Pet insurance might spare owners painful goodbyes

05 September 2008 / by Daniela Gieseler
As many as 1.6 million British pet owners have had to put their dogs and cats to sleep because they could not afford to pay for vet and medical bills, research from Sainsbury's Finance has found.

More than half of all vets said they were asked to put a cat or dog down in the last five years because they had been diagnosed with an illness the owners could not afford to have treated. In fact, 80 per cent said they had had cases where owners had declined treatment because they had not taken out pet insurance.

In total, 927,000 dogs and 822,000 pets were put down in the last five years because of lack of funds for treatment, and research indicates that conditions for pets will not get any easier in the current economic climate.

Furthermore, thousands of pets will be left to suffer before they die from a natural death because their owners cannot afford treatment. In the past five years 2.5 million people admitted that they declined the recommended treatment for their pet because, without pet insurance, it was unaffordable.

Worryingly, research shows that 55 per cent of cats and dogs are not insured so that their owners have to cover the complete bill for the vet's treatment which many people simply cannot afford.

Neal Devine, Sainsbury's pet insurance Manager, comments: "Our findings are very disturbing but also frustrating because in many cases if the owners had taken out good quality pet insurance they would have been able to treat their pet without any problems."

"The current credit crunch could compound this situation even further, with as many as one million pet owners looking to reduce their pet insurance cover or do away with it all together," he predicts, and warns: " This is a false economy because when finances become tighter, it is even more important to have pet insurance so that you can pay any unexpected vet bills."

The East of England counts for the highest percentage of pet owners who have had at least one pet put down in the past five years due to lack of funds (12.1 per cent), closely followed by the West Midlands (11.3 per cent) and the South East (8.8 per cent).

"Vets are in business to treat and save the lives of animals not to put them to sleep because of cost," Steve Dixon, a leading veterinary surgeon, pleaded with pet owners. "It can be heartbreaking for the vet and pet owner when this happens so we always advise owners to take out insurance to help avoid this situation."

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