Why Pet Chronic Conditions Are Pricey & How to Manage Costs

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A dog sits.

By Dr. Eva Evans, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a pet health insurance agency for dogs and cats.

Chronic conditions are a fact of life for humans and pets. These diseases are classified as chronic because they last a long time, oftentimes permanently. The frequency of chronic diseases increases as the pet ages.

For example, some common chronic conditions that affect elderly pets include arthritis, liver diseases such as Cushing’s, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and kidney failure. However, young pets can also develop chronic, lifelong conditions such as epilepsy (seizures) and skin allergies (also called atopy).

Pets Best commonly sees pet insurance claims for chronic conditions. For example for dogs, skin allergies (atopy) accounts for 30% of all dog health insurance claims received, Osteoarthritis 10%, and hypothyroidism 7%. For Cats, renal (kidney) failure makes up 25% of all cat health insurance claims received, hyperthyroidism 20%, diabetes mellitus 11%, and allergies 8%.

Managing Chronic Conditions – Why It Costs So Much

Typically, chronic diseases require long term medications. For example, pets with epilepsy will take anti-seizure medication for their whole lives.

Chronic conditions often require close management and monitoring. This means that your pet will become very familiar with his or her veterinarian as they often require periodic blood work and medication dosage changes. While most chronic conditions require some sort of prescription medication management, some require expensive compounded medications that are not easily available. Many pets with chronic conditions end up being surrendered at a shelter or given away because owners can’t afford expensive special medications, regular monitoring, blood work, etc.

While acute injuries and illnesses may be expensive to treat upfront, they rarely have recurring costs once your pet is feeling better. However, it’s important to plan for the development of chronic conditions, especially as your pet ages. Conditions such as diabetes, liver disease and cancer can costs hundreds of dollars a month for appropriate medications, blood level monitoring and recheck visits. Even less severe conditions such as chronic skin allergies can cost upwards of hundreds to a few thousand dollars for special diets, skin testing, and allergy shots.

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Managing Costs with Pet Insurance

Be prepared for your pet’s health issues with pet insurance. While pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, if your pet develops a chronic condition after your policy coverage goes in effect, that chronic condition will be covered. That means that those frequent office visits, expensive prescription diets and medications, blood work, and so on are covered! This can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars.

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