In the UK, pet owners are more likely to elect advanced, specialist veterinary treatments over euthanising their pet when they are very ill. The phrase “to put him out of his misery” is dying out.
The demand for advanced veterinary treatments in Britain has doubled amongst the major veterinary businesses to an annual turnover of more than £1bn.
The turnover of the hundred largest veterinary practices increased from £635m in 2010 to £1.36bn in 2014. The information comes from a leading financial provider, LDF.
As the demand for specialist veterinary treatment grows, veterinarians are specialising in cardiology, oncology and orthopaedics. Some focus on prosthetics and dialysis.
I think this development is interesting because it indicates that people are treating their cats and dogs as family members. The medical treatment that they receive is very similar to the treatment received by a human family member. In fact, today, almost anything by way of medical treatment can be delivered to a pet in the same way that it can be delivered to a human.
Back in the old days a person might say “it is only a cat” or “it’s only a dog” (this still occurs, of course). The meaning was that it is not worth spending lots of money on a cat or dog and the best thing to do is to put him down when seriously ill. Times are changing and overall this must be a good thing.
It appears that more people are treating their cats and dogs as a true family member rather than as an accessory to the family. The danger, though, is that people will more often anthropomorphise their pet which can bring problems. For example, the expectations of people who look upon their pet as a little human can be misplaced. They can end up expecting their cat or dog to behave in a human manner, rather than in the manner of a dog or a cat. The person may become disappointed. This, in turn, may lead to abandonment of their pet, or an unsatisfactory relationship.
Robin Hargreaves, senior vice president of the British Veterinary Association said:
“Clients ask me what can we do and my opening line is often, ‘pretty much anything that can be done to you or me can be done to this dog or cat.'”
Mr Hargreaves said that social attitudes had changed. People no longer face ridicule when spending a lot of money on their animals.
“30 years ago, if somebody told their friends and family there were going to pay for an operation, probably a lot of people would have said, ‘for goodness sake, it’s only a dog.'”
People are more open to the idea of treating their animals rather than euthanising and replacing them. Indeed many pet owners feel guilty if they don’t medically treat their pet and elect euthanasia instead.
This is good, as mentioned, but there is another danger which is that sometimes the best course of action is to euthanise your cat or dog. Sometimes people put their cat or dog food through too much treatment or inappropriate treatment perhaps because they’re thinking of themselves rather than the well-being of their dog or cat. Or, their vet recommends it in the knowledge that it is a good income producer.
In Britain about 2.6m pet owners have pet insurance to cover medical costs according to the consumer group: Which?
Source: Times – Ben Webster