The 10 Vet Bills That Stole Christmas

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Sure, it's the most wonderful time of the year, but that doesn't mean Rover won't get sick, break a leg, or eat a nativity set.

"He ate a sheep and a wise man," said Deborah Breen of Brewster, New York, whose American bulldog Achilles made a snack of her holiday decorations. "He didn't need surgery, but between the emergency room visit, testing and medication, the bill still came out to about $400. He was a little out of sorts for a week or so, but once everything passed, he got better."

Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the nation's oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, has received more than one million claims for pet accidents and illnesses this year, including Achilles' dietary indiscretion. VPI's data reveals that non-routine veterinary expenses are a costly reality of pet ownership. Amid economic woes and approaching holidays, pet owners unprepared for a pet's medical emergency may have to curtail spending on gifts. To put some perspective on pet care costs, VPI tracked average claim amounts for some of 2008's most common conditions and compared those amounts with prices on a selection of this year's top gifts.

If your pet gets You may not be able to get

1. Surgery for ingested object ($1,452)
1. Apple MacBook 2.0 GHz 13-inch Laptop ($1,299)

2. Pneumonia ($583)
2. Canon Powershot G10 Digital Camera ($499)

3. Gum Disease requiring surgery ($361)
3. Nintendo Wii with Wii Fit game ($340)


4. Benign skin tumors ($339)
4. Apple iPod Touch 16 GB ($299)

5. Gastritis/Upset Stomach ($228)
5. Flip MinoHD Digital Camcorder ($229)

6. Laceration ($224)
6. Garmin nuvi 200 Portable GPS($199)

7. Bladder Infection ($179)
7. Coach Soho Leather Swingpack($148)

8. Sprain ($142)
8. Barbie Three-Story Dream House ($119)

9. Skin Allergies ($106)
9. Ab Rocket Abdominal Trainer ($99)

10. Ear Infection ($95) 10. Guitar Hero III Legends of Rock Bundle ($99)

This year VPI has received more than 160,000 claims for the aforementioned conditions with submitted fees totaling about $26 million. In contrast to these pricey treatments, VPI Pet Insurance policies start at about $30 a month and help offset costs for the above conditions and countless others, such as cancer, broken bones and diabetes. Optional riders for routine and preventive care coverage are also available.

"Part of responsible pet ownership is financial planning for a medical emergency," said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. "The options are to create a dedicated pet savings account, designate a credit card for pet emergencies, purchase a pet insurance policy, or all of the above. These precautions may help prevent the unenviable situation in which pet owners have to choose between their pet's care and that Barbie Dream House."