Anyone who has welcomed a kitten or puppy into their home can tell you how creative these mischievous pets can be in finding trouble. Young pets are more prone to get themselves into a tight spot, which can lead to emergency veterinary bills, while senior pets often become afflicted with chronic diseases that require lifelong treatment. In both scenarios, the pet’s care can be expensive. The best way to keep your pet healthy and minimize medical-related costs is to invest in routine preventive care. Like maintaining your vehicle through regular oil changes and tune-ups, your pet should get a similar “tune-up” to remain in tip-top shape. Of course, accidents, illnesses, and chronic diseases can strike any pet, and you should also prepare for those possibilities. 

How to budget for pet care

When creating a pet-care budget, you may find you spend more than you realized. Resisting a new toy or bag of treats for your pet every time you go shopping is difficult, but those little costs add up. The first year of pet ownership will require the most investment, as some necessities are one-time purchases, but expect to pay for the following pet-care items:

  • Adoption fee
  • Spay or neuter surgery 
  • Vaccinations
  • Microchip
  • Baseline blood work and other routine screenings
  • Parasite prevention
  • Physical exam
  • Leash, collar, and ID tags
  • Crate or carrier
  • Food and water dishes
  • Toys
  • Litter and litterboxes for cats
  • Food, and a storage container
  • Treats
  • Bedding
  • Grooming
  • Boarding
  • Pet-sitting or walking
  • Doggy daycare
  • Training classes

While this list is not exhaustive, it covers most of the common pet-care costs. Actual cost covers a wide range, based on your pet’s species, breed, size, age, health status, activity level, and coat length. In general, expect to pay between $395 and $2,455 for your dog’s first year, or $405 and $2,285 for your cat’s first year

Ways to budget for the care and items your pet will need throughout her lifetime include:

  • Opening a high-yield savings account and making monthly deposits to build up an emergency fund
  • Estimating your expected yearly costs, including travel and boarding costs if you are planning a vacation, and saving accordingly
  • Investigating pet-insurance options

If your pet is prone to certain diseases, such as skin disease, diabetes, or cancer, pet insurance may be the best choice to help you budget for your pet’s care. 

How to choose a pet-insurance policy

When searching for the best pet-insurance policy for your beloved companion, you likely will be overwhelmed with choices. Figure out the amount you can comfortably budget, and then consider a pet-insurance policy for the remainder. For example, if you can budget for routine preventive care, such as vaccinations and parasite prevention, but are unable to cover emergency or specialist care, look for a policy that is geared toward accidents and illnesses. But, if you’d like a comprehensive plan that covers all veterinary costs, check out those options. 

In addition to choosing your coverage amount, consider the following important factors:

  • Deductible amount and type (i.e., per incident or annual)
  • Premium cost
  • Caps on reimbursement or pay-outs
  • Coverage for pre-existing conditions
  • Coverage for genetic conditions
  • Company track record
  • Customer-service reputation
  • Discounts for multiple pets or other insurance forms
  • Reimbursement schedule and type

Reimbursement or payment schedule is important for many people who purchase pet insurance. Some insurance providers offer policies that pay your veterinarian at the time of service, while others may reimburse you after you’ve paid for your pet’s care, which can take weeks. In an emergency situation, a policy that covers your costs up-front may be ideal. 

If you and your furry friend are out enjoying the winter wonderland, but slip and slide into trouble, consider the costs that pet insurance may cover. For example, if your dog laps up spilled antifreeze in your garage, the cost of treatment can range from $200 to $1,200. The exam fee, blood work, emesis induction, gastric lavage, intravenous fluids, and hospitalization costs for this unexpected expense to save your pet’s life can add up quickly and strain a tight budget.

Another example is a cranial cruciate ligament tear, similar to an ACL tear in people, that occurs often in winter when a pup is romping in the snow and ice, and stumbles. Surgical costs to repair the knee can range from $1,000 to $4,000, plus pets often require a lifetime of joint protectants and anti-inflammatories to help with osteoarthritis pain. Pet insurance usually will cover these costs. 

Pets are prone to getting into mischief, so pet insurance or another form of  budgeting is crucial for your pet’s care, and may prevent the need to make a difficult decision. If you’re confused about pet insurance policies, give us a call to discuss your options.