Friday, February 3, 2017
Cats and Dogs
There was a time not too long ago when you or your parents took your favorite pet to the vet only to hear that nothing could be done. The most humane solution would be to put Rex or Fluffy out of his misery. This was a sad occasion, and afterward the family would miss the pet terribly. For weeks or even months it would be hard to think of the missing “part of the family” without sorrow. Some members recovered faster than others, but later everyone could fondly remember the good times with their beloved pet and perhaps consider getting a replacement.
The reason this was a common scenario is that pets don’t live that long. The average life expectancy is 10-12 years for dogs and 10-14 years for cats. (George Carlin once remarked that you didn’t buy a pet; you bought a future tragedy.)
But times have changed. The pet as “part of the family” is no longer in quotation marks. Pet food ads refer to Mom and Dad as the pet’s parents – and many buy into this. When they make a trip to the vet, the response no longer is, “There is nothing we can do,” but rather “how much do you want to spend?” Pet owners - wow, these days some would even be offended at the concept of ownership, but I refuse to write pet parents – even must buy health insurance for Rex or Fluffy because, as this news item from CBS tells us, “Pet care costs can top human medical bills, new report reveals.”
Doctors for your pets now have access to modern technology and methods and use the same diagnostic tools and treatments as medical doctors. According to one pet insurance company, stomach problems, which are common in pets, can run more than $6,000. “Growths and lumps can tally upwards of $15,000. Heart surgeries can run as high as $20,000 and monthly medication bills can add up to more than $100.”
“Veterinarians rely on many of the same tools and procedures, including MRI and CT scans, hip and knee surgery, laser surgery, cancer vaccines, flu shots, ultrasound, and alternative medicine techniques such as acupuncture.” There is even chiropractic for dogs! In one example a dog diagnosed with intervertebral disc received a CT scan, an MRI and spinal surgery for $44,296. The highest claim for a cat on that insurance company’s records was over $14,000.
Another pet health insurance company tells us that the biggest health problem with pets in 2017 will be obesity-related issues. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention “estimates that more than half the nation’s cats and dogs are overweight.”
This can lead to serious and costly problems. The most common is vomiting and diarrhea and other digestive troubles which can usually be treated for about $850. As in people, being overweight can lead to other ailments (with average costs per insurance records shown): cancer ($2,033), joint pain or damage ($3,480), arthritis ($966), urinary infections ($590), heart disease ($1,232) and back problems ($2,033).
What advice do they give? Exactly as for people, counting calories, avoiding unhealthy snacks and getting more exercise can reduce these problems. The dogs and cats, however can’t blame it on the influence of peers, enticing television ads, the evil fast food industry, lack of sidewalks or any of the other creative excuses that their owners (their human companions) come up with.
This may have something to do with perspective. Granted, it’s not as outrageous as some people having their dying pets cloned to try to exactly reproduce the same critter. It’s not as egregious as the example of a family wanting to deny access to a tornado shelter to another family because it would leave their dog outside. But to treat pets like (or better than) children and to expect the same healthcare standards makes no sense. Those who did this in the past would have been laughed at if they were rich and pitied if they were not. True, we all should be free to spend our money as we please, but to spend on pet healthcare or even basic pet care and then expect food and housing assistance or relief from college loans or sympathy when social security doesn’t pay the bills is irresponsible.
Reality is that pets don’t live as long and there is a surplus. Breeders sell them and shelters practically give them away. Pets are not the same as people. Take good care of the pet to avoid obvious health problems. But when it dies or is euthanized, though it’s sad, it’s really not the same as losing a family member. Get a grip!