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Pet insurance reduces rate of economic euthanasia, confirms new University of Melbourne study

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 owners, financial instruments such as pet insurance can significantly reduce the instance of pets being economically euthanised in emergency situations. 

The research paper, led by the University of Melbourne, involved a study of 260 dogs with Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) – an acute, life-threatening emergency condition that is very likely to result in death if left untreated but where surgery offers a good chance of survival. PetSure was pleased to supply part of this data, without having any influence over the analysis and findings, or involvement in payment for the study. 

The study aims to ascertain to what extent economic euthanasia – that is pet owners electing to euthanise their pets because they can’t afford surgery – exists as a cause of preventable death in pre-surgery dogs. 

Much higher survival rates 

The study found that 90% of insured dogs that presented with GDV underwent surgery, whereas only approximately 63% of uninsured dogs presenting with GDV did the same. However, the incremental death rate over the surgical period remained similar between insured vs uninsured dogs, with 80% of insured dogs surviving to hospital discharge and 53% of uninsured dogs surviving to discharge. 

This suggests that the biggest opportunity in saving dogs who suffer from GDV’s is not medical in nature, but economic, and that pet insurance remains one of the best, tried-and- tested way to alleviate out-of-pocket expenses, going a long way to bridging the disparity between the cost of medical care and affordability for pet owners. 

Owners with pet insurance were far less likely to have to consider euthanasia of their pet from a financial standpoint, indicating that a major cause of euthanasia of dogs with GDV is economic in nature, where the owner’s ability to save their pet’s life is simply beyond their means. 

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

“Our study further validates the findings of three recent publications from three different countries that found that dogs with GDV that underwent pre-surgery euthanasia comprised 

between 65 and 82 per cent of all deaths and that insurance markedly lessened the need for such euthanasia.” 

These outcomes fall in line with previous GDV studies, which, suggest that the survival rate of dogs treated surgically is relatively high. A 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 animal Veterinary practices, 76 per cent experienced compromised patient care due to financial limitations at least a few times a week (2). 

Commenting on the University of Melbourne study’s findings, PetSure Chief Veterinary Officer Dani Hoolahan said, “As a practicing Veterinarian, it is heartbreaking to see pet parents struggle with the cost of excellent Veterinary care. And, as an animal lover, it is always devastating to euthanise a patient, particularly when the patient has a treatable condition. Pet insurance has absolutely changed the lives of many pets and pet parents in our practice.” 

“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.” 

PetSure is for a life with pets, and is committed to improving animal welfare in Australia, supporting and contributing to research where appropriate. See PetSure’s latest assets for pet parents at petsure.com.au/knowledge-hub/ 

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

For media enquiries, please contact: 

Ophelia Phu
+61 431 567 985 

[email protected] 

About PetSure, part of The Hollard Insurance Company 

  • PetSure provides a sense of security to half a million Australian pet owners.
  • We are three different businesses within one – a global leader in underwriting, claims processing and administration services.
  • As an insurance underwriting agency, we power the pet insurance propositions of more than 30 brands, including some of Australia’s most recognizable and prestigious brands, such as IAG, AAMI, Woolworths, RSPCA, PetBarn, Guide Dogs, Medibank, Bupa and HCF. 
  • As a global leader in pet insurance claims processing services we assess over half a million Australian claims each year and we are retained by leading pet insurers in the United Kingdom and the United States to provide claims processing services.
  • Administration services is our third business arm: the financial technology solution GapOnlyTM. GapOnlyTM is a paperless claims service whereby a customer can obtain claims approval within minutes, without ever leaving the Veterinary surgery. It transforms the claims experience with reduced out-of-pocket expenses and is progressively rolling-out to Veterinary surgeries and hospitals Australia-wide.
  • As an underwriter, administrator and fintech company, PetSure is helping to transform the pet healthcare experience of Australian and global pet parents, with a commitment to their lives with their pets. 
  • To find out more about PetSure, please visit petsure.com.au
  • 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.