Monday, July 25, 2011

The Ten Most Common, And Expensive, Vet Costs

Golden Doodle Finnigan has a 20-centimetre scar to show for his recent stay at the vet. His owner has a $4,500 bill and a sacrificed Florida vacation. Big vet bills are not unusual as a list of the 10 most common, costly procedures, recently released by North America’s largest pet insurers, shows.

Finnigan’s emergency was the result of having a foreign object stuck in his intestines which, unfortunately for owner Liam Robertson, is the fifth most costly procedure. But lucky for Finnigan, the bill came in at under $5,000 — Robertson’s cut-off point. “We had a discussion about determining a cut-off point. Is it $10,000, is it $20,000? My threshold was $5,000. I’m sorry, any more than that, then he can be replaced,” Robertson jokes.

All kidding aside, pet owners are confronted with unbearable decisions when faced with circumstances like this and insurers obviously have a stake in making sure people know it. “People are surprised (at the cost), especially if they have been to a vet in awhile,” acknowledges Curtis Steinhoff, spokesperson for the U.S.-based Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. “Most things you can do for humans you can do for pets, too. That increase in sophistication comes with an increase in cost.”

Indeed, pets today are getting organ transplants and undergoing open-heart surgery. They see specialists like oncologists, neurologists and cardiologists. While insurers quote an average price of $1,896 for removing a foreign object, Finnigan’s total bill was higher because the surgery was done after-hours, on a Sunday, by a specialist surgeon at an emergency veterinary hospital rather than at his usual vet’s office. As well, the final bill included multiple trips to the vet, medication, x-rays and other tests. Costs can also vary depending on how complicated the surgery is.

Weeks later, 3-year-old Finnigan is on the mend. His intestinal blockage had been caused by part of a rubber ball he had ingested. Robertson grew up on farms where animals came and went and there was less attachment. His family went through about a dozen farm dogs, a couple of which were run over by cars. An urban family pet is a different matter, says the Riverdale resident, though he admits it was his wife and two children who were more prepared to pay big bucks to fix Finnigan. “I was looking at Finnigan and rubbing his head and said, ‘You know, if you were back on the farm, sorry, it would be curtains for you,’ ” he quips. “My wife said he’s part of the family. He’s so young and healthy and he really is a good dog,” he adds. But it meant a planned trip to Florida this fall is now off the table.

The Robertsons paid their vet bill out of pocket, as do most North Americans. According to VPI and its Canadian affiliate, Petsecure, only 2 per cent of pet owners carry insurance. Read more at

Top 10 most common, costly vet procedures
1. Intervertebral Disc Disease: $3,163
2. Stomach Torsion/Bloat: $2,418
3. Ruptured Bile Duct: $2,164
4. Laryngeal Paralysis: $1,968
5. Intestinal — Foreign Object: $1,896
6. Tumour of the Throat: $1,616
7. Broken Leg (Plate): $1,529
8. Torn Knee Ligament/Cartilage: $1,521
9. Stomach — Foreign Object: $1,448
10. Ear Canal Surgery — Ablation: $1,238

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