Owners diagnosed with cancer have difficulty paying for veterinary visits, survey finds


Affording veterinary care for their pets becomes another major stressor in their lives

The human–animal bond is an important part of owning a pet. From a poll of 600 people, Purina found that 80% of owners who have rescued a pet from a shelter say it is the most rewarding thing they have ever done.1 It is safe to say almost all pet owners love their pets immensely and would do almost anything for them to keep them happy and healthy. A new survey conducted by CancerCare's Pet Assistance & Wellness (PAW) Program2 analyzed 244 people diagnosed with cancer who have a dog or cat in their home. Sadly 44% of those surveyed feared they may not be able to afford their pets’ veterinary visits because of having to undergo cancer treatment for themselves. However, despite this fear, 92% of respondents said their pet was extremely important throughout their cancer diagnosis.3 So, it’s clear that the human–animal bond does not take a backseat after owners are diagnosed.

Graphic courtesy of CancerCare.

Graphic courtesy of CancerCare.

"Pets help their owners cope with the emotional aspects of cancer, especially individuals living alone," said Brian Morvant, program manager for CancerCare's PAW Program, in a news release.2 "However, the physical, emotional and financial difficulties that may accompany a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming to even the most devoted pet owners, putting that cherished relationship at risk."

Before their cancer diagnosis, the majority of pet owners could manage to purchase pet food (93%) and cover veterinary expenses (91%). However, following their diagnosis, they struggled or were unable to afford pet food (77%) and veterinary appointments (78%).2

"The expense of pet food, veterinary care, dog walkers, and boarding can add up. Cost is the main pet-related difficulty that owners face when undergoing cancer treatment," Morvant added. "Cancer drugs and treatment are expensive and physically taxing, to say the least. Our survey found that people diagnosed with cancer find it extremely difficult to take their pet to the vet, walk their dog or even afford pet food during this vulnerable time in their lives.”2

Other findings from the survey include 86% of owners reported they needed part-time or occasional help caring for their pet. Additionally, 15% said they considered abandoning or pausing their cancer treatment in order to keep their pet because of budget restraints.2

Some anonymous quotes from the survey stated, “I would stop my care first” and “I would die before I would ever give my dogs up” in response to not being able to afford pet care.3

One respondent from the survey explained the bond she has with her dog, Manny. “He knows when I was hospitalized and when I came home and couldn't do anything, he was there to give me hugs. He is there when I'm having an emotionally bad day to keep me company and to cheer me up. He will come give me hugs and snuggle when the hard days get to be too much,” Ursula told CancerCare.3

Another respondent reported paying for veterinary care becomes difficult when also having to purchase his own health products like extra vitamins, over-the-counter creams, protein supplements, and more.3

The mission of CancerCare’s PAW Program is to help people diagnosed with cancer stay together with their beloved pets.3


  1. Eight in 10 people who have rescued a pet from a shelter say it is the most rewarding thing they have ever done. News release. Purina. February 13, 2024. Accessed February 13, 2024. https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/eight-in-10-people-who-have-rescued-a-pet-from-a-shelter-say-it-is-the-most-rewarding-thing-they-have-ever-done-302059457.html
  2. Cancer patients can't afford pet food and vet care, CancerCare survey finds. News release. CanerCare. April 18, 2024. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cancer-patients-cant-afford-pet-food-and-vet-care-cancercare-survey-finds-302119741.html
  3. Morvant B. Cancer patients risk losing their pets, CancerCare survey finds. CancerCare. April 18, 2024. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://www.cancercare.org/blog/cancer_patients_risk_losing_their_pets_cancercare_survey
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