Ti's the time of year for spending money one does not have. Little Suzy gets that laptop she wanted so badly, little Johnny gets the I-phone he insisted on having, and let's not forget the matching diamond earrings and necklace for the Mrs. With all this mass spending, some aspect of the family budget frequently has to suffer. Unfortunately, too often, the holiday gifts for little Suzy, little Johnny, and the Mrs. come at the expense of the family pet's health care.
It usually begins around early November. Patent's are brought in with various conditions that require diagnostic work-ups and treatments, and people implore me for the sake of increased holiday expenditures, to offer payment plans, treat on empirical evidence with no diagnostic work-up, give them temporary solutions to get them through the holidays to a time when they can better afford the veterinary care their pet needs, or offer less costly, even mediocre alternatives to treat a given ailment. When owners refuse to apply for or do not get accepted for Care Credit (a third party lender for medical services known to be even more lenient than credit card companies), I try to work with them the best I can, but in the end, these aforementioned approaches to medicine often lead to less than ideal results.
Since veterinary clinics are businesses that survive on the sale of services and products just like any other types of business, giving away our services and inventory is not a practical solution to people's holiday financial woes, nor is it remotely fair to burden our industry with such a demand. The solution to this problem is for pet owners to have a realistic approach to preparing for the veterinary costs that may be incurred when pets get sick or injured.
A member of the message boards of the parent site to this blog, Web-DVM.net, recently posted what sounds to me like a great solution to budget one's pet's health care needs, not just during the holidays, but for always: the $50 rule. Under the $50 rule, one should have a separate bank account where every month, $50 is deposited in the account for each pet in the home. According to said message board member, if one cannot afford $50 per month for a given animal, then one has no business adopting that animal. This member has 4 Labrador Retrievers, which means that 4 dogs X $50 per dog = $200, gets deposited in his dogs' health care account monthly. He stated that this covers all the yearly visits, preventive testing, and preventive medications, with plenty left over in the event of more financially demanding illness or injury.
Incredibly simple yet so effective, the $50 rule is a great way for a family to figure out if they can fit the financial demands of a pet into their budget. It just might be enough to ensure that families with pets do not have to choose between treatments or procedures that Fido needs, or gifts for the children.
Roger L. Welton, DVM