Pet health in post Covid-19 times Print E-mail
News - Rubrieke
Friday, 17 July 2020 14:37
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Dr Liesel van der Merwe

Money is tight for many of us, and financial insecurity is not going to go away very soon. The ‘normal’ as we know it is changing. Pet expenses are some of the first things to be cut down on in many families with severe financial constraints and this is understandable. School fees need to be paid before Fido gets his dental paid for. I am already seeing this where I work. There is just no spending money available and, if there is, many clients would rather save it for an even rainier day than spend it on an expensive procedure for their pets.

This is also not necessarily an easy decision for pet owners, but many people have to weigh up financial security for their family against the immediate expenditure on a much loved pet.

Veterinarians are also facing reduced income in the next few years as people’s disposable income drops. We cannot reduce fees because we feel sorry for our clients’ situation, otherwise the practice will just end up in financial distress with job losses or closure.

Medical supplies are not getting cheaper and neither are staff salaries or property expenses. Needless to say, we still want to provide a high standard of treatment, so we cannot just slash staff, consumables and equipment. Accounts and deferred payment are also roads to insolvency.

So, that leaves the responsibility shared. Vets will have to be very conscious of selecting procedures, tests and treatments based on sound diagnostic and treatment plans. These can be tailored to an expected outcome, which, to a certain extent, can be tailored to a client’s financial capacity. Clients need to make sure they have a certain amount of money available to allow vets to do their work.

Here pet insurance is something everyone must consider. There are plans to suit all pockets, but you must read the fine print. Accident cover plans are the cheapest for all medical aids. These will cover events such as dog bite wounds, car accidents, trauma causing skin lacerations, poisoning, intestinal foreign bodies and falls. Some slightly more expensive ones will also cover events such as gastric dilation and torsion.

I cannot overemphasise how important it is that clients with financial constraints should take out insurance. For example, R60 per month translates to R720 per year. This will make R8 000 available for accident costs in one year using a certain plan’s policy.

This would cover a large proportion of the costs of most fracture repair or severe bite wound treatment and uncomplicated foreign body removal and all the costs of the treatment of smaller wounds and lacerations.

As an owner you may have to contribute a few thousand extra in severe cases. This makes treatment affordable again in a financially constrained environment and the monthly contributions are manageable in most households.

But buyer beware: Some of these policies have a maximum amount per claim and others specify what the maximum is and divide it into fees for different procedures, such as a maximum of R1 120 for surgery and R850 for radiographs per claim. If you look at the average cost for many surgical procedures, these amounts may not cover a significant percentage of the costs.

This limits the flexibility of these plans. Fido will not need the balance of the yearly allowance if you cannot afford to fix his fracture this week. If you are uncertain, approach you vet and ask him how the amounts available stack up against the average expenses per condition. Some pet insurance also has an excess payable and a waiting period.

Looking at the products available, accident cover is definitely affordable and should be considered if you do not have pet insurance and are feeling the pinch. With a good accident cover you should be able to pay for those lifesaving procedures for once-off transient traumatic conditions, thus preventing much heartache and stress when accidents happen.

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