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Pets are baby boomers too--with medical bills to match

June 2, 2008 |  4:38 pm

Dog_surgery

Better preventative care, medicine, vitamins and food are making pets live longer, but leading to one costly side effect: higher medical bills, the Washington Post reports.

Think of them as baby boomers on four legs. They're older and fatter--just like the country at large. About 44% of the country's dogs are older than 6, compared with 32% in 1987, according to the Post. And 45% of U.S. pets are overweight or obese, according to the Assn. for Pet Obesity Prevention.

But also like humans, they are racking up larger medical bills. According to the American Veterinary Medical Assn., spending on veterinary medicine doubled to $24.5 million in the last decade, the Post reports.

So pet owners are now opting for expensive surgeries and preventative procedures--such as with the dog above, who was getting hip replacement surgery--when in the past a vet would resort to euthanasia.

"Many of the pet owners are baby boomers no longer burdened with the cost of raising children and are willing to use whatever disposable income they have to increase the quality of life of their furry -- or scaly -- companions," the Post's Nancy Trejos writes.

"Certainly we have seen an increasing level of sophistication in the last five or 10 years. As we see the bond between pet owners and their pets grow, they are demanding more sophistication," said Ron DeHaven, an officer of the AVMA. "It rivals human medicine."

One suggestion for those looking to limit pet bills: avoid purebred dogs, which usually have more health problems than your run-of-the-mill mutt.

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times

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