A Delicate Topic: Pets & Money

Over the last 40 years small-animal veterinary medicine has gone through some dramatic changes.  As human medicine has progressed, so has veterinary medicine. Small-animal hospitals still exist and continue to proliferate, especially in the greater Cincinnati area; however, the way these hospitals do business has changed dramatically.

Gone is the small hospital that services their clients 24/7. The on-call doctor is now a mythical beast and has been replaced with the big, multi-specialist practices that have morphed into human hospital prototypes. They service patients both in an emergency capacity and as specialty referral centers. They cater to a different style client that has evolved with the technology and now desires full medical care comparable to human medicine for their pets.

A huge problem is starting to develop in this paradigm: unless you’ve been living in a cave over the last 10 years, you are aware of the income disparity that has been developing in this country.  The type of veterinary medicine described above has become increasingly expensive. Thus, fewer and fewer families and individuals are able to afford an unexpected pet health crisis. This can lead to serious consequences: chronic problems left untreated leading to a shortened life, chronic pain, or a decision about euthanasia based on economics.

But, here’s the good news.  You can avoid these possible monetary catastrophes.

Preventative Healthcare

Preventative veterinary healthcare is still the biggest bargain in medicine.  Annual and semi-annual exams, blood work, appropriate dental care, and following recommendations on preventative medications will greatly reduce the chances of costly procedures and medical care in the future.  A lecture on obesity may keep your dog off the surgical table for knee surgery, and keep your cat from developing diabetes. Following dental instructions will keep that $200.00 annual dental cleaning from turning into an $800 to $1500.00 dental procedure down the road. Appropriate flea and tick prevention will keep you from spending thousands of dollars on skin conditions and diseases carried from ticks. Heartworm disease costs $2000.00 to $3,000.00 dollars to treat but is easily preventable with a test and monthly preventive pill. These are just a few examples of the savings by spending a little at a time annually.

Pet Health Insurance

Despite all your efforts, some bad things can still happen.  Problems with aging, such as adrenal gland dysfunction, trauma, and cancer are just a few examples. For this reason I strongly recommend Pet Health Insurance. This is not like human insurance.  Based on your budget, it is usually easily affordable and works something like auto insurance: if it’s broke, fix it and they pay you.  If you’re interested, contact us for a recommendation as some are better than others.


If insurance is not in your budget, then I suggest starting your own pet Health Savings Account. Make a savings account for your pet and dedicate an amount to be deposited monthly. I suggest an automatic deposit from your checking account to be sure it gets done. Do not use this money for routine procedures. It is there for emergency expenses. However, this is your account and you can use it as you wish based on the amount you deposit.

(A note from our practice manager, Sarah, on Pet HSAs: We have a client that set up an auto-payment service with his bank. Every month any "extra" money on his budget is split into percentages to be divvied up as he wishes. He has a certain percent of his money automatically sent to us to be kept as a credit on his account when he needs it. This has been a great option for the client as they don't have to worry as much about cost when something unexpected pops up!)

I wish we could call pet ownership a right for all. But nowadays, I cannot. Having a pet is a serious responsibility and costs money. If un-affordable, wait until you can afford a pet. Otherwise you may find yourself in a heartbreaking situation for you and your family. If unsure, contact us for guidance. It’s free!

Dr. Jerry Miller

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