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42% Of Pet Owners Can’t Cover A Surprise Vet Bill Amid Inflation – Forbes Advisor

Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

Consumer prices are up 8.5% from July 2021 to July 2022, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s the highest 12-month increase since the reporting period ending November 1981—about four decades ago. Nearly everyone is feeling the pinch, including pet parents.

A new Forbes Advisor survey of 2,000 dog and cat owners found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of pet owners said inflation has made it more difficult to pay a surprise vet bill. A vet bill of $999 or less would cause 42% of pet owners to go into debt, while a vet bill of $499 or less would cause 28% of pet owners to go into debt.

Which of the following vet bill amounts would cause you to go into debt?

Most Pet Parents Use Their Credit Cards for Vet Bills

When hit with a vet bill, most pet parents pay with plastic. In the past year, 44% of pet owners said they used their credit cards to pay for their vet bills. While only 5% said they took out a loan to pay for vet bills, 18% said they had to dip into their savings.

Generation Z (9%) was the most likely to take out a loan to pay for a pet’s health care in the past year compared to 5% of millennials, 4% of Generation X and 1% of baby boomers.

Which of the following have you done in the past year? (select all that apply)

Pet Owners Haven’t Cut Spending on Fur Babies Despite Inflation

While most pet owners said a surprise vet bill could cause them to go into debt, that doesn’t necessarily mean pet owners have cut back on spending. Only 38% of pet owners said they cut back on the amount of money they spend monthly on their pet due to inflation. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said they spent the same or more on their pets this year.

Has high inflation impacted the amount of money that you spend on your dog or cat each month?

Nearly half (49%) of pet owners who only own a dog said they have cut back on the amount they spend on their pet each month due to inflation. Only 20% of pet owners who only own a cat made cuts to their monthly pet spending. Nearly one-third (31%) of pet owners who own both a dog and a cat said they cut back on their monthly pet-related spending.

Some Pet Parents Gave Up Pets Due to Inflation, Rising Rents

While the majority of pet owners have held onto their pets, 3% of pet owners said in the past year they gave their pet to an animal shelter, rescue organization for adoption or to a friend or family member.

Of those who gave up their pet, 12% said that inflation made it too expensive for everyday costs such as pet food and veterinary care, while 7% said they could not afford their pet’s medical bills.

Some pet owners (10%) cited rising rent and the necessity to move to a non-pet-friendly apartment as a reason they gave up their pet. A smaller percentage (5%) of pet owners said that their landlord’s pet deposit was too expensive and caused them to give up their pet.

What is the primary reason that you sold or gave your pet away?

Many Pet Owners Do Not Have or Plan to Buy Pet Insurance

More than three-quarters (79%) of pet owners said they do not have pet insurance. And many pet owners are unwilling to absorb the expense of pet insurance due to inflation.

Nearly one-third (30%) of pet owners said they are much less likely or somewhat less likely to pay for pet insurance amid inflation. That’s compared to 22% of pet owners who said they were much more likely or somewhat more likely to pay for pet insurance amid inflation.

Of the 79% that didn’t have pet insurance, 28% earned $80,000 or more.

Are you more or less likely to pay for or continue to pay for pet insurance amid inflation?

With 63% of pet owners saying inflation has made it difficult to pay for a surprise vet bill, pet insurance can be an effective way to offset unexpected costs. For example, an accident and illness pet insurance plan can help pay for surgeries and medication for problems like a tornado ACL or cancer.

Related: What does pet insurance cover?

Pet Insurance Is More Affordable Than You Might Think

Pet insurance costs an average of $35 a month for dogs and $28 a month for cats, according to a Forbes Advisor analysis of pet insurance rates. That includes $5,000 of annual coverage for both accidents and illnesses, a $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement level.

While pet insurance might seem like another monthly expense, it can save you thousands of dollars if your pet suffers an unexpected accident or illness. Consider this scenario:

  • Premiums. Suppose you’ve been paying $35 per month for a dog for three years. That’s $1,260 in pet insurance premiums.
  • An unexpected vet bill. Then your dog tears its ACL while chasing a ball, which ends up costing $4,000 in vet bills. If you have a $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement level, your out-of-pocket cost for the incident would be $625 ($250 deductible + 10% of $3,750 = $625).
  • The results. Adding up premiums for three years and the torn ACL incident, you’ve paid $1,885. Without pet insurance, you would have paid $4,000 for the vet. With pet insurance, you saved $2,115.

Considering 42% of pet owners said a vet bill of $999 or less would cause them to go into debt, pet insurance can be a good way to avoid a tough decision: Paying a big vet bill out of pocket or forgoing medical treatment for your pet .

Related: Is pet insurance worth it?

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Methodology

This online survey of 2,000 current and past dog and cat owners in the US was commissioned by Forbes Advisor and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society’s (MRS) code of conduct. Data was collected July 29 through Aug. 8, 2022. The margin of error is +/- 2.2 points with 95% confidence. This survey was overseen by the OnePoll research team, which is a member of the MRS and has corporate membership with the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). For a complete survey methodology, including geographic and demographic sample sizes, contact [email protected]

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