Three Long Term Plans to Make for Your Pet

Every pet owner needs to think about these three things in advance.

Three long-term plans to make for your pet, in case of sudden vet bills or emergency.
Photo: Mylene2401/Pixabay

By Zazie Todd, PhD

We love our pets, but sometimes it’s hard to think about the potential risks they might face. Here are three things it’s a good idea to think about and plan for, just in case.

1. Financial planning for vet treatment

Everyone knows that vet costs come with owning a pet. There are vaccinations, flea treatments, de-wormers, the costs of spay/neuter, and any necessary dental treatment. But we also have to be prepared for the costs of treatment should our pet become unwell. Unfortunately, this is sometimes very expensive.

One recent study asked people how much they would be willing to pay for a vaccine that would stop their dog from dying from canine influenza (Carlson et al 2019). The conclusion was that the statistical value of a dog’s life is around $10,000 (US – approximately C$13k or £7.6k). In another survey, 52% of dog owners and 42% of cat owners said they would spend “whatever it takes” to keep their pet healthy (Lue et al 2008).  But how much is that?

When a dog or cat needs unexpected treatment at the vet, the average cost ranges from US$800 to US$1500, according to CNBC, but the costs can run much higher. According to insurer Trupanion, examples of claims for vet treatment include C$2,964 for a cat who had swallowed a hair pin, and C$5,453 for emergency treatment for acute liver failure.

Modern veterinary medicine is a lot like human medicine, and includes all kinds of tests and treatments which can be very hi-tech. In an emergency situation, it’s possible you could have just a few minutes to make a decision about treatment costing $10k or even more.

This makes pet insurance seem like a good idea. You can shop around to find a policy that is the right price and provides the kind of coverage you are looking for.

Some people prefer to have a savings account or a line of credit that is available for the pet if needed. Having an emergency savings fund is easy and regular small amounts can add up quickly. Credit plans for vet treatment are also available, and in some places there are charitable schemes that can help with sudden vet costs. 

Whatever plans you make, try to be realistic about what the potential costs might be. If you are the kind of pet owner who would spend “10k” or “whatever it takes” on their dog’s health, it’s worth having a plan to be able to do so, just in case.

2. Emergency plans for your family (including your pet)

It also helps to plan in advance for emergencies, such as a power outage that lasts a few days, a house fire, or a natural disaster like an earthquake or forest fire.

Getting started can be as simple as ensuring that your pet has identification (such as a microchip and a tag with your phone number on their collar) and is trained to go in their carrier (you can find a cat carrier training plan here).

Having copies of your pet’s vaccination certificates, medications, and your vet’s phone number is another thing that’s relatively easy to do.

If you live in an earthquake zone you will want to have enough supplies of water and food that you could get by without help for a certain period of time (some places suggest 72 hours, some suggest that a week might be more realistic after a large quake).

For some pets, investing in training or behaviour advice now may also be part of your emergency plans, because dogs that struggle in new situations are going to be harder to evacuate with. After the magnitude 9 earthquake in Fukushima, Japan, people who had not trained and socialized their pets were more likely to have to leave them behind during the initial evacuation (Yamazaki, 2015).

If you ever have to evacuate, you want to be sure that your pet is coming too. You may want to designate a particular family member to be responsible for ensuring that happens.

3. Plans for if something happens to you

Another thing to bear in mind is what might happen to your pet if you are no longer around, or if something temporary happens like you have to spend a few days in hospital. You don’t necessarily have to have a detailed plan, but it can help to have a conversation with a friend or family member who you hope would help out in such a situation.

If you’re not sure who to talk to, think about who has similar values to you when it comes to pets, as well as who might have the time and willingness to help out with your pets if needed.

Local shelters may also be able to help out with compassionate care or re-homing.


Because we love our pets, we would want them to be looked after well, whatever the circumstances. Fleshing out some concrete ideas in advance can help.

What kinds of long-term planning have you done for your pet?


Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, where she writes about everything from training methods to the human-canine relationship. She also writes a column for Psychology Today and has received the prestigious Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband, one dog, and two cats.

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References
Carlson, D., Haeder, S., Jenkins-Smith, H., Ripberger, J., Silva, C., & Weimer, D. Monetizing Bowser: A Contingent Valuation of the Statistical Value of Dog Life. Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, 1-19.
Lue, T. W., Pantenburg, D. P., & Crawford, P. M. (2008). Impact of the owner-pet and client-veterinarian bond on the care that pets receive. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 232(4), 531-540.
Yamazaki, S. (2015) A survey of companion-animal owners affected by the East Japan Great Earthquake in Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures, Japan. Anthrozoos, 28 (2)

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