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Pet Parents Forced to Choose Euthanasia Due to High Vet Bills

By Christy True
published: March 28, 2024 • 3 min. read
A dog undergoing euthanasia.

Key Takeaways

  • The rising cost of vet care has resulted in many pet parents having to choose unnecessary euthanasia for their dogs when they can’t afford a large vet bill.
  • Carrying pet insurance can allow pet parents to avoid ‘economic euthanasia’ and choose to seek the medical care their pet needs.

Nearly half of dog owners said they would consider euthanizing their pets if they were diagnosed with a condition requiring costly treatment that was financially difficult to pay, according to a new survey by Canine Journal.

That is one of the sobering statistics that show “economic euthanasia” — making a medical decision based on finances rather than what is best for the pet — is sadly common.

Unnecessary euthanasia is one of the consequences of the ever-increasing cost of veterinary care. When an emergency room visit costs $5,000 or more, it’s no wonder that many pet parents cannot pay or must go into debt. Many pet parents live paycheck to paycheck and have little money saved. When a pet suffers an injury, swallows something toxic, or suddenly comes down with a serious condition, and the vet bills are projected in the thousands, it can be financially devastating.

The survey contains clues about why this happens, how much pet parents can afford to spend on an emergency vet visit, and how to avoid this tragic outcome. The journal surveyed 1,000 dog owners in December 2023. The study concluded that much of economic euthanasia could be avoided if more pet parents carried pet insurance.

“Pet parents find themselves in an exceptionally agonizing situation of choosing between their finances and their dog’s health – and even ending their pet’s lives prematurely in many cases. But we also know that pet insurance can help,” the study’s authors wrote.

 Canine Journal surveyed 1,000 dog owners in the U.S. and found that:  

  • 48% would consider euthanizing their pets if diagnosed with a condition requiring costly treatment that was financially difficult to pay.
  • 36% said the most they’d be willing to spend on their dog’s medical needs to avoid euthanasia is $1,000. When the vet bill goes up to $2,500, 55% would consider unnecessary euthanasia. At the other end of the spectrum, 17% said there is no limit to how much money they’d spend to save their dog’s life. 
  • Of the respondents who have had to euthanize a pet, 18% said it was because of the cost of treatment.
  • 41% of respondents have gone into debt to pay for their dog’s non-routine vet care
  • 55% wished they had pet insurance in the past to help cover unexpected vet costs.

The journal points out that the cost to treat many common conditions or accidents will exceed $2,500. Many are curable and can lead to a dog living a long, happy life with proper vet care. But many dogs don’t get that chance.

Some examples include:

  • Cancer ($6,000-$10,000+)
  • Cataract surgery ($2,700-$4,000)
  • Cranial cruciate ligament tear ($1,200-$8,000)
  • Hip dysplasia ($1,700-$4,500+)
  • Intestinal blockage ($800-$7,000)
  • Pet poisoning ($250-$6,000+)

Healthy Paws pet parents are grateful for coverage 

At Healthy Paws, we often hear from pet parents whose pets have experienced a catastrophic event and quickly accrued hefty vet bills. They often tell us that without pet insurance, they would not have been able to pay or would have had to skip essential care.

 “For me, it’s about peace of mind and being prepared. Emergency veterinary care is prohibitively expensive, so knowing that there is a safety net in place for exorbitant costs is very comforting. I’m thrilled to have Healthy Paws in our corner as they have always been kind, supportive, and accommodating,” said pet parent Greg, whose dog Jenny racked up a $16,000 bill after developing a rare condition. He was reimbursed $12,300 by Healthy Paws.

Another customer, Teresa, has a yellow Labrador who developed a condition like giantism. Besides the initial diagnostics and treatment, the condition requires ongoing insulin treatments, blood monitoring, tests, and hospital care. Without insurance, Teresa said she wouldn’t have been able to cover all the care that Hudson requires. Her vet costs totaled $11,472 so far, and Healthy Paws reimbursed $8,862 with an 80 percent coverage policy.

“I get emotional and am so thankful in knowing how the support from Healthy Paws has given us a bit of time with him. He is a kind soul and embedded in our hearts,” she said. 

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 28 dog years. She also coordinates media requests and manages the Healthy Paws Foundation. A background in journalism may be why she enjoys writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and she volunteers with a local dog rescue. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

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