The Price You Pay for not Going to the Vet
Today’s guest post is from Denise van Lent, a Dutch biologist specializing in feline behavior.
American research1 shows that cats visit veterinarians less frequently than dogs. The number of owned cats however, keeps increasing. Why do more and more people refuse to go the vet? This phenomenon can partly be explained by a lack of funding. People can simply not afford the increasing costs of medical care for their animals. But there are other factors that also play a role. Some cat owners just don’t understand the importance of going to the vet. A lot of cats find a visit to the vet extremely stressful and therefore their owners find the visit very stressful.
Which is a shame, because the cat has great talent when it comes to hiding pain and sickness. The only one that can see through this façade is the veterinarian. Some relatively minor ailments that are easy to fix, can turn into serious (chronic) diseases if left untreated. So it is often more expensive to not go to the vet compared to a visit to the vet.
Cats: masters of hiding illness and pain
This behavior actually protects them in the wild. When cats openly show disease or pain, they risk losing their territory. In addition, they are more easily caught and eaten by predators. Coyotes find cats a tasty snack. So cats that are talented in hiding signs of weakness (pain and illness) survive longer. Following from this, most illnesses in cats are not apparent until it is too late. When their normal behavior changes such that pain becomes noticeable, the cat is already so weak that it has no energy left to hide it. This is often the time that cat owners go to the veterinarian. Visiting your veterinarian regularly is the best way to detect diseases early. Unfortunately, 40% of the cat owners only visit the vet for vaccinations. This became apparent from research conducted by Bayer HealthCare.
It is a castrated tom and 6 years old. A few weeks ago Simba started licking his abdomen excessively. Simba meowed a lot and became very restless, especially at night. His cat owner found the meowing really annoying. She didn’t think anything was wrong with Simba because he still ate and drank well.
In reality, Simba was already quite ill. All subtle symptoms of pain and disease (meowing, restless, excessive licking) were overlooked or not taken seriously by his owner. A cat that normally eats and drinks is not necessarily healthy. If the behavior of Simba had been reason enough to go to the vet, the cost at this stage would have been:
- Consultation costs $45
- Urine sample testing $20
- Pain killers $12.00
- Vet exclusive diet for 1 month $ 31.99
- Total: around $100 dollars
Note: Costs are estimated.
At the vet Simba would have been examined and his urine would have been analyzed. Under the microscope bladder stones would have been found. For 100 dollars Simba could have been healthy again with no permanent damage.
The price of not going to the vet
But, unfortunately for Simba the cat owner did not go to the vet, so his problem was left untreated. Simba begun to visit the litter box more frequently, sometimes up to 8 times in fifteen minutes! His owner did not understand why because Simba was not urinating or defecating. The meowing eventually stopped and Simba barely responded to his name. He would not eat or drink at this point which the owner did find upsetting enough to make an appointment with the vet. Additionally, Simba began vomiting regularly.
The same evening Simba fell to the ground, not able to get up. Because Simba’s’ bladder stones were left untreated he was now suffering of urinary tract obstruction. When the bladder is infected, there are always inflammatory cells formed that can form a plug in the urethra in combination with bladder stones. This plug clogs the bladder so that the cat cannot urinate. As a result, the bladder is filling up and the kidneys cannot clear the body of waste. Simba is in a lot of pain. Whenever a cat is suffering from an obstruction he should be operated within 24 hours to remove the stones, otherwise he dies.
At this stage, the costs to make Simba healthy again are significantly higher than $100.
- Consult weekend $105.50
- X-ray or ultrasound $85.00
- Urinalysis $46.25
- Blood test to determine kidney damage $76.50
- Anesthetics $50.75
- Flush urethra $10.25
- Operating costs $57.25
- Pain relief $12.99
- Bladderstones solving food per month $40.25
Total costs? Ranging from $ 450 to 2,000 depending on the (permanent) damage that Simba suffered to his bladder, kidneys and heart.
How many additional treatments Simba needs to get back to normal is difficult to say. He will have to get special food for the rest of his life. The costs to make Simba better could have been much lower if the owner went to the vet straight away. Although the prices in this blog are realistic, they can obviously vary per veterinarian. Visit your vet annually to detect illnesses early.
Behavioral problems become worse when left untreated as well.
1. People, JO, Felsted, KE, Thomas, JG, & Siren, CW (2011). Executive summary of the Bayer veterinary care usage study. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 238 (10), 1275- 1282
Denise van Lent is a Dutch biologist specialized in feline behavior and obesity. She is the owner of the institute for animal welfare and behavior ‘lekker in je vacht‘ which translates to “comfortable in your fur”. It is an organisation for research and knowledge transfer regarding the well-being and welfare of pets. The institute offers personal support per email consultation.