Thursday, November 03, 2011

Sticker Shock At The Vet

It looks like the cost for keeping a pet is following the same trend as the cost for keeping a person. This article:

The Dog Maxed Out My Credit Card, Wall Street Journal, November 2, 2011

Says spending on routine doctor visits has ballooned in the last decade:
  • Dogs: Up 47%
  • Cats: Up 73%
  • People: Up 76.7%
"The average household in the U.S. spent $655 on routine doctor and surgical visits for dogs last year."
That doesn't include costs for grooming, food, drugs, insurance, and other items like training, beds, houses, clothing, toys, and exercise equipment.
"When asked how much they'd spend to save their pet's life, 70% of owners said "any amount," according to a 2006 survey of 5,200 [Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.] policyholders."
"Any amount." That brings me to the question of pet diet. If we discover that, say, there's a lot of arsenic in chicken, should we be rationing the amount of chicken we feed to pets? Maybe opt for the lower-arsenic organic bird?

From what I've seen, pet food in this country is of such poor quality and questionable safety, the garbage restaurants throw out at the end of the day probably has more nutrition, if not better taste. Although I can't speak for pets.

It's an extremely profitable business, pet food. Can you imagine paying pennies for the floor sweepings of factory-farmed poultry houses, mixing it with a few vitamins, sashaying through regulation loopholes, and charging premium prices? Perhaps we should Occupy pet food manufacturers.


Dr. Mel said...

It's also road kill, downer cows, etc.

RB said...

I am really surprised that veterinary cost are rising so much.

I am very fortunate that I have an unusual vet. His cost are very reasonable. He also cares deeply for all the animals that come to his practice. He is also what I call a minimalist. He worries about the outcome, comfort and quality of life for the animals he treats. He does what is needed to get a good outcome and does not try to perform any extra or unnecessary test or procedures. He understands that the animals don't understand all the testing. When tests and procedures just provide more info but don't change the outcome or treatment he doesn't do them. Almost everyone I know love my vet.

However, there have been people who left him for another vet when he wouldn't do the "extra" to try to prolong their pet's life. One couple went to another vet who would did the "extras" at considerable expense. It didn't help. Their dog died in a short while anyways.

Perhaps one thing that is driving up vet costs is that we want the vets to over-treat our pets just like we want our doctors to over-treat us.

We need to learn to value outcomes and quality of life over doing every test and procedure that provide little or no extra value.

One last thing about my vet. When my dog died earlier this year, we notified his office. Later that day, he called us to offer his condolences. He has a very busy practice. I know he did it because he loves for animals. I didn't expect it. It made me feel better.

Bix said...

RB, a very moving testament. Glad you took the time to share it.

I am on the same page as you with quality-of-life issues, and heroic interventions, for humans as well as their companion animals.

Bix said...

I have this terrible feeling that pet food is making pets sick.

Bix said...

Melinda sent the following links. (She's having a hard time commenting. I hope no one else is. I don't have anyone blocked or anything.)

Here are the links, 1st 2 from NRDC:

And this one re pet foods (can't vouch for this site, but I don't doubt any of it, frankly):

caulfieldkid said...

I haven't had a pet for quite a while (Four young children keep my plate full (empty?). Wouldn't have it any other way though.). But the law of diminishing returns, that you and RB are talking about, seems very plausible. I wonder what has changed us as a society where we don't accept mortality (both for pets and humans). Maybe we just didn't have any alternative in the past. I don't know.

Also, why wouldn't it be feasible to make your own pet food? Is it just more expensive or nutrition that difficult or calculate?


Bix said...

Melinda, this last site is hard to read. Pets in pet food? Ugh...

"In the 1990’s veterinarians began reporting to the FDA/CVM that the drug they used for anesthetizing and euthanizing pets, sodium pentobarital, seemed to be losing its effectiveness. This prompted the CVM to research the cause. In 1998 they went about testing dry dog food containing the ingredients meat and bone meal, animal digest and animal fat. They found the drug sodium pentobarital in 31 of the 37 pet foods tested. They concluded that animals were becoming immune to the drug from eating food laced with sodium pentobarbital, and the likely source of the chemical was euthanized animals."

Bix said...

shaun, do you do things in 4s? Like 4 goodnight kisses, and 4 sets of mittens, and omg 4 phones!

Dr. Mel said...

I agree re the awfulness (to us) of feeding pets to pets, though logically, there's no reason they shouldn't, except for the toxins. People who leave their euthanized pets at the vet, I mean, what do they think is going to happen to them?! They end up getting burned w/ the garbage at the dump, or put in plastic bags in trash compactors, or being fed to other pets. Other than the toxins, perhaps the last is the most respectful, for at least the animal's body is helping another animal live, and maybe somehow the deceased pet's spirit lives on in that manner (just my personal speculation). However, I don't leave mine at the vet to be dumped w/ the trash. Never have since I was old enough to know better.

Bix said...

There was a horror film back in the 80s called Motel Hell. I never should have watched it because it continues to give me nightmares. The thought of feeding pets to pets, making the pet food tasty so the pets would like it, dredged up this memory.

Dr. Mel said...

I admit it's pretty creepy, and the presence of toxins in the corpses to be fed to other pets makes it so much worse.

caulfieldkid said...


If it were only that simple... And let's not talk about phones just yet. I don't need to start borrowing any trouble :)