(BPT) - If you’re one of the more than 90 million American households with a pet — congratulations! No matter which breed you’ve adopted or rescued, it’s likely your furry friend is an important member of the family. In fact, studies have shown that pets can help keep you healthy because they offer:
- Unconditional love
- Motivation to exercise
If you’ve already added a pet to the family or are considering adopting one, the rewards of pet parenthood are many, but it’s also important to understand the realistic costs of lifelong pet care and be financially prepared. Luckily, a recent study commissioned by Synchrony entitled “Lifetime of Care,” looked at the cost of the lifetime of care for pets, which ranges from $20,000-$55,000 for dogs and $15,000-$45,000 for cats. The findings were based on responses by 1,200 pet owners and 100 veterinarians and offers consumers clear insights, verified by veterinary practices, into the lifetime of care cost for a dog or cat.
“Millions of Americans choose to share life with a pet, yet the true cost of ownership has historically been incredibly vague. Our Lifetime of Care study serves as a helpful tool to prepare prospective pet parents,” said Jonathan Wainberg, senior vice president and general manager, Pet, Synchrony. “We want pet parents to have a deeper understanding of what to expect financially, and knowledge of the flexible payment solutions that are available to help them manage the costs of care throughout their pet’s lifetime.”
The first year of pet ownership tends to be the most expensive and includes adoption costs, vaccinations, spaying or neutering, new accessories, toys, pet carriers, and more. The “Lifetime of Care” research revealed that dog owners can expect to spend between $1,300–$2,800 and cat owners approximately $960–$2,500 in the first year. Maintenance costs after the first year can vary greatly depending on the animal’s breed, whether it’s a cat or dog, and whether it’s an indoor or outdoor cat.
Plan for pet expenses
Just like human members of the family, pets need routine wellness checks to stay healthy and can also get sick or injured unexpectedly. And that can impact your budget. The “Lifetime of Care” study found that pet owners who receive a $250 vet bill may have difficulty paying. In addition, the research indicated approximately half of all pet owners who thought they were financially ready for unexpected pet expenses were not, and would consider a solution dedicated to financing care for their pet.
Rather than be surprised by the cost of your pet’s care, you can prepare for potential health care expenses before they become a reality. Two budget-friendly solutions for both routine and unexpected costs are pet financing solutions, like CareCredit, and pet health insurance, like Pets Best. The two solutions work independently or together as a comprehensive safety net.
Pet owners can use their CareCredit credit card to pay up-front vet costs at the time of their pets’ visit, and later apply the reimbursement from Pets Best toward their CareCredit account.
Pet health care tips: Embrace proactive care
Being proactive about your pet’s routine and preventative care not only keeps them healthy, but it can also help keep costs down. Dr. Chris Roth, DVM recommends:
- Scheduling yearly veterinary examinations — they are one of the best ways to help stay ahead of emerging health issues.
- Keeping your pet current on recommended vaccinations to avoid preventable disease.
- Ensuring proper use of preventive medications to avoid Heartworm, intestinal parasites, Tick-borne disease, and flea infestation.
- Neutering or spaying your pet to avoid unwanted, and expensive, pregnancies.
- Feeding your pet the right nutritional mix with a side of exercise to maintain a healthy weight.
- Offering affection and play with your pet to help protect its physical and emotional health.
- Outfitting your dog or cat with an ID tag or microchip with its name, address and phone number in case it gets lost.
As you embark on pet parenthood, take some simple steps to ensure that you can cover pet costs through every stage of life. Develop a plan that works for you, like creating a budget that includes provisions for basic pet care like food, annual exams, toys and other costs. Also, start an emergency fund just in case the unthinkable happens. Finally, consider getting a pet credit card and pet insurance for peace of mind when your pet needs health care.
Whatever you choose, it’s all about having peace of mind that you’re prepared to care for the family member you love.