Over the next few weeks, I will bring you some ideas of how to accomplish these two goals and, painful as it may be, I really think it is appropriate to open this discussion by talking about the “elephant in the room”…vet bills!

#1 – Have a Financial Plan!

Studies have shown that the cost of owning a dog or cat is around $1000.00 for the first year and over $500 per year after that…and those numbers are for healthy pets!! Additional veterinary bills for minor illnesses such as skin or ear troubles can run several hundred dollars and expenses for major medical or surgical problems in your pet can sometimes reach thousands of dollars these days! Many of us in the veterinary profession feel guilty about this but, keep in mind, most of the costs of providing veterinary care to your pets are driven by the human health care world and, as you know, that’s not getting any cheaper!! And so, having a well thought out financial plan to prepare for the vet bills that will accompany your pet’s inevitable illnesses has never made more sense.

Here’s what you can do:

1) Pay as you go – This works for smaller bills and, if you are independently wealthy, you have no worries with the larger ones either!

2) Save – It certainly makes sense to have a “rainy day” savings account for unexpected veterinary expenses that you can fund all at once (maybe around $1000-2000 per pet) or gradually (say $25 -100 per month per pet). Yearly tax refund monies can nicely replenish these accounts!

3) Borrow – Some of you have friends or family members who are willing to loan you money in the event of unexpected veterinary expenses, though you may want to check ahead of time to be sure your “credit” is still good with them! Strawberry-rhubarb pie can work wonders here!

4) Finance – Care-Credit is a financing company that some of our clients use for vet bills over $200. If you qualify, you can take up to 6 months to pay off your Care Credit account without any interest. Longer term financing (with interest) is also available. We have a brochure we can send you or you can check them out at www.carecredit.com

5) Pet Insurance – As veterinary costs go up, pet insurance makes more and more sense. We currently recommend Trupanion Pet Insurance because they offer flexible deductibles (and thus flexible monthly premiums), they pay benefits promptly and they treat our clients very well! We also have Trupanion brochures or you can see them at www.trupanion.com.

Regardless of which way you go, the key is to HAVE A PLAN and STICK TO IT so you won’t be faced with some difficult financial decisions when your pet gets sick!

– Dr. Chris Wilson