As pets start living longer, it’s time to get serious about their health-care costs
Don't want Fido to die? It might be time to get pet health care.
If you think only humans are living longer, check out Willoughby.
The adorable little shih tzu from Atlanta is still trucking at the ripe old age of 18. In human terms, that puts him well over 100.
It is no fluke. Dogs are now living an average of 11.8 years, according to the 2016 State of Pet Health report from privately owned Banfield Pet Hospital, which operates veterinary clinics around the United States. That is up from just 11 years in their 2013 study, and 10.5 years in 2002.
Cats are also enjoying more golden years, an average of 12.9 years, or roughly 70 in human terms. That is up from 12.1 years in the 2013 study, and 11 years in 2002.
“Dogs used to be considered geriatric at six or seven. But these days larger breeds can make it to 15 or 16, and smaller breeds can even live up to 20 years,” says Laura Coffey, author of the book, “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets With Remarkable Second Acts.”
Owner preferences are increasingly tilting toward the longer-living smaller dogs, says Dr. Kirk Breuninger, a veterinarian and lead researcher for the State of Pet Health report.
Pets are living longer, primarily due to “education about pet health,” says Breuninger, including more check-ups and medication. In the past, elderly pets with health problems might have just been put down.
In total, Americans spent a record $60 billion caring for their pets in 2015, according to the American Pet Products Association.
You don’t have to tell that to Willoughby’s owner Niv Persaud, a financial planner in Atlanta. She spends around $100 a month on medications for dry eyes, arthritis in the hips and a heart murmur.
A pet owner doesn’t need to go broke caring for their animal companion. But one does need to be aware of additional costs as pets age, and prepare for potential health problems before they turn into a crisis. And consider ways to minimize the outlays that will inevitably arise. Here are some tips on caring for your little Methuselah: