It has been revealed by LDF that vet bills last year totalled a whopping £1.36 billion, more than double the sum paid in 2010. This is despite the fact that the number of pets has remained steady at 65 million. So, if we have the same number of pets, how come we’re paying more than twice as much to vets?
Part of the reason is that, while the overall pet population hasn’t changed, the pets we own are changing. While in 2010 there was no real population divide between dogs and cats (8 million of each) 2014 saw a dog population of 9 million, versus a cat population of only 7.9 million. The annual cost of dog ownership can be more than twice that of owning a cat, and the veterinary treatment for dogs averages at a higher cost too. This change in the population could account for some of the increase.
More than ever, we are welcoming animals into our homes and treating them as part of the family, not just as pets. This is partially evidenced by a rise in the selection of human names for pets and a decline in traditional ‘pet’ monikers. It also means that owners are willing to spend more to treat their pets when they are ill or injured. Diagnostic investigations into various symptoms can cost hundreds of pounds, and that’s before you even know what illness you’re dealing with. Once an illness is identified, there are numerous treatment options to choose from, all of which carry their own costs. Pioneering surgeries, complementary therapies and adapted procedures such as dialysis and heart surgery are becoming more prevalent in vet practises. These treatments can be life-saving, but at a price.
Another side effect of the ‘more than just a pet’ mentality is that we are increasingly likely to feed our pets treats and titbits, which is contributing to a pet obesity epidemic which is getting worse. Far from being a harmless way to show pets we care, these extra scraps and chews have caused pets to pile on the pounds, and the associated health concerns can be life-threatening. Many owners are having to shell out for expensive medication for obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes or joint trouble, despite the fact that a stricter diet can prevent these conditions and the resulting bills.
More unusual pets are becoming increasingly accessible and popular, such as various reptiles and aquatic animals. These creatures can require special care, racking up fees along the way. You might think that non-traditional, less cuddly animals might not integrate into a family to the same extent as dogs and cats, but already this year we’ve seen the story of loving owner who paid £300 for an operation to clear the impacted bowels of his goldfish, a bill which was around 100 times the purchase price of the actual fish. We’re becoming increasingly emotionally involved with the lives of our animals, and it is having a financial impact on us.
That’s not to say that the cost of the pet has no bearing on the amount we’ll spend. As much as emotional attachment is causing us to spend more on their wellbeing, the purchase price of some pets has been soaring. A quick online search turns up any number of puppies for sale in the region of £9,000 or more, and people are obviously keen to protect their investment. Some of the most expensive are French Bulldog puppies, which could set you back nearly £10,000 depending on their genetics. However, these dogs are in the brachycephalic group, meaning that they are prone to a number of breathing difficulties which can prove costly in the long run.
For many of us our pets are like our children, whether they’re mammals, fish, birds or reptiles, and we’re willing to go to back-breaking lengths to care for them. For some it can result in personal financial hardship, like one couple who were forced to re-mortgage their home to fork out over £15,000 when their Hungarian Vizsla cross was hit by a train.
So, why are vet bills so high? There is no NHS for animals, which means that we sometimes have to make tough financial choices regarding the health and wellbeing of our pets. These decisions often have to be made quickly to ensure effective treatment, but when it comes to our pets, who give us unlimited, unconditional, unending love, it’s not a decision we can make with our heads. We have to make them with our hearts.
Taking care of our pets should never have to be a question of cost. That’s why we provide insurance policies to suit any budget. Click here to find out more.