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Have improvements in vetinary medicine priced poor people out of pet ownership?

Discussion in 'Speaker's Corner' started by Orionaut, 31 Mar 2019.

  1. Orionaut


    Joined: 2 Aug 2012

    Posts: 7,815

    I put this here because I feel this is a serious issue.

    I understand that many studies have shown that sharing ones home with a pet has significant health benefits, particularly for older people.

    And yet, it seems to me that the (Very impressive) improvements in veterinary medicine that have taken place over the last 20 years or so (Anybody watched "Supervet"?) have, at the same time, effectively priced poorer people out of pet ownership.

    Pet insurance is now actually quite expensive (Reflecting the far more expensive treatments that are now available)

    And people without insurance now face the prospect of either facing severe financial hardship or suffering the guilts for not paying for treatment that might be available.

    They might even face criminal charges for failing to approve and finance treatments that vets might advise.

    This really wasn't a big issue in my childhood. Vetinary care was pretty much limited to vaccinations and the ocasional shot of antibiotics. Anything more serious (like a serious injury) and it was generally accepted that the animal would be put to sleep.

    But it is a very big issue today. like with people-medicine, almost anything can be fixed nowadays-But at a price!

    And sadly the people who actually stand to gain the most from having a Cat or a Dog are actually the people who are least able to make the financial commitments that are now required.

    This sort of seems to me to be one more example of the situation where an improvement in technology that might, at face value, seem to be a good thing, has actually ended up making life worse for huge numbers of people!


    What say you all?
  2. StriderX


    Joined: 18 Mar 2008

    Posts: 25,840

    It’s a luxury to have such stellar care for animals. They’ve been entirely alright for millennia on far less, eventually the cost will reduce as the machines/machining become cheaper.

    Ignoring the devastation caused by flat faced micro dogs, which frankly people kinda deserve no sympathy for.

    If government however mandates forced insurance, then there’s a problem.
  3. jsmoke


    Joined: 17 Jun 2012

    Posts: 9,442

    It's a big topic and as usual the core of it is money. We've come from hundreds of years of a certain way of doing things, the class system etc, people were struggling to put bread on the table, dying young of all kinds of diseases. We are in a time where we are really spoilt though with the welfare system, the cheap foods, travel and whatever else. So in the bigger picture and taking the past into account it's still pretty decent.

    As for your actual question, are there not any charities/organisations that can help, do vets not have a lower price for low income, you even have sites like gofundme. In other words even though your old there's no free lunch.

    How much is insurance anyway, I find if you really search thoroughly you can find a good deal.
  4. 233


    Joined: 21 Nov 2004

    Posts: 13,054

    Location: Glasgow

    like most markets theres always an element of profit taking especially on the insurance side.

    owner of French bulldogs here which have a propensity of generating eyewatering vet bills, up to and including remorgage the house territory. would a sane person do that? no, would someone who treats their dogs like kids do it in a heart beat, Our youngest frenchie just turned 2 and had a severe spinal issue that required multiple surgeries and a lot of ongoing care. which unbeknown to us was a preexisting condition and not covered by the eye watering monthly insurance premiums. Put it this way for what i've spent on vet bills the last year i could havea brand spanking new hot hatch. would i do anything different? not a chance, my dogs are family and no matter if it means liqudating assets or emptying the savings account they need anything they will get it

  5. jsmoke


    Joined: 17 Jun 2012

    Posts: 9,442

    Just did a quote on compare the market for cat insurance, accident only. £1.71 per month or £3.36 time limited. You may get that cheaper if you tweak settings etc.

    For an elderly person getting the pet to the vet may be a problem.
  6. Puzzled


    Joined: 9 Jul 2003

    Posts: 7,060

    What happens if you can't afford the treatment? The vet isn't going to do it for free so I guess its either put down or taking in to care by a charity organisation. I don't see why you would face criminal charges if you can't afford it unless you caused the injury through neglect / abuse.
  7. Vern1961


    Joined: 29 Mar 2007

    Posts: 3,636

    Location: Swindon UK

    Another issue with pet insurance is the amount of excess and exclusions that come with it. They won't cover for pre-existing conditions either or anything that might be remotely connected - as we found when we tried to insure our cat after a gastric operation (a significant 4 figure sum which luckily we were able to pay ourselves) a few years ago.

