Sick As a DogBuying a dog is a bit like buying a smartphone: The initial cost usually isn’t too bad, but it’s the service charges that really get you.
In the case of a dog, those service charges come in the form of veterinarian bills. But not all breeds are going to have the same set of health problems. Certain larger breeds, for instance, are frequently afflicted with orthopedic ailments like hip dysplasia. Dogs with pushed-in noses, in addition to having more trouble dealing with summer heat, are more prone to respiratory infections. Meanwhile, some breeds of dogs tend to be more prone to developing cancers.
To find out which breeds will cost their owners the most in veterinarian bills, we spoke to a company that knows a lot about the cost of pet health: Petplan, a pet insurance company based in Philadelphia. While the company couldn’t provide the exact average healthcare costs for competitive reasons, it did provide a list of the top 10 most expensive breeds, as measured by their annual unexpected healthcare costs.
Photo Credit: Jon Hurd
10th Most Expensive Breed: Great Dane“Large breeds are more likely to be problematic than small dogs,” says Jules Benson, Petplan’s vice president of veterinary services. And they don’t get much larger than the Great Dane.
One of the biggest problems facing Great Danes and other large, deep-chested dogs is gastric dilatation-volvulus, a condition better known as bloat. According to Benson, bloat occurs when the stomach twists and “falls over on itself,” becoming filled with gas in the process. The bloated stomach can then interfere with cardiovascular function, and it can cost up to $6,000 to correct. To avoid this potentially deadly (and expensive) ailment, many dog owners choose to have a preventative procedure when the dog is getting spayed or neutered.
Great Danes are also prone to congenital heart diseases, earning them the nickname, the “Heartbreak Breed.”
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9th Most Expensive Breed: AkitaThis Japanese breed of dog was originally bred for hunting and killing bears. While most Akitas in the United States aren’t going up against bears on a regular basis, they’re still prone to health problems. In addition to bloat, Akitas are also prone to the orthopedic problems that afflict many of the larger breeds.
Benson points to one Akita insured by Petplan that has suffered a cruciate ligament injury (akin to the ACL tears suffered by many professional athletes) and bloat in the last two years, racking up more than $9,000 in medical bills over that period.
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8th Most Expensive Breed: Basset HoundWhile not nearly as large as Great Danes, basset hounds are also prone to bloat, says Benson. And some basset hounds just have bad luck: One basset hound insured by Petplan has been treated for pancreatitis, foreign body ingestion, urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal disease and a chronic metabolic condition known as Addison’s Disease. In three years its owners have been reimbursed to the tune of $8,959 – so far.
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7th Most Expensive Breed: French BulldogLike the basset hound, the French bulldog is one of the few (relatively) small breeds on this list. As such, its health problems stem not from its size but from the fact that it’s a brachycephalic breed – that is, it has a short, pushed-in face rather than a long snout.
“Their breathing structures all crowd together,” explains Benson. “When you see the pugs snorting when they breathe, it’s the soft tissue resonating.”
This skull structure and the accompanying breathing problems make the French bulldog more prone to pneumonia and other respiratory malfunctions. And if the dog is born with particular breathing problems, corrective surgeries may be in order to prevent problems later in life, which can total as much $5,000.
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6th Most Expensive Breed: American Pit Bull TerrierOne of the more misunderstood dog breeds in the country, pit bulls are also among the more expensive breeