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Veterinary Pet Insurance Reports Pet Emergencies a Costly Reality

Pet Owners from California to Mississippi Paying Dearly for Pets' Medical


BREA, Calif., July 10 /PRNewswire/ -- As the economy squeezes consumer's discretionary income, many pet owners are recalculating their household budgets. The average pet owner typically budgets for pet food and grooming. Some may remember to include routine veterinary expenses such as preventive health checks and vaccinations. However, most assume that their pet's youth or history of good health will equal few if any non-routine medical expenses. The average pet owner may be surprised.

Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the nation's oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, recently analyzed its claims data to find the average amount policyholders spent state by state on non-routine veterinary care in 2007. While multiple claims totaling thousands of dollars are not uncommon for pet owners across the country, California's $500 per pet topped the list as the highest average amount spent on non-routine care in 2007. The median amount was a hefty $335 per pet in South Dakota, and even in Mississippi, the state in which pet owners spent the least on medical expenses, the average for non-routine expenses exceeded $200 per pet.

Most Spent Per Pet Least Spent Per Pet

State Medical Expenses State Medical Expenses

Per Pet Per Pet

1. California $500 1. Mississippi $207

2. New York $499 2. North Dakota $213

3. District of Columbia $474 3. Missouri $246

4. New Jersey $437 4. Arkansas $246

5. Colorado $428 5. West Virginia $247

6. Connecticut $420 6. Kansas $248

7. Massachusetts $416 7. Iowa $262

8. Maryland $397 8. Oklahoma $264

9. Illinois $395 9. South Carolina $276

10. Oregon $392 10. Alabama $280

"There are a number of costs to consider when purchasing or adopting a pet, not the least of which is medical care," said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. "Pet owners frequently tell us that they don't expect to spend much on veterinary care for their pets beyond preventive health checks and vaccinations. Unfortunately, that's not what our data shows. When an accident or illness does occur, unprepared pet owners sometimes are forced to make difficult decisions: dip into savings, rack up debt, or, in extreme scenarios, euthanize their pet."

The number of claims submitted per pet did not vary significantly by state, indicating that the dollar discrepancies in the amount pet owners spent are due to regional differences in the cost of veterinary care. Treatment prices are influenced by a number of factors including overhead expenses and paying support staff. A veterinarian in California or New York, for example, may charge more than a veterinarian in Mississippi or North Dakota to offset higher property costs and employee salaries.. In general, VPI's data suggests that veterinary medical care costs more in the Northeast and on the West coast and less in the South and Midwest.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association's 2007 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, total veterinary expenditures for all household pets were estimated to be $24.5 billion in 2006. Aligning with VPI's data, the AVMA also found that the average veterinary expenditure per household for all household pets was $366 in 2006.

Regardless of location, unexpected veterinary bills can quickly drain a pet owner's discretionary income. Toni Pasquariello, of West Haven, Conn., learned this lesson when she lost three cocker spaniels to various illnesses in a span of four years. The emotional and financial toll of caring for her ailing pets inspired her to consider VPI Pet Insurance for her next cocker spaniel, Mickey. She found the policy useful and when she added three toy poodles to the family she decided to insure them as well.

A few months later, Tinkerbell the toy poodle jumped off a recliner and broke her leg. The one-year-old poodle had to have a plate surgically implanted to ensure the bone's proper healing. To Toni's relief most of the surgery expenses were reimbursed by her pet insurance policy. Just two months after breaking the leg, Tinkerbell was startled by a loud noise and leapt unexpectedly from Toni's arms. The small dog landed at the wrong angle and broke her other leg."

My husband said, 'There's no way our insurance company is going to cover two broken legs in one year,'" said Toni. "But sure enough, VPI covered it. Two major surgeries, around $3,000 each, and VPI covered more than half of both surgeries. The reimbursement for only one of those surgeries would have covered a year's worth of premiums for all four of my dogs, so, I definitely think it's worth it to insure my pets."

About Veterinary Pet Insurance

Veterinary Pet Insurance Co./DVM Insurance Agency is the nation's oldest and largest pet health insurance company. Providing pet owners with peace of mind since 1982, the company is committed to being the trusted choice of America's pet lovers and an advocate of pet health education. VPI Pet Insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. Optional Pet WellCare Protection(SM) for routine care is also available.

Medical plans are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 1,600 companies nationwide offer VPI Pet Insurance as an employee benefit. Policies are underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company in California and in all other states by National Casualty Company, an A+15 rated company in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information about VPI Pet Insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit

SOURCE Veterinary Pet Insurance
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