The Financial Wisdom of Disease Prevention

Photo Credit: © Kathie Meier

We’re all familiar with the Ben Franklin adage, “An ounce of prevention is with a pound of cure.” But how does this actually translate into dollars and cents when it comes to the health of our pets? Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) has answered this question.

Presented below is VPI’s analysis comparing 2012 costs for prevention and treatment of some common canine and feline maladies. Keep in mind, these numbers represent averages. Depending on where you live, expenses may be considerably higher or lower.

Infectious diseases (canine parvovirus, feline leukemia virus)

Average treatment cost: $678.24

Average prevention cost: $85.14 (dogs) and $73.52 (cats)

Intestinal parasites (roundworms, tapeworms, giardia)

Average treatment cost: $179.93

Average prevention cost: $29.51

Diseases caused by nonintestinal parasites (heartworm disease, tick borne disease, flea allergy dermatitis)

Average treatment cost: $180.67

Average prevention cost: $84.89

Reproductive organ disease (pyometra, prostatitis)

Average treatment cost: $531.98

Average prevention cost: $260.69

Dental diseases (cavities, tooth infections, periodontal disease)

Average treatment cost: $531.71

Average prevention cost $171.82

I’ll be honest with you- I’m not altogether sure how VPI calculated these numbers. The cost for treatment of intestinal parasites seems rather exorbitant and I cannot imagine effectively treating a pup sick with parvovirus disease for under $700.00. Nonetheless, I appreciate what this data is conveying- preventive care for our four-legged family members makes good financial sense. More importantly, and what is not presented in VPI’s analysis, I think we can all agree that preventive care makes good sense purely from the perspective of avoidance of illness and suffering. Discussion of preventive care with your veterinarian should be a top priority at every annual health visit.

Have you ever paid a hefty amount to treat a disease that could have been easily prevented?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.




Be Sociable, Share!

9 Comments on “The Financial Wisdom of Disease Prevention

  1. After Katie’s diagnosis of lupus, we have held tight to feeding natural, cool meats, low-glycemic veggies and lots of supplements(fish oil, immune blend, etc). She has had no re-occurence of the horrible “butterfly lesion” and is happy, healthy and full of “it”! Yearly tests for fecal, h/w, titres and very little exposure to chemicals(as much as I can control). If a mohawk design appears on her nose, I give only a fraction of a 5mg pred. and it disappears.

    Nutrition is the key to controlling Katie’s auto-immune.

    The Other Nancy

  2. I also agree that the numbers may be off a bit; but I could not agree more that preventative care is as basic as food. And as I have said before, often the comments are as informative as your article! I have fostered several dogs with heartworms; they have all survived, but it was brutal, and one, who I later adopted, has long-term damage. I keep all my dogs on preventative year-round. Treatment here, at my incredible low-cost vet, is $800, and so many dogs who come into rescue have it. I am constantly amazed that I still talk to people who do not use it! One person said his vet told him we did not have it in this area!!!
    And I have learned from my own medications that it is important to learn what the side effects of any medication may be. As someone else wrote, ask a million questions! I also do not like to give my dogs flea preventative, although I do use them when necessary. When I only had 2 dogs, as soon as they started scratching, I’d just give them a bath.
    Your previous column about early spay and neuter still has me thinking! I absolutely support the spay/neuter of all dogs at the appropriate time. I find in my travels that there are so many men who own pibbles (which I love) and ALL of them plan to breed :-( Instead of trying to reason with them about the appalling numbers who are killed in pounds, I tell them about my wonderful PB Sibe, who I did not neuter. I planned to; but then I had a life threatening injury, and he never got in fights or chased girls, so I let it go… until he was 9 and got testicular cancer. I spent thousands of dollars on his surgery, his follow-up sonograms and care to ensure it did not return. I almost lost him, and for that reason alone, I will never leave a male intact again. This does seem to get through to some men.

    The other BIG preventative I always rely on, which was mentioned, is FOOD. I firmly believe, and from my own lifetime experience, that the less you spend on food, the more you spend on vet visits. Most of the kibble that is sold is, IMHO, cancer in a bowl; which is why, again in my opinion, over 80% of dogs (and a large percentage of cats) die of cancer in this country. I hope everyone will read this info and use it when you buy pet food:

  3. Well, one size does not fit all when it comes to preventative care.

    There are plenty of valid reasons for rejecting conventional DVM advice besides cost.

    I am fortunate to have vets that work cooperatively with me to ensure that my dogs are in the best health.

  4. A big part of preventive care is asking questions and researching on your own.

    An example: when our dog, Venus Iris, developed inflammatory bowel disease, our vet put her on Prednisone, which made her fine. But unfortunately, dogs of her long-nosed breed are susceptible to nasal aspergillosis when taking steroids. Had we been told this, we would have known not to let her dig and snuffle into the soil and she might not have gotten nasal A., which is what ended her life.

