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Recently I noticed some unusual lumps and bumps on my 9-year-old dog’s skin. They didn’t seem to bother him, but Google told me I should take him to the vet. The short version of this story? Nearly $900 later, my fur baby was biopsied and left with shaved spots and pretty purple stitches poking out … for no reason. As it turns out, he was just fine. 

Like most pet owners, I wanted to do right by my pup, but receiving a bill for pretty much nothing was rough. I’m lucky I had money saved for pet emergencies, but what if I didn’t? A recent survey by the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA) took a deeper dive into pet-related debt and the startling cost of loving your pets.

Would You Go Into Debt for Your Pet?

Pets have become an integral part of our lives. In fact, the survey found that 80% of respondents considered pets family.

I’m not the only one who would do what it takes for their fluffy friend. Seventy-eight percent of pet owners surveyed by Consumer Affairs would consider going into debt for their pet, especially for a medical emergency. The survey had a number of surprising results, including:

  • 50% of respondents would use a credit card to pay for a pet’s medical crisis (I did).
  • 43% said that, in a true emergency, they would go into debt for their pets, while another 35% said they might.

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Is it generational to be willing to give your all (or, should we say, all your income) to your pet? Millennials make up the highest percentage (32%) of pet owners in the United States, according to the 2021-2022 Animal Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey. The AVMA found that millennials were the most likely to spend whatever is needed for a pet, with 51% of respondents ages 26 to 41 saying that they would take on debt. Baby boomers came in second, and Gen Xers were the least likely to do this for furry friends, with only 24% saying they were willing to take on debt.

How Much Is Too Much?

At what amount do people draw the line when it comes to our pets? Only 22% of those surveyed would pay over $5,000 to save their pet in an emergency. Of that percentage, 32% said they would pay “whatever it takes.”

But paying "whatever it takes" simply isn’t realistic for most pet owners. The survey shares one respondent’s story: a dog owner from Vermont, who lost a 12-year-old dog to a fatal accident. If the injury could have been treated, the owner said, “I would not have had debt options nor did I have the ability to pay off that debt, had I incurred any. I would have felt like crap if there was a treatment that would have saved him and I didn't have money to get it for him.”

Even if your pet is totally healthy, maintaining their health isn’t cheap. Pet owners spend an average of $178 to $242 for routine vet visits, but that makes up just 20% of the total cost of owning a pet, according to the survey.

The Bottom Line

So what’s the solution? If you're thinking about owning a pet, you need to be realistic about budgeting for that animal’s medical care. A pet savings account or pet insurance might be a smart way to be ready for an emergency while not blowing your finances. There are plenty of money-saving tips for pet owners out there — let's just hope you won't have to use that money when you least expect it.

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