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How much are you willing to spend to extend your pet’s life?

How much would you spend on healthcare for your pet?
How much would you spend on healthcare for your pet?
Photo by Terence T.S. Tam via Flickr Creative Commons

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Dog owners today spend an average of $655 dollars a year on health care for their pets, up 50% from a decade ago. Health care costs for cats are up nearly 75 percent. Why is this?

For one, veterinary medicine has advanced significantly in recent years, and so there are options for pet owners that just weren’t available 10 years ago. Veterinary hospitals have specialty doctors offering everything from oncology treatments to MRIs and these days very little is out of reach. Meanwhile, we seem to be treating our pets like family more than we ever have before, and we’re willing to go to greater lengths to care for them than ever before.

But how far is too far? Individual specialty procedures can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and owners without pet insurance (which is still rarely purchased) will spend upwards of $1,000 per day to keep a pet in treatment, just to see the treatment fail.

Is there a price that’s just too far? Are families only making the pain of losing a pet worse by adding a financial burden? Are veterinarians making the choices more painful by offering expensive treatments?

James A Serpell, Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine