy, in Wilm­ing­ton, Del.

MARK MAKELA / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Lord Tig­glesworth was di­ag­nosed with can­cer gas­troin­testi­nal tract. in his

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