From pet food to grooming expenses, owning an animal can be a costly undertaking.
When veterinarian bills are piled on top of that, many Canadians feel those fees are way too expensive.
According to a new survey by Angus Reid Institute, about four in five respondents said they have received “good” or “excellent” service from their vet when visiting for a routine checkup or urgent care.
However, at least three in five Canadians believe veterinarian costs for those services are extravagant, especially amid the rising cost of living.
“They know that we’ll spend the money because they’re our family,” Toronto resident and dog mom Meg W. told CP24.com.
Meg, 36, knows first-hand about exorbitant vet bills after having to pay for two surgeries in a seven-week span for one of her two dogs, Beau.
In September, Meg’s seven-year-old lab mix had to have his toe removed due to a growth, and earlier this month, Beau had to undergo another surgery to remove a tumor near his anus.
Overall, both surgeries cost Meg over $12,000.
“It is astronomical and it adds up. And when there’s two (surgeries) in a row like that I just, you know, put it all on my credit card,” she said.
Meg currently works full-time in marketing and is studying part-time to become a psychotherapist. With a roughly $35,000 income in the past year, Meg knows it will take her some time to pay off the bills.
However, Meg says she would have spent whatever she could to help Beau.
“I don’t have kids. So these dogs are my babies, right. I would have spent $20,000 if that’s how much it costs because he is that important to me…you could be paying off that hole for years,” she said.
To curb rising veterinarian costs, Meg says the industry needs to be stabilized because “at the end of the day, it is health-care.”
Beau has had his surgery and is now successfully recovering at home. Fortunately, Meg also found out that his tumor is benign.
Now she is just focusing on his health and has set up a Gofundme page in an effort to pay off her debt.
IS PET INSURANCE WORTH IT?
Meg, like many other Canadians, adopted her other dog Cece during the pandemic. On top of Beau’s bills, Meg also has to buy Cece medication for her life-long health issue related to her urinary sphincter.
So far this year, Meg says she has spent approximately $18,000 on both of her dogs.
Like Meg, three in 10 survey respondents said they added a pet to their home during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Toronto Humane Society (THS) has been very busy with finding some of these animals homes during the pandemic.
In 2020, 1,475 pets were adopted there, while 1,608 were adopted in 2021.
As of September, there have been 1,387 adoptions at the humane society so far this year. Most adoptions in the past three years have been cats, followed by dogs.
Although THS acknowledges vet costs are increasing, it says the industry needs to be upheld in order to attract and keep workers.
“We know that the costs of veterinary care and animal care costs in general are rising. What’s important to note is that the veterinary industry needs to be sustainable enough to prevent strain on the industry and burnout. This will also attract new people to the industry to help prevent on-going veterinary professional shortages,” THS said in a statement to CP24.com.
The non-profit organization says it has regular conversations with prospective adopters about the costs of owning a pet throughout the adoption process.
THS recommends that pet owners obtain insurance for their animals in the event of the “unthinkable.”
“If you ever find yourself in an emergency room, you know how quickly costs add up and having pet insurance can provide peace of mind amid an emergency,” THS said.
Meg says she used to have pet insurance but opted out of it after deciding it didn’t cover enough vet expenses to be worthwhile.
She instead commits to saving money for her dogs monthly.
“There were many things that weren’t covered by pet insurance. And for two dogs, the rates were around $180 a month,” she said.
Eighty-four per cent of survey respondents said they also don’t want insurance or are unable to get it, while 10 per cent had it for some of their pets, and six per cent said they always had it for their pet.
One in five of the respondents who had insurance said it was a “lifesaver” and two in five described it as not useful when they needed it.
Despite the hefty vet-related debt Meg is facing, she says she’s thankful for the vet care available to keep her dogs healthy and happy.
“Instead of getting stressed out about how much debt I was getting into, I purposely refocused my thoughts on ‘thank God I have access to credit and thank God I have access to really good veterinarian care.’ And I just have to keep bringing that to the forefront of my mind or the anxiety of it all would just clobber me.”
Angus Reid Institute surveyed 1,618 Canadian adults online between Oct. 11 to 13. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.