    Sadly I rank vets along with opticians and dentists, they see pets as walking £££ signs coming into the surgery or clinic. At the last six monthly check up, the vet was sounding our cat's heart, shaking her head and tutting there might be a heart murmur. Recommended we get a scan done, with a gleam in her eye when she asked, "Have you got insurance?" We politely declined and six months later cat is fine. More than likely heart beating fast due to stressed out being manhandled by the vet. I subsequently looked up how much a catscan(!) MRI costs at a referral clinic - something in the region of £800! No doubt our vet would have got a nice commission on that. Even if the scan was positive, there is little that can be done for a murmur other than prescribe blood thinners, not exactly a good idea in a small animal.

    But with those sort of prices I have to tend to agree with the OP, that pet ownership is becoming a hobby either for the very well off, or the cold and callous who if anything significant happens to their pet's health, put it down or worse leave it to suffer.
  8. jsmoke


    Joined: 17 Jun 2012

    Posts: 9,442

    How come I got £3.36 per month for a cat, that includes accidents and disease.
  9. billysielu


    Joined: 9 Aug 2009

    Posts: 11,688

    Location: Oxfordshire

    When I was a kid, there was a couple of dogs+cats per street.
    Now there's a dog or cat every other house.
    So I'm gonna say no, people aren't priced out.
  10. Cern


    Joined: 3 Jul 2008

    Posts: 3,466

    Location: London

    In short yes.

    Vet bills are pretty astronomical these days, much more so than in the past. Is it advances in medicine? I'm not so sure, because even the basics are a lot more expensive. I think it's the prevalence of insurance. A trip to the vets often feels like you're being fleeced and they will try to conduct as many tests as they can to bump the cost, even when they know the diagnosis, especially if they know you have insurance. And then we wonder why insurance is so high.

    The problem with pet insurance that many people fail to recognise is that it goes up with the pet's age. Significantly. Once pets reach old age this can be prohibitively high for many people and so they drop the insurance. just when there's a much higher chance of problems. And if you have to pay for something major without insurance you're into the thousands.

    Cats seems generally more resilient than dogs, with lower insurance and less expensive to treat. The problem with dogs is that too many breeds now have pretty serious genetic weaknesses or 'design flaws' from over breeding. Anyone on a low income is better off steering clear of certain high profile dog breeds which are known to have health issues. That said, anyone on a low income probably can't afford to purchase Kennel Club registered breeds unless they take something on as a rescue.
  11. Dolph

    Man of Honour

    Joined: 17 Oct 2002

    Posts: 47,845

    Location: Plymouth

    Good thread, and I think the answer is yes, with the addition that we're also in danger of heading into making the same mistakes with pets that we do already with people where we often put quantity of life over quality of life.

    There is often more focus on whether you can do something, rather than whether you should, and as someone who has always envied pets for having euthanasia as an option, I find that very concerning, as much as the costs involved.
  12. Donnie Fisher


    Joined: 22 Jun 2018

    Posts: 655

    Location: Vegas baby !

    ^^^ This - it shouldn't always be that way.

    I've had horses over the years, and various cats through cat rescue. The determining factor of putting them down has either been through a catastrophic injury / health failing on their part, or whether their quality of life will be such that its just not fair on them. For example, we have a horse at the moment which is right on balance of such a decision as a result of a bad injury + health issue. The dilema being that if given the time to recover, will the horse reach a position where it can go out to a field each day for a period of time and live a quality of life that will keep it happy and is in keeping with the nature of the animal. If that cant be acheived ( such as needs to stay in a stable all day ), then keeping it on would be purely for personal selfish emotional reasons and not in the interest of the animal. As it stands, the treatment plan at the moment is principally time to heal .. so we'll let that run and see how it goes.

    Thats the ideological rationale ... but it also has to get balanced by the financial rationale of vet bills and cost of treatment, which is undoubtedly expensive. That being said, we are now of the opinion that for the horses, the insurance is down to the least cover it can be ... basically public liability cover. Our vet bills have likely topped £3k over the last 3 years ... prior to its injury, we were about £60/mth on all sorts of cover. Cover that didn't pay out for the injury due to a clause. So the 15 years of insurance premium resulted in nothing. It simply wasn't worth paying as even at a bill of £3k , we would have saved more money over the timeframe by having a minimal policy and paying vet bills as they come. Which we now do.

