What pet parents don’t know about lifetime cost of care

Adam Christman Peter Weinstein Vet Perspective

Not all clients understand the true cost of owning a pet over its lifetime

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Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: In this study as well, they have the cost of a 15 year old dog averaging between $19,893 up to $55,132. Cats $15,055, up to $45,790. And what I liked about this study is they broke it down by month to how much it costs per month. So for dogs about $111, up to $306 per month. The cat, $84 per month and $254 month. Why do you think that's significant for us as professionals to know that?

Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA: I think knowing what the monthly costs would be, Adam, I don't own a veterinary hospital any longer. Okay, I am a consumer of veterinary services. So I go to a veterinarian for the care of my dogs. And it is surprising to me even as a veterinarian to see what the costs would be. So I do have CareCredit, and I do have pet health insurance for my dogs, because I recognize that, you know, my 15 month old puppy right now is having some knee problems. I can anticipate probably a medial patellar luxation surgery, maybe a cruciate, I don't know what it's going to be. But I can anticipate that these costs are what it's going to really cost me to have a pet. I think we as veterinarians are so focused on the single visit that we sometimes forget that there are subsequent visits. And we really don't give clients a roadmap of what to expect throughout the lifetime of care of their pets, and especially from a cost standpoint, but we should really help them understand from a clinical standpoint, what is the next visit going to look like? What is the next visit going to look like; what the costs are going to look like? We don't do that for them. We get a better idea of what it's going to cost us to operate an automobile than it would is going to cost to own a pet when it comes to the cost of care.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Yeah, it's a really great point. It really is. So do you think the lifetime cost of care will deter prospective pet parents?

Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA: I think that prospective pet parents, when they get a pet, are thinking with their heart and their head, and not with their wallet. I think that that many, many pet parents really don't understand or know what the cost of pet food is. They don't understand what the cost of a bed is. They don't understand the cost of cat litter. So I think that there's a very emotional decision or pressure from the kids, when it comes to getting a new pet. I think we have to do a much better job on that first visit with a pet owner to give them an understanding of what to expect and help them map that out by maybe suggesting, "Hey, you've got a puppy. It's a great time to insure that puppy without having to deal with pre-existing conditions. And it's a good time to get a CareCredit line of credit so that when that unexpected expense occurs, it's not going to hit you. And you can make a decision to take care of that pet from your heart and not have to worry about it from your wallet."

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Right? And it's so true. It's almost like an impulse to me, of course, we've all been there. We know what it feels like when you see that animal. But there's things that they need to be need to be put into perspective, grooming, for instance. You know, I had clients that would get a particular breed of dog. They didn't realize how much grooming..."How often should I be grooming my dog?" I said every 6 weeks. "Wait, every six weeks is going to cost me X amount." That on top of you know, maybe doggy daycare, a trainer. That's not even to include the veterinary side of things, you know. So it's so important. I feel like we as veterinary professionals really need to educate and empower the pet parent in the exam room, whether it be an educational video before they even, you know, adopted or purchase an animal, too, so I think that's wonderful. So will you continue to update these numbers as we progress forward?

Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA: I believe that Synchrony has plans to continue these studies. And I think a lot of these studies which were done, you know, during an around the time of COVID. It'll be interesting to see what the changes occurred and do occur going forward as the delivery of veterinary care changes as the needs for pet owners change. I think it'd be interesting to watch and track these numbers over time and see what other economic...external economic influences are as we go through recessionary environments, inflationary environments. So I think these numbers are very relevant. I think they're not just relevant to pet owners. I think they're relevant to the staff of veterinary hospitals and I would love to talk to you about how this information can help the staff better understand and appreciate the challenges their their clients are going through.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Yeah, right. It creates like a likability or relatability if you will, too.

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