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Top 10 Most Expensive Pet Health Conditions

Pets are integral parts of our lives and, as owners, we want to do the best for them. Unfortunately, when they fall ill or suffer from some condition, the ensuing medical treatment can come as a rude shock for most owners. This CatAppy article lists some of the most expensive pet health conditions.
CatAppy Staff
Did you know...
... that though there are fewer incidences, intervertebral disc disease (IVD) costs a whopping $3,282 per claim, making it one of the most expensive diseases to treat.

Pets can change your life with their constant companionship and loving nature. As their owners it is our responsibility to provide them with the best that they can have, which include good food, a nice place to live and not to forget, lots of love. Along with these basic necessities, it is also important to provide the dog appropriate medical care when required. Despite the best care provided for the dog or cat, it may inevitably require medical care at some point in its life. This applies to both indoor and outdoor cats and dogs. The question now arises as to how much are you willing to spend on veterinary bills.

Most owners believe that health conditions cannot cost more than $1000, but this may not be true, especially in a country where healthcare costs are constantly skyrocketing. According to the claims submitted to Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), which is the oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance in the nation, in 2010 alone, there were around 14,000 claims with an average cost of more than $1000. The most common and expensive health condition is a torn knee ligament or cartilage with more than 6000 claims being made with the average cost of more than $1500. Here is a detailed list of the top 10 expensive pet health conditions along with the number of claims and average cost per claim.

Most Expensive Health Conditions in Dogs and Cats

Intervertebral Disc Disease

Number of Claims: 879
Average Cost per Claim: $3,282

The Condition
One of the most common neurological problems especially in dog breeds like dachshund, Pekingese and beagle, intervertebral disc disease occurs when the intervertebral disk (the shock absorbing, stabilizing structure between the spinal bones) herniates, resulting in compression and injury to the spinal cord. Common signs include paralysis, lameness and extreme pain.

Treatment
One of the most expensive diseases to treat, pets with intervertebral disc disease often respond favorably to decompression surgery. Unfortunately, recurrence is pretty common with around 20% of dogs with the surgery suffering from the symptoms within three years. In majority of cases, the dogs require lifelong care.

Stomach Torsion/Bloat

Number of Claims: 372
Average Cost per Claim: $2,509

The Condition
Stomach torsion also known as bloat in dogs is a condition that is caused due to excessive gas or fluid in the stomach. The gas can lead to the stomach extension or rotation. This condition usually affects large, broad chested dogs like Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, German Shepherds and St. Bernards. Usually, these dogs tend to have more of dry nibble rather than wet food, and have a history of digestive disorders. Excessive drooling, attempts to vomit and defecate, abdominal distention and pain are some of the common symptoms of this condition.

Treatment
This condition requires immediate medical attention, as surgery may be needed to relieve the torsion and resume the blood supply to the stomach and the spleen.

Ruptured Bile Duct

Number of Claims: 102
Average Cost per Claim: $2,245

The Condition
The bile duct is responsible for transferring the bile from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine. The gallbladder stores the bile that is necessary for proper digestion of the food. An inflammation of the gallbladder or the bile duct can cause a rupture in these organs. This would necessitate surgery and medical treatment

Treatment
A resection may be needed to treat a serious case of ruptured bile duct in dogs and cats.

Laryngeal Paralysis

Number of Claims: 126
Average Cost per Claim: $2,042

The Condition
Laryngeal paralysis occurs when the abductor muscles of the larynx fail to function properly leading to excessive panting, voice change, loud breathing sounds and gasping or distress while breathing.

Treatment
Ventriculocordectomy also known as De-Barking surgery (thinning out the vocal folds), Partial Arytenoidectomy (removing one vocal fold and arytenoids cartilage), Laryngeal tieback and castellation surgeries are some treatment options for this condition.

Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies

Intestinal - Foreign Object
Number of Claims: 1,005
Average Cost per Claim: $1,967

Stomach - Foreign Object
Number of Claims: 954
Average Cost per Claim: $1,502

The Condition
Gastrointestinal foreign bodies occur when the pets consume items that do not pass readily from their gastrointestinal tract. Toys, clothes, strings, pennies and sticks are some commonly ingested foreign material. Based on the location where it is trapped, the degree of obstruction and the time it has been trapped, the pet may suffer from health problems. For example ingestion of strings by cats can lead to perforation of the intestinal tract and cause the intestinal contents to spill out into the abdomen. Similarly, ingestion of lead materials can lead to systemic toxicities.

Treatment
Based on where the foreign material is lodged, surgical removal may be required. If the foreign bodies are lodged in the stomach and intestines, gastronomy and enterotomy may be needed. When the foreign bodies have completely obstructed the intestines causing severe damage, then multiple enterotomies or even anastomosis, which is procedure where a segment of the intestines is removed while the remaining portion is reattached, may be adopted.

Tumor of the Throat

Number of Claims: 124
Average Cost per Claim: $1,677

The Condition
Throat tumors, also known as laryngeal tumors, can affect the larynx, thyroid and trachea of a dog or cat. Some of these tumors like chondrosarcoma or a thyroid tumor can be malignant in nature and is often life-threatening.

Treatment
For malignant tumors of the throat, the surgical removal of the affected part of the throat is recommended. External beam radiation therapy and radioiodine therapy are some treatment options for thyroid tumors in dogs and cats.

Broken Leg (Plate)

Number of Claims: 350
Average Cost per Claim: $1,587

The Condition
The curious, overactive nature of your cat and dog can result in some broken bones in the legs. The fractures are extremely painful. Along with the swelling in the leg, look out for grinding under your fingers.

Treatment
Most of the time when there are chances of frequent leg breaks, the broken leg is fixed with a plate. Although setting the leg is far cheaper, it also puts the dog or cat at a greater risk of frequent broken legs and in certain cases the pet may lose its entire leg. As opposed to this, a plate and screws treatment ensures that your dog or cat's leg remains in a good condition.

Torn Knee Ligament/Cartilage

Number of Claims:6,831
Average Cost per Claim: $1,578

The Condition
The stifle joint or the knee joint in cats and dogs connects the thigh bone to the lower leg bones which include the tibia and fibula. The complex bone structure is further supported by anterior and posterior cruciates or "cross" ligaments that provide stability to the kneecap. Due to jumping, or while the pet is engaged in some athletic activities, there can be excessive stress on the ligaments, resulting in a slight fray or a complete tear. The risk increases when the dog or cat is overweight.

Treatment
To treat a torn ligament or cartilage, the veterinarian may recommend a stabilization surgery, especially if the pet is overweight. This is often followed with range-of-motion exercises, electrical muscle stimulation and massage. Apart from surgical intervention, an implant in the joints can be used to repair the cruciate attachment to the joint.

Ear Canal Surgery - Ablation

Number of Claims: 104
Average Cost per Claim: $1,285

The Condition
The ear is the site of frequent infections in dogs and cats. These long-standing infections often result in irreversible damage to the ear canal. The ear canal becomes thickened and the eardrum is ruptured due to the chronic infection. In certain cases cancer may also necessitate a surgery.

Treatment
The ear canal surgery, also known as ear canal ablation, is done to remove the diseased ear canal completely. After the ear canal has been removed, the area is sutured closed.

Most of these conditions are not very common. However, when the steep veterinary bills are put forth it can be quite a shock for most pet owners. It is best to save up and keep a pet contingency fund or better still, get pet insurance to cover the expensive bills. Meanwhile, it is a good idea to watch out for any abnormal behavior in your pets to identify any health problem. The earlier the problem is diagnosed the lesser are the costs, and the chances of recovery are increased as well.