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New study from the University of Melbourne shows impact of pet insurance against economic euthanasia in pets

A recently released research paper, titled, “The effect of pet insurance on presurgical euthanasia of dogs with gastric dilatation-volvulus: a novel approach to quantifying economic euthanasia in veterinary emergency medicine”, suggests that for pet parents, financial instruments such as pet insurance can significantly reduce the instance of pets being euthanised in emergency situations.

Having an unwell pet is never easy, and advances in Veterinary medicine and surgery have been associated with better treatment outcomes for our pets in general, often leading to an increased associated cost for Veterinary care. 

Electing to euthanise a pet on financial grounds, otherwise known as economic euthanasia, can lead to terrible emotional distress not only to the pet owner but to the Veterinary professionals involved.

Seeking hard data and real evidence

For the purposes of the study, the University of Melbourne collected data on 260 dogs with a known insurance status suffering from Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) in medical emergency clinics over a two-year period. PetSure was pleased to supply some of the data, without having any influence over the analysis and findings, additionally, PetSure did not pay for or commission the study.

Gastric Dilatation- Volvulus is a life-threatening condition requiring urgent Veterinary attention. When the stomach swells with gas and food, it reaches a point where the mixture cannot be passed. You can learn more on this condition on our Knowledge Hub here

Results reinforce previous findings

The study showed that 90% of insured dogs that presented with GDV underwent surgery, with a survival rate of 80%. On the other hand, only around 63% of uninsured dogs presenting with GDV underwent surgery where 53% survived to hospital discharge. This indicates that having insurance was associated with a marked decrease in pre-surgical euthanasia.

These outcomes fall in line with previous GDV studies, which, suggest that the survival rate of dogs treated surgically is relatively high. A large epidemiological study of 492 emergency GDV cases across the UK found that 79 per cent of dogs who received surgery survived, while a recent US study found similar survival rates of nearly 80 per cent (1).

At the same time, another US study found that, among small Veterinary practices, 38 per cent of respondents conducted economic euthanasia at least a few times a month, and 76 per cent experienced compromised patient care due to financial limitations at least a few times a week (2).

Lead author Manuel Boller from the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, Melbourne Veterinary School, University of Melbourne, concludes from the results, “We showed in our study that pet health insurance, the archetypical instrument for alleviating out-of-pocket expenses for medical care, is highly effective in mitigating pre-operative euthanasia.”

Dr Boller discusses the findings of this study with PetSure Chief Vet, Dr Dani Hoolahan in the video below:

Reduced stress, better outcomes

As pet parents, we love our pets and would like to be able to provide them with the best care possible. Unfortunately, when serious illnesses or accidents arise, significant cost can be encountered, and this is often difficult to budget for.

Our Chief Veterinary Officer Dani Hoolahan says, “In animals presenting with life-threatening but treatable diseases, insurance provides an essential opportunity to mitigate preventable deaths and ensure the best outcomes for pets.”

To get a better understanding of how pet insurance can help, visit our Pet Parent Hub for more information.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus is generally covered under Comprehensive Accidental Injury and Illness pet  insurance policies administered by PetSure (check our brand partners at petsure.com.au/partners), unless related to a pre-existing condition or exclusion and subject to your policy terms and conditions. Refer to your policy documents and Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for more information.

We’re for a life with pets, and committed to improving animal welfare in Australia, often by supporting and contributing to research such as this.

Any advice is general only and has not considered your personal circumstances, so may not be right for you. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider to decide if a product is right for you. Insurance products are issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd (ABN 78 090 584 473; AFSL 241436) and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd (ABN 95 075 949 923; AFSL 420183) through our Authorised Representatives and our distribution partners.

References:

  1. O’Neill DG, Case J, Boag AK, Church DB, McGreevy PD, Thomson PC, et al. Gastric dilation-volvulus in dogs attending UK emergency-care veterinary practices: prevalence, risk factors and survival. J Small Anim Pract. (2017) 58:629–38. doi: 10.1111/jsap.12723
  2. Kipperman B, Morris P, Rollin B. Ethical dilemmas encountered by small animal veterinarians: characterisation, responses, consequences and beliefs regarding euthanasia. Vet Rec. (2018) 182:548. doi: 10.1136/vr. 104619
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