(Images from Deposit Photos)
By Jonathan Wainberg, SVP and General Manager, Pet and Co-Brand, Health and Wellness, Synchrony
There is no question we love our pets. In fact, seven out of 10 pet owners consider their pets members of the family, according to Synchrony’s Lifetime of Care Study. Our pets provide us with companionship, love, emotional support, and laughs (and they dominate our social media accounts!) Our pets make us happier, healthier — and make our lives better.
It’s been scientifically proven: pet parents reap health benefits from this unique bond, enjoying decreased blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and greater happiness, according to HABRI (Human and Animal Bond Research Institute). In turn, we will do anything for our animals.
In fact, many pet parents are asking for the same level of care for their pets as they would expect for themselves. They are looking for high-quality healthcare services and treatments, advanced medical procedures, wellness programs, and even alternative therapies.
“The pets-as-humans trend has led to new ways of delivering vet care that mimic some of the trends in human medicine,” writes Joan Verdon in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s CO. For example, pet diagnoses such as cancer are prompting pet parents to explore radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
Yet, the cost of pet care is getting more challenging for pet parents to handle. Since inflation began rising last year, pet care expenses, including routine check-ups and unexpected emergencies, have increased. Consider the many routine veterinary services at stake: annual check-ups, teeth cleaning, parasites, diagnostics, medication, vaccinations, care of chronic pet diseases, and microchipping. Then there is surgery, such as spaying and neutering, other surgical procedures, and emergency services to consider.
Add in the cost of advanced diagnostic equipment, such as MRI and imaging machines, and it’s easy to see why the lifetime cost of pet health care can range from $20K-$55K for dogs and $15K-$45K for cats, according to the Synchrony study. Nearly half of pet parents surveyed underestimate the costs of pet care. The study found that 30 million U.S. households will face an unexpected pet expense that will cause financial worry, with pet parents ill prepared to handle the costs.
Indeed, almost one-third of pet parents said that a veterinarian bill of $500 would force them to go into debt, with 44 percent of pet parents indicating they used credit cards to pay for their vet bills, according to a study by Forbes. Surprisingly, only a fraction of Americans, 20 percent, have pet insurance that could help keep their pet care costs down. And Consumer Affairs research found that one in four millennials — the demographic group with the highest percentage of pets — would be willing to sell their car to afford a life-saving procedure for their pet, with half willing to get a second, part-time job to afford a procedure.
Three Financing Options for Pet Parents to Consider
Fortunately, there are flexible financing options for pet parents to address the rising costs of pet care — and they don’t involve selling a car or getting a second job.
1. Health and wellness credit cards. Credit cards targeted for pet care are a great option for pet parents. For example, the CareCredit credit card can be used for routine veterinary appointments, emergency pet care, grooming services, and treatments or surgeries your pet may need. CareCredit offers deferred interest over a various set number of months, enabling pet parents to stretch out the cost of care without worrying about incurring additional charges that can often come from standard high-interest credit cards.
2. Pet insurance. Pet health insurance, such as Pets Best, can help cover the costs associated with pet accidents, illnesses, and routine care. Pet insurance enables you to afford the best treatment, protects against major financial setbacks, and gives you peace of mind. Pets Best, for example, reimburses you on your veterinary bills when your dog or cat gets sick or injured.
3. Payment plans. Some veterinary practices may offer flexible payment plans that allow pet parents to spread the cost of expensive surgeries or treatments over several months, making it more manageable for clients to budget for their pet's healthcare.
As Dr. Eric Kane, a veterinarian practicing at the Conejo Valley Veterinarian Hospital in Los Angeles noted, “My first concern is the welfare of my patient…it’s quite distressing as a caregiver to not be able to provide optimal care just because of cost concerns.”
With flexible financing options, everyone wins: pets, pet parents and veterinarians. Pets receive the necessary care, treatments, and attention they need to lead a healthy and happy life. Pet parents know they are giving their pets the best care possible (and get to keep their car). And veterinarians deliver quality care to more pets.