Would you go into debt for your pet’s health care? 78% probably would

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A ConsumerAffairs survey finds millennials are most likely to take on ‘pet debt’

People and pets have a close bond, a tie that was strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic. The depth of feeling is so great that 80% of pet owners consider their pets to be family members, according to a study by the American Veterinarian Medical Association.

So it may come as no surprise that when ConsumerAffairs asked pet owners around the country if they would take on debt to pay for needed pet medical treatment, 78% said they would. The survey, conducted by SurveyMonkey, also asked about pet spending habits, from food to grooming.

Here’s what we found:

  • 50% of respondents would use a credit card to pay for a pet’s medical crisis.

  • Millennials were the most likely to take on debt for their pet.

  • 22% of respondents were willing to spend $5,000 or more for a pet emergency.

The numbers break down this way: Almost half (43%) of respondents said yes, they would go into debt for their pets. Another 35% said they would consider it.

While millennials are the most likely to take on “pet debt,” baby boomers and Gen Xers are also attached to their pets and indicated a willingness to finance pet health care.

It’s expensive

Without a good pet health insurance policy, emergency care for a pet can be very expensive. Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, a veterinary medical advisor for Rover, tells us that an ER visit for a simple eye infection would cost up to $200. Other seemingly “routine” treatments start even higher.

At a time when a majority of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and most emergency expenses cost more than $400, taking your dog or cat to a vet for an injury or illness makes going into debt much more likely.

The ConsumerAffairs survey also found pet owners spend 20% of their pet budgets on health care. The top expense – 69% of the budget – pays for food and treats.

‘Consistently underestimate the cost’

 “I find that pet owners consistently underestimate the cost of veterinary care, especially in unexpected emergency situations,” Greenstein told us.

She said pet owners should have an emergency fund to pay for emergency situations, noting that if bloodwork or X-rays are required, the bill can easily top $1,000.

Having a pet health insurance policy can also help, but policies can vary widely, depending on what they do and do not cover. The ConsumerAffairs Research Team has ranked some of the best policies and companies here.

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