Can you afford surgery on your pet?

Pets commonly get into things they shouldn’t. When they swallow something, we call that a foreign body.

Recent foreign bodies we have removed from cats and dogs include, from memory: pieces of a belt, of an electric cord, of floss, of a yoga matt, of a basketball; a chicken bone, a sock, a rubber toy, an acorn, a squeaky toy, a sewing needle, hair ties, a giant hairball and an ear plug.

Foreign bodies

They were stuck in the esophagus (the tube between the mouth and the stomach), the stomach, the small intestine or the large intestine.

And that’s just with one surgeon!

Add the strange objects removed by other surgeons and family vets, and that’s a whole lot of foreign bodies!

Trupanion, the pet insurance company (which I don’t endorse by the way), published an interesting picture that I thought I should share with you.

It’s a good visual reminder that foreign bodies can get stuck anywhere along the GI tract. In addition, the company explains the financial consequences of our pets’ craziness.

Blocked foreign bodies are the second most common insurance claim among dog owners and the third most common from cat owners. The company refunded pet owners over $1.8 million in 2014.

In case you cannot see the picture above, here are the average amounts, by location:

  • Mouth: $ 370
  • Esophagus: $ 920
  • Stomach: $ 1,140
  • Small intestine: $ 1,640
  • Colon: $ 640

In addition, two specific surgeries mentioned are:

  • Linear foreign bodies (think floss or ribbon): $ 2,400
  • Septic foreign bodies (i.e. there was leakage from the intestine): $4,210

There is only one little problem with these average amounts. It’s good information, but averages can be very misleading. Combined in these numbers are quick and long surgeries, simple and complex surgeries, surgeries performed in Manhattan, KS and Manhattan, NY, and surgeries performed by family vets and board-certified surgeons. So what it means is that the $1,640 average cost of intestinal surgery may really be $1,000 for one pet owner and $3,000 for another pet owner.

Which one could you be?

At least, those pet owners were lucky: they had pet insurance to help with the cost of surgery. Meanwhile, countless pets ended up euthanized because their owners couldn’t afford surgery.

So please take these numbers with a grain of salt.

And more importantly, unless you can afford a $3,000 bill (for a foreign body or any other health problem), please seriously consider pet insurance. It could save your pet’s life.

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling veterinary surgeon in Pennsylvania & New Jersey. An award-winning author, he loves to share his adventures in practice along with information about vet medicine and surgery that can really help your pets. Dr. Zeltzman specializes in orthopedic, neurologic, cancer, and soft tissue surgeries for dogs, cats, and small exotics. By working with local family vets, he offers the best surgical care, safest anesthesia, and utmost pain management to all his patients. Sign up to get an email when he updates his blog, and follow him on Facebook, too!