Drugs and the Rising Cost of Pet Healthcare

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dog medsI attended (and presented “My Dog at What?”) at the BarkWorld Conference last week.  It was a fun event with many great presentations on a wide array of topics that are relevant for today’s pet industry.


There was one presentation on the rising cost of pet medicine, by PetCareRX.com (an online pet drug store), that really got me thinking about the way we treat our pet’s health problems.  During the session, the presenters revealed some survey data that they had collected which included the following nuggets:

  • About 75% of pet owners said that they would modify (scale back) their life style in order to provide better care for their pet.
  • The survey also revealed that many pet owners are cutting back on the dosages of their pet meds in order to save money.


When I asked about the apparent inconsistency in these two results, the presenters suggested that, despite the pet owner’s best intentions to provide the best care, the high cost of prescription drugs was forcing pet owners to reduce dosage amounts.  Who knows, maybe this is true.  It also could mean that the answers provided in response to a survey have little bearing to reality, especially when reality means shelling out cash. 😉


No matter the survey results, it seems to me that we are missing the bigger story here.  Why is it that we look to solve our health problems by way of medications and pills?  We do this as humans; have you seen all of the television commercials which describe all the wonders of the <insert color here> pill?  Believe it or not, there is a commercial for a pill to help people who take another pill.   Unfortunately, our reliance on meds is not limited to ourselves; it appears that we do the same for our pets.


Maybe instead of worrying about the high cost of medication, we should focus on reducing the chances that our pets (or ourselves) get these diseases to begin with. How can we do this?  Proper diet and exercise for our pets.    Having an overweight pet can lead to:

  • osteoarthritis,
  • high blood pressure
  • respiratory problems
  • type 2 diabetes
  • kidney disease
  • shortened life expectancy


These and so many other health conditions can be avoided by keeping our pets fit and trim. But because more than half of our dogs and cats are overweight or obese, we are spending billions of dollars on medicine and treatments that could be otherwise avoided.


jack on balance4In my opinion, the best way to reduce your medication and overall pet healthcare costs is to learn how to properly exercise and feed your pet so that they maintain a healthy weight and strong muscular-skeletal system for their entire life.  When we first rescued SlimDoggy Jack, he was on both Prozac and Rimadyl.  I realize that Prozac is not ‘typical’ but Rimadyl and other pet anti-inflammatories are very common.  Did Jack need to be taking Rimadyl?  The vet said that he needed it for his joint pain.  Did he really?  Or did he simply need to lose 20 lbs and get proper exercise to build muscle and tendon strength to take some of the load off of his poor overloaded joints?   For those who don’t know, Jack lost the weight and both of these medications in three months, saving his family several hundreds of dollars a year in medicine costs.


Here is another way to think about this.  If I was a doctor and said I could provide a treatment to increase life span, reduce the incidence of cardiovascular and many other diseases, could ensure an active lifestyle and improved mobility, make you look years younger, and maybe even give you a little ‘buzz’ too, there would be a line several miles long to see me.  Well guess what, there is such a treatment.  It is called proper diet and exercise.  And this treatment is currently available to both humans and their pets.  So line up.  Or at least line up your dogs.


I do understand that there are medical conditions that are unrelated to body weight and that medicine can improve the quality of life for the stricken pet.   But we really need to change our thinking about medicines and stop running to the pharmacy to ‘solve’ our health problems.  This goes for both humans and our pets.


Who’s with me?

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  1. I couldn’t agree more with this and I also believe that it’s a two way street. I know several vets who are quick to throw a medication at a pet, like an antibiotic for certain concerns-even though it might not be warranted. However, I also see a lot of pet owners who want a medication to get a quick fix instead of exploring other natural treatments, that may take more time and energy.
    Jen recently posted…8 Things That Made Me Smile This WeekendMy Profile

    • I say let’s PREVENT as many health issues as possible by keeping our dogs fit and trim. If the problem is prevented, there is no need for a treatment at all!
      steve recently posted…Drugs and the Rising Cost of Pet HealthcareMy Profile

  2. I also think it’s true for both animals and humans alike! Plus so many medications also lead to additional problems, isn’t it better to try a natural way if it’s an option? My Mum is currently deep into research about gluten and humans and it’s a real eye opener, I’m happy I’ve been grain free for years! 🙂

    Wags to all,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂
    snoopy recently posted…Monday Mischief – Double trouble!My Profile

    • To me, the key point is that a lot of ailments are totally preventable with proper diet and exercise. Which means that there isn’t even a need to treat the problem, let alone treat it naturally, because it doesn’t exist!
      steve recently posted…Drugs and the Rising Cost of Pet HealthcareMy Profile

  3. I agree 100%, if only we looked for the cause, not the cure…

  4. Totally agree – we want the quick fix meds can bring to some problems and don’t want to do the hard work. Now that being said, there is a time and place for medication, but it should be limited.
    Hailey and Zaphod recently posted…Mischief Monday – In the darkest of nightsMy Profile

    • Yes, agreed. We could eliminate the need for a lot of prescriptions and other medical costs by simply learning how much to feed and exercise our dogs. Such a simple, yet elusive concept for some reason.
      steve recently posted…Drugs and the Rising Cost of Pet HealthcareMy Profile

  5. This is exactly the reason why we switched our dogs diet. Despite having a very mild winter and the expectation of a bad flea season – not one flea. Last summer each of our dogs went to the vet at least 1x (Blue went 4-5x). This year, we haven’t even needed to call the vet.

    The biggest health issue we’ve dealt with (besides gas when I had an epic fail making their raw food) was a little tummy issues after over eating (they really like their food). I’ve learned that just because they ask for more food doesn’t mean they should get more food.

    I know that accidents can still happen, but it’s nice to know that we’re at least doing something to work towards prevention. I’m curious to know if we should start massaging our dogs’ muscles before and after long walks and heavy play sessions – just like we do when we work out.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…I Love It When a Dog Parent Doesn’t Flip When a Dog Fight HappenMy Profile

    • Massage is a great way to warmup before exercise. Couple that with some stretching drills and they should be ready to handle anything.

      Post workout, consider a cool down period and stretch/massage as well. If running or doing intense exercises, a slow walk is another way to cool down safely.
      steve recently posted…Drugs and the Rising Cost of Pet HealthcareMy Profile

  6. About a year or so ago I had a discussion with the vet who owns the clinic we go to about the rising cost of medication for pets. It is not just those which offer a better quality of life for an aging pet, but basic antibiotics. He said that certain basic antibiotics that used to cost cents a pill, now may cost a dollar or more a pill. He said that it hindered his practice when people could not afford basic medications to treat their pets. I like him because he considers the reason for the meds, and the cost and explains thoroughly and asks our opinion before dispensing meds.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Monday Mischief–Free!My Profile

    • Yes, meds are so expensive. Which is why it makes so much sense for pet owners to keep their dogs fit and trim so that they are less likely to need them.

      We need to stop thinking that pills are the answer and start focusing on prevention and healthy lifestyles. Same for us humans!
      steve recently posted…Drugs and the Rising Cost of Pet HealthcareMy Profile

  7. Absolutely. As a veterinarian I always tell my owners with arthritic pets that the best way to get their pet feeling better is healthy weight loss, even after arthritis has already developed. There are also great non-pharmaceutical options like acupuncture and physical therapy keeping a lot of pets moving.

    Some pets may benefit from pain medication to get them going, but then can have their medication weaned down or off completely.

    • It is nice to hear that as a vet, you are thinking like this.

      If more people were focused on their dog’s weight and fitness, we could save so much money on meds and while doing so increase the quality of our dogs life as well as their lifespan.
      steve recently posted…Drugs and the Rising Cost of Pet HealthcareMy Profile

  8. I’m definitely with you, my friend! I recently changed my girls from Wellness Core to Fresh Pet, and started seeing improvements in their bathroom “habits” almost immediately. I do plan to eventually get them eating more of the same food that we eat, but the Fresh Pet is a good back-up plan (even though more expensive than the Wellness kibble). I don’t mind spending more money when I get the kind of results I’ve been seeing.

    Thanks for all these great, informative posts lately! Not that past ones haven’t been mind you, but I have really been enjoying these last two or three week’s worth. 🙂

    • Glad to hear you are with us! Now let’s find another thousand people (and dogs) to ‘join up’!

      Fresh Pet is a very innovative Brand. We are getting to know them better and think that they are onto something.
      steve recently posted…Sweetener Stats – Sweets in Dog Food and Treats.My Profile

  9. Truthfully? I think our lives have become super busy which means people feel pressed for time so they take the easy way. If they’d only realize that taking a half hour out of their day would help both them and their dogs, there would be a lot less pills being pushed in this country.
    Jodi recently posted…Tuesday Just Got Tasty at Our HouseMy Profile

    • I agree – we didn’t used to need all these meds to get through the day, and neither did our dogs.
      mkob recently posted…Wordless Wednesday 8-27-13My Profile

  10. I thought that entire presentation was BS. If you want to tell everyone about your great pharmacy go rent a booth!

    That survey only had 420 respondents if I remember correctly. I am not good at math but that is not a a large survey pool.
    Singing Dogs recently posted…BarkWorld 2013 RecapMy Profile

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