Counting the cost of chronic disease


Study shows what clients pay for common conditions in pets.

No doubt you've been educating your clients for years about the value of regularly scheduled wellness care and preventive medicine. But no doubt many of them balk when it comes to actually paying for a wellness plan, opting instead to pay for health problems if and when they arise. Now, new research from Michigan State University can help you make your case for prevention and early detection by showing the cost of treating common health problems in pets.

Dr. Paul Bartlett, MPH, PhD, an epidemiologist at Michigan State, teamed up with Dr. James Van Buren, MBA, president of research firm Vector Scientific Resources in Kalamazoo, Mich., to conduct a study of treatment costs at the university's veterinary teaching hospital. The study, funded by Hill's Pet Nutrition, tabulated the annual cost of treating dogs and cats with certain common diseases. (For each disease, up to 15 dogs and cats were evaluated.)

The cost totals don't include examination fees, overnight hospital charges, or clinical pathology charges because these services are often related to other disease conditions. They do, however, include all other veterinary costs pet owners incurred at the teaching hospital during the 12 months after their pets were first diagnosed with the disease. To reduce the bias of referral case costs, the researchers selected patients whose owners used the university teaching hospital for both their primary and secondary care.

The following charts reflect the extent of financial risk incurred by clients whose pets are diagnosed with the studied diseases.

Annual veterinary costs associated with canine diseases


Median cost

25th percentile

75th percentile

Heart disease $1,912 $953 $4,693 Hypertension $1,700 $1,125 $3,273 Osteoarthritis $1,656 $451 $3,242 Cancer $2,447 $1,124 $6,502 Diabetes $1,108 $387 $2,355 Pancreatitis $1,422 $492 $2,120 Obesity + ruptured ACL $2,367 $215 $3,137 Chronic kidney disease $1,823 $1,078 $2,998


Annual veterinary costs associated with feline diseases


Median cost

25th percentile

75th percentile

Heart disease $1,065 $387 $2,924 Hypertension $1,241 $674 $2,253 Osteoarthritis $286 $89 $2,581 Cancer $994 $630 $2,308 Diabetes $860 $531 $4,285 Pancreatitis $1,483 $543 $3,072 Chronic kidney disease $1,065 $562 $2,396 Hyperthyroidism $1,401 $1,015 $4,034


While not all of these diseases can be prevented through regular care, clients who participate in a wellness plan that includes periodic physical examinations and diagnostic testing are much more likely to learn of their pets' condition early in its course and keep costs of treatment toward the lower end of the scale. Also, these numbers can help you make a convincing case for the value of pet insurance.

So the next time you sense that a client is starting to tune out your recommendation for wellness care or pet insurance, see if you can help them quantify the cost of treatment in comparison. It just might make the difference in that client's decision-and improve your patient's quality of life.

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