The price of pets

PUHI — Poli the dog was lost in Polihale when Diana Saunders and her husband found him two years ago.

Now, he has regular visits to the veterinarian, the groomer and the Freddie’s Dog Park by Kauai Humane Society with Saunders, who lives in Lawai.

“He’s so happy and he has so much energy,” said Saunders, sitting in the afternoon shade at the dog park and watching Poli wander around some trees. “But today he’s tired, it’s hot.”

Poli’s health is important to Saunders, even though it can be expensive being a pet owner and she said she takes Poli to the vet annually for checkups.

“When we first got him, we took him to get his shots and up to date on everything,” she said. “Yeah, vet bills can get expensive.”

And in Hawaii, those vet visits can be even more expensive than other places in the country.

According to a survey compiled by the insurance company Petplan, the state is third in the country for having the highest annual veterinary care per pet, with an estimated cost of $1,480.

California is the most expensive state for veterinary care, with an estimated $1,521 per pet annually in vet bills.

The company is using the numbers to promote its pet insurance plans, which cost $440 annually, as a way to help curb unexpected vet visits.

David Haas, veterinarian at Lihue Veterinarian Hospital, said pet insurance could save pet owners a few headaches, but it’s not imperative to have on hand.

“If you have the money for insurance, it’s probably a good idea because you don’t have to come up with the money right away,” Haas said. “But you could just put the money into an account and save it for yourself.”

Cruciate injuries, or tears to the ligaments around the knees; foreign body ingestion, and cancer are Petplan’s estimated top conditions that land pets in the vet annually; and those can come with price tags up to $3,000 to treat.

Haas said on Kauai, most animals show up unexpectedly at the vet for one of two reasons: they’ve been paralyzed by a back problem, or they are suddenly ill.

“I don’t see very many pets choking on things. Sometimes they are hit by cars,” Haas said. “Usually it’s something like the owners are unaware the animal has a back problem and suddenly it’s paralyzed, can’t walk.”

The cost of those surprise visits can vary, he said, depending on the underlying health problem.

Other ways to help with vet bills is to try and prevent emergencies by making sure animals have regular vaccinations, are contained so they can’t run loose, and that they are on a well-balanced diet, Haas said.

Saunders doesn’t have pet insurance for Poli, but she wonders what would happen if he were to get suddenly sick.

“We’d definitely take him in (to the vet),” she said. “We’d have to figure out something because we like to take good care of him.”


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