Why your senior pet needs an emergency fund

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Why your senior pet needs an emergency fund

When Dennis Przywara’s dog Lucky was 8 years old, his eyes took a turn for the worse. Lucky, a St. Bernard retriever mix, needed eye surgery, which was an extremely long procedure and ended up costing more than expected—a hefty $5,000. Fortunately, Przywara had always made a point to save a rainy day fund for his two dogs. At the time he had $1,200 stashed away.

"I feel that with most pet owners, your pets can be like your children, and money is no object to the care or safety of your dogs," says the L.A.-based videographer and producer. Although the $1,200 was not enough to cover all of the vet bill, it helped soften the financial blow.

If you’ve adopted a senior pet, or your fur baby becomes a fur gramps, you’ll start to worry about the increasing costs that go along with caring for an aging pet. To help keep yourself from going into debt, you’ll want to create a rainy day fund just for your pet. And while it’s important to have some money socked away for your pet at any age, it becomes crucial as they get older.

Here’s why it’s so important to have a emergency fund for your senior pet:

Healthcare costs ramp up as your pets age

As your pet ages, you may need to pay for more specialized diets and make changes to their environment. Geriatric pets may suffer from ailments similar to humans, such as arthritis, heart disease, kidney or urinary tract disease, or diabetes. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) suggests senior pets have semi-annual routine check-ups rather than annual ones. Having an emergency pet fund can help pay for routine care, medications or procedures that your older pet needs.

Pets are living longer

Recent studies show that dogs are living an average of 11.8 years, which is up from 11 years in 2013. Cats outlive dogs, with an average of 12.9 years, up from 12.1 in 2013. While it depends on your pet’s breed, family health history, diet and exercise, you can expect Fido to spend more time in their senior years. To help your pet live a comfortable, happy life as they age, you’ll want to have some money socked away to pay for these rising costs.

Limited insurance options for senior dogs

As you might’ve guessed, while there is pet insurance for older dogs, there are fewer options. Some pet insurance companies have an age limit as to when you can sign up for coverage. If you didn’t purchase pet insurance for your fuzzy friend when they were younger, you may be out of luck: Pet insurance companies don’t offer insurance to pets with a pre-existing condition.

Besides pre-existing conditions, some congenital diseases, hereditary disorders, and certain types of accidents may not be covered. You’ll want to check the fine print when shopping for coverage. In the case that your senior dog does not qualify for pet insurance, or you find that it may not be worth it, you’ll need to sock away some cash for their medical bills.

Pet burial or cremation is pricey

Yes, it’s a grim thing to think about, but planning ahead will allow you to focus on more on the grieving process and less on money concerns. Cremation for dogs can range from $150 to $350, and $100 to $300 for cats. If you have to put your pet to sleep, it may cost anywhere from $50 to $150. When it comes to pet burials, a plot at a pet cemetery can range anywhere from $400 to $600, not to mention the cost of a casket and burial services.

While some pet insurance plans do cover cremation and burial costs up to a certain amount, having a bit stowed away for Fido after he passes will help you handle the transition without adding financial stress.

Since you want the best for your pet, it’s easy to let emotions to trump financial concerns. Having an emergency fund for your aging pet will help you pay the rising costs as well as prepare for any surprises. "As they get older, you never know how much you really need," points out Pryzwaza. "It's almost like trying to save for a rainy day for your health or when you lose a job. How much is enough? You can never know 100 percent."