America should have universal vet care for dogs

Owning a dog is excellent for your health. For at least half of the 50,000 years that modern humans have lived, it has been with dogs waggling at our side. And long before dogs began to be bred specifically as companions—from small groomed dogs to professionally trained service dogs—their survival depended on them being precisely attuned to the moods and behaviors of the humans who joined them in hunting. In the course of domestication, dogs have become natural support systems for humans.

It is not surprising, then, that modern science is aware of the benefits to our mood. Dogs have been shown to improve stress and lower blood pressure, especially to increase physical activity in people who may be sedentary. Widespread dogs can help lower personal, professional, and government medical costs. Keep in mind that dogs are a tool for public health, meaning: As more Americans adopt dogs, we have the potential to become a healthier nation as a result.

Like many health preventative medications, dogs are expensive. Dog food prices are on the rise. Group classes of basic obedience training average about $50 an hour. Training a dog for support or treatment purposes—that is, turning the dog into a specialist intervention for a health disease—is more expensive. However, the highest cost is the one that owners have the least control over: veterinary care. Routine visits can cost anywhere from $700 to $1,500 a year, between doctors’ fees and vaccinations. Then there are emergencies. The majority of American dog owners today cannot afford emergency veterinary care. No wonder emergency pet surgeries are such a popular GoFundMe category.

Given that the world is becoming an increasingly stressful place (where dogs are uniquely positioned to help!), I would suggest that the time is right for comprehensive veterinary care.

Of course, we should have comprehensive medical care for humans as well. If there is one option or the other, people need to take care of their medical bills first — no doubt. But it is clear that our politicians will not agree on health care reform anytime soon, given that it is one of the most politically divisive topics in the country. On the other hand, dogs seem to be something that people across the political spectrum agree on. If researchers agree that dogs make America healthier, and Americans’ love of dogs bridges the political divide, reforming health care for our pets could be the path toward a more unifying conversation about a healthier life for all of us.

It’s hard to miss the similarities between human and pet health care. The pet insurance industry, like its human counterpart, is somewhat broken. Since the start of the pandemic, it has enjoyed double-digit growth as families try to plan emergencies for their furry loved ones. But most insurance doesn’t cover routine visits, vaccinations, or pre-existing conditions, and so is of little help for most owners who adopt special needs dogs, or those looking to find a new plan for their poor pets. Plans that provide more comprehensive coverage can cost up to $155 per month. And to add insult to injury, regardless of the price, the monthly premiums for dogs are twice those for cats. Dogs are more susceptible to diseases and easier to care for than cats.

The most important question that rescues and shelters ask potential adopters is: Can you afford to take your dog to the vet? To prove that one is able to take care of the dog’s medical needs, one pays the re-house or adoption fee, which is about $500 on average. (Four hundred thousand dogs are killed every year in overcrowded shelters in the US You should lower the barriers to dog adoption — not make people prove they have surplus cash around.) The irony of this is that the people who will benefit most from dogs are those who struggle to maintain basic stability, and who may have difficulty paying fees and aftercare. The data shows extraordinary success with the introduction of dog programs to any “at risk” population. Prison animal programs are booming across the country and boast a low recidivism rate among inmates who have worked with animals in training programs.Dog training programs are used to rehabilitate at-risk young adults, and therapy dogs work in long-term care settings such as nursing homes. Service dogs are known to help relieve everything from depression to PTSD to addiction. But if you’re already managing your own illnesses, it’s unfair to have to pay for those for a therapy dog ​​too – it’s like finding out that your insurance doesn’t cover the medications your doctor prescribed for you.

It’s becoming increasingly clear how much dog owners get away with always having their dogs nearby. People are buying high-tech pet cameras in order to stay connected while they are away from each other, and the dog selfie industry is booming. Some buy homes just to give their dogs a better life. Many are fighting for more and more dog-friendly environments, from the workplace to college dorms to the subway (and who can forget the short period of time when emotional support animals were allowed on flights?). Many people refer to their pets as family, and consider themselves the parents of their pets. Affordable veterinary care should be the next frontier in expanding the importance of dogs in our lives.

Yes, there is a lot of expense when it comes to dogs – from kibble to dog walking services – and we don’t all do that Need A picture of a pet or the latest plush dog food delivered to our door. But those who want to live with dogs should never lose sleep worrying about how they will cover their beloved pet’s medical bills. Life with a dog doesn’t have to be a luxury.

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