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Pricey pets

How much are you willing to spend to keep your animals in good health?

January 12, 2011
By Dionna Harris

ESCANABA - Costs associated with health care for pets is escalating - just as it is for their human counterparts. In most cases, however, animal owners do not have health insurance for their pets, so costs related to care can become quite high.

According to, much of the money being spent on pets today is due to new medical technology.

With advances in human health care spreading to animals, pet owners have more options for treatment, which also brings opportunities to spend more to cure their pets or even extend their lives. Dogs and cats may have pacemakers implanted at a cost ranging from $1,000 to $1,500. A pet with kidney failure can undergo treatment similar to dialysis at a cost ranging from $20,000 to $25,000 just for the first few weeks.

Article Video

Dr. Sue Laskaska performs a follow-up exam on J.J., who recently underwent surgery to repair a torn

Dr. Marlene Maki, of Escanaba Veterinary Clinic, said the cost for treating an animal with lymphosarcoma (a form of cancer) can range from $5,000 and up.

"Some of the costs associated for treating an illness or condition such as lymphosarcoma includes the clinical work up (blood tests, etc.) ultra-sound imaging, which aids in diagnosis, followed by surgery if necessary or several weeks of chemotherapy protocols to treat the disease," said Dr. Maki.

Maki said in the case of an animal that needs a hip replacement, the cost can range from $5,000 to $7,000.

Article Photos

Dr. Sue Laskaska performs a follow-up exam on J.J., who recently underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in her right leg. Advances in veterinary medicine have led to cutting-edge diagnosis and treatments, often leaving pet owners with “sticker shock.” (Daily Press photo by Dionna Harris)

"Health care for pets will continue to evolve as technology becomes more cutting edge, just as in the case for humans," she said.

Dr. Sue Laskaska of Bay Veterinary Clinic echoed Maki's sentiments concerning the escalating costs associated with pet care in this country.

Laskaska noted veterinary medicine over the last 20 years had advanced so far, that treatments depending upon the diagnosis, could easily range in the four- to five-digit price range.

"For patients who come in needing an MRI, we refer to Fox Valley Animal Referral Center in Appleton, and we are fortunate that there is a facility within a two-hour drive from the Upper Peninsula," said Laskaska. "In some areas, that are far less remote, there are no facilities available."

The cost to repair the damage for a dog with a torn ACL (similar to a football knee in humans) can range between $2,500 and $3,000, especially if an orthopedic veterinary specialist performs the necessary surgery.

According to Laskaska, an orthopedic veterinary specialist is a certified veterinarian who elected to specialize in animal orthopedics.

"A veterinary orthopedic surgeon can address issues such as torn ACLs, where the ligament in a dog's knee becomes torn, they can also perform back surgery and do hip replacement surgery, depending upon what the owner wants to do," said Laskaska.

She said when it comes to determining how much is too much concerning the price of health care for a pet, it is not up to the veterinarian to make that determination.

"It is not for me as a veterinarian to look into the heart or pocketbook of a patient's owner. Rather it is for me to offer options and offer an estimate of the costs associated with treatment and to make referrals as necessary or requested," said Laskaska.

While the cost of treatment and caring for pets is increasing, there are options available for pet owners, such as health insurance.

According to Maki, people who have pet insurance often times are blindsided by the manner in which the insurance works.

"People who take out health insurance for their pets often don't realize that they pay the cost up front, and then submit a claim which is reimbursed by the insurance company," explained Maki.

An alternative to having clients pay out of pocket fees, Maki said some local veterinarians have adopted a plan referred to as Care Credit, which is strictly for veterinary services.

Under the plan, owners file an application which is the same as a credit card and make monthly scheduled payments for the care of their pet.

"A third option, which is one I try to encourage my patients to adopt, is a health savings account for their pet. Clients can save money in an account for unanticipated veterinary bills that may arise without placing an added burden on their household finances," said Maki.



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