    As for the cats ... no insurance. Again, if they need a vet, we'll take them, but decision on treatment plans comes down to the quality of life + costs factor. As our cats are often elderly resuce cats, then the time they've had with us is time they wouldn't have had if not rescued, so the emotial quantity of life doesn't really overrule the quality of life / money factors. We have given them a good life - imho, its morally acceptable to let them go.

    So rounding onto the OP, do I think that vetinary medicines in their own right price people out of owning pets - not directly.
    I think its more that people's priorities allow the costs to be what they are. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
  13. Nasher


    Joined: 22 Nov 2006

    Posts: 17,274

    There probably needs to be overall less dogs and cats anyway. Cats especially are becoming a menace.
  14. pastymuncher

    Man of Honour

    Joined: 12 Jul 2005

    Posts: 18,580

    Location: Aberlour, NE Scotland

    I think that the cost of treatment also varies massively between Veterinary Practice's and where you live. Our vet's for example are very reasonable. One example is that our two cats have their annual jabs in November and consists of the normal annual booster, annual booster for feline leukaemia, check up and worming for each of them and this only cost me £68 for the pair of them last November. We have been lucky and neither of them has ahd anything serious happen to them so can't comment on surgical procedures apart from when we got Abby, my youngest, from Cats Protection she was 12 weeks old and needed to be microchipped and spayed before venturing outside. They were both done at the same time and cost me £74 which I thought was very fair. Jade, my eldest, was also from Cat's protection but at 18 months old she was already spayed and chipped. Jade needed some Xrays on her leg and pain medication after we noticed her limping and even that cost me less than £70 and she has been fine since.

    As for needing to be less dogs and cats, I prefer cat's to many humans. If anything is a menace it's humans!!
  15. Terminal_Boy


    Joined: 13 Apr 2013

    Posts: 8,201

    Location: La France

    If the clientele of Chingford Pets At Home is anything to go by, people will happily spend a small fortune on dogs which look like fat, wingless bats whilst their kids appear to be dressed from the bargain bin at Primark.
  16. krooton


    Joined: 9 May 2004

    Posts: 26,171

    Location: Leafy outskirts of London

    Crappy provider maybe?

    We're with Petplan, one of the best out there, and our 3 cats are £40, £45 and £55 per month.
  17. 200sols


    Joined: 14 Jan 2018

    Posts: 4,566

    Location: Hampshire

    You need a lifetime plan otherwise any previous condition is not covered, you also need a decent amount of cover £7000 per year minimum I would say. A 2 week stay in a vet hospital ends up with eye watering costs.

    We have two pugs, female 4 and male 7. Prices are £52 and £58 Per month now. We are with petplan, prices go up each year a little bit but making a claim doesnt effect that. We have had a few claims over the years on the male dog, £2200 for eye surgery, £500 for damaged nail removal, £400 for ear problems. Its just nice having the cover in place, like any insurance most will lose out but your paying for peace of mind.
  18. robfosters


    Joined: 1 Dec 2010

    Posts: 35,297

    Location: Welling, London

    Our frenchies (9 months) insurance is £40 a month. It’s very comprehensive too. I think it’s a perfectly reasonable price to pay to guarantee top quality treatment if he gets poorly.
  19. Orionaut


    Joined: 2 Aug 2012

    Posts: 7,815

    This however is my point.

    I know retired people for whom £40/month represents nearly 5% of their annual taxable income (And rather more of their disposable one)

    And these are the people who get the most benefit from having a pet.

    Now, I am not talking about people who are living in some sort of abject poverty here, they have no debts, the homes are all paid off. as are their other goods (cars etc) and mostly they live quite comfortably But the incomes are nevertheless fixed and very limited.

    Keeping unavoidable fixed monthly payments (Subscription-world) to a minimum is absolutely essential to keeping on the right side of Micawber's sixpence.

    Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

    I am in this world now. And I know how my friends feel!
  20. Cern


    Joined: 3 Jul 2008

    Posts: 3,466

    Location: London

    It won't be £40 or anywhere near that when your dog is 9 years old or more, it goes up with pet age, eventually rather steeply. And £40 a month is still a lot for anyone on a low income (which is the point of this thread). Especially when you need to add on the cost of food and training treats, also not cheap.