Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) recently analyzed its claims data to find the average amount policyholders spent state by state on non-routine veterinary care in 2007. While multiple claims totaling thousands of dollars are not uncommon for pet owners across the country, California's $500 per pet topped the list as the highest average amount spent on non-routine care in 2007. The median amount was a hefty $335 per pet in South Dakota, and even in Mississippi, the state in which pet owners spent the least on medical expenses, the average for non-routine expenses exceeded $200 per pet."There are a number of costs to consider when purchasing or adopting a pet, not the least of which is medical care," said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. "Pet owners frequently tell us that they don't expect to spend much on veterinary care for their pets beyond preventive health checks and vaccinations. Unfortunately, that's not what our data shows. When an accident or illness does occur, unprepared pet owners sometimes are forced to make difficult decisions: dip into savings, rack up debt, or, in extreme scenarios, euthanize their pet."
The number of claims submitted per pet did not vary significantly by state, indicating that the dollar discrepancies in the amount pet owners spent are due to regional differences in the cost of veterinary care. Treatment prices are influenced by a number of factors including overhead expenses and paying support staff. A veterinarian in California or New York, for example, may charge more than a veterinarian in Mississippi or North Dakota to offset higher property costs and employee salaries.. In general, VPI's data suggests that veterinary medical care costs more in the Northeast and on the West coast and less in the South and Midwest.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association's 2007 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, total veterinary expenditures for all household pets were estimated to be $24.5 billion in 2006. Aligning with VPI's data, the AVMA also found that the average veterinary expenditure per household for all household pets was $366 in 2006.
Regardless of location, unexpected veterinary bills can quickly drain a pet owner's discretionary income. Toni Pasquariello, of West Haven, Conn., learned this lesson when she lost three cocker spaniels to various illnesses in a span of four years. The emotional and financial toll of caring for her ailing pets inspired her to consider VPI Pet Insurance for her next cocker spaniel, Mickey. She found the policy useful and when she added three toy poodles to the family she decided to insure them as well.
A few months later, Tinkerbell the toy poodle jumped off a recliner and broke her leg. The one-year-old poodle had to have a plate surgically implanted to ensure the bone's proper healing. To Toni's relief most of the surgery expenses were reimbursed by her pet insurance policy. Just two months after breaking the leg, Tinkerbell was startled by a loud noise and leapt unexpectedly from Toni's arms. The small dog landed at the wrong angle and broke her other leg."
My husband said, 'There's no way our insurance company is going to cover two broken legs in one year,'" said Toni. "But sure enough, VPI covered it. Two major surgeries, around $3,000 each, and VPI covered more than half of both surgeries. The reimbursement for only one of those surgeries would have covered a year's worth of premiums for all four of my dogs, so, I definitely think it's worth it to insure my pets."