    My new tenet of preventive care for my animals and myself is that I will not give or take any drug until I have asked tons of questions after also doing my own research.

    And I have an excellent vet — the poor people who have negligent ones.

  5. Preventive care is absolutely essential!

    Yearly (or twice yearly with older animals) full physical, including blood & urine work, also tick titer if you live in tick country, heartworm test, Frontline, etc. to kill ticks, fleas, mosquitos, etc. The best food you can afford, periodic tooth cleanings, daily tooth brushing, car seatbelt, “feeling” your dog or cat for lumps weekly, and more.

    My dogs had a million health issues, but we were fortunate in catching most of them early on and treating them. When we did not, they died. Ultimately, of course, they all died, but preventive and diagnostic care helped enormously.

  6. I agree that the cost-benefit analysis seems flawed; the cost side looks wrong for these items but some of the implied prevention numbers are also weird. Preventative dental care? What, exactly, are they suggesting that is so costly? Annual dental cleaning? That includes anesthesia, which is not exactly in a dog’s best interest.

    The VPI premise overlooks this fact. There is much more to preventative care than simply dousing our animals routinely with chemicals and pharmaceutical products. Anne’s sad story about Andy supports that.

    I wonder if any products in the VPI portfolio cover holistic approaches.

  7. When I read the subject I wondered about which disease I could have prevented in my own dogs. After reading your post I realize that I’ve got my dogs covered, but there are many dogs I’ve cared for that could use a little extra help. I have fostered many dogs over the years and I live in North Carolina. Almost all of the dogs that come into the rescue are heart worm positive and have other types of worms as well. In the South it is a given that your dog will be exposed to mosquitos and most likely get heart worm if they are not on heart worm preventative. Heart worm is treatable, but it is expensive and can kill a dog. The risk of death is not small and lasts for a period of 4-6 weeks after treatment. It is heartbreaking when a dog – through no fault of his (or her) own dies from heart worm or the treatment. In case you are wondering – my dogs are all on heart worm preventative.

  8. I was a client for 30 years before I started working as a receptionist for my veterinarian 4 years ago. Every annual visit, I was asked if I had any questions about my dogs’ health. I always bought my heartworm and flea and tick preventative from the clinic, and my dogs have always been on a high quality dog food. If I had a questions I knew I could ask at any time and if any of the doctors didn’t know the answer they’d find it. I have also been what we call “an informed client” – I ask questions, I observe my pets, and I keep up with the latest information. But what I am seeing more and more while working there are the clients who don’t listen, don’t pay attention, or don’t follow recommendations when given. So many think we’re out for their money, so they buy their products online (and those products are NOT guaranteed by the companies unless purchased from a clinic – especially heartworm companies!), and ignore our doctors’ advice about over-feeding, vaccinations, spaying/neutering, etc. Orthopedic surgery on an overweight dog who has blown out his/her knee is, at the least $3000 around here. We’ve even had a client refuse xrays when the doctor suspected osteosarcoma, then when it was diagnosed, the client blamed our clinic for misdiagnosing it initially. All because the client said “we are just out for their money”. They weren’t thinking of the pain that poor dog was in for weeks despite our senior vet strongly advising them to get a definitive diagnosis. And sadly, when the dog broke that leg just sitting in the owner’s car, we had to euthanize her, and the client blamed us for everything and left. Many of us at the desk and in the clinic have noticed more and more how reactive people are, how much more rude some of them are, and how most of that boils down to money. The economy has made people defensive, and rightly so. But as is pointed out in your article, it can be a whole lot worse ignoring preventative measures.

  9. I don’t know if I could have prevented it, but I could have prolonged the onset of it. My little Dachshund, Andy, developed diabetes. It was not detected until he was in full blown pancreatitis. The first of a very expensive two years of treatment before I let him go to the rainbow bridge when his lungs collapsed. In two years, I spent at least 20K trying to keep him alive. He was my world and I would have done anything. Andy had severe allergies and the only thing my Vet did was pump him full of steroids. Steroids led to weight gain along with me feeding him too much and the wrong food. The good news is that all the Dachshunds that have come after him live very different lives. Food is very high quality, no sugar or excessive carbs. Weight control is paramount. We weigh in at least twice a month.Vet visit once a year for a full blood panel. I gained a lot of knowledge during those two years. I only wish I had gone to a Vet that would have explained all these things to me rather than give Andy excessive steroids for his allergies. We know there is a genetic component to Diabetes because all fat dogs do not develop it. But I could at very least prolonged the onset or maybe prevented it all together. I know that he died at age 7. I would give anything for even one more day. Preventative care is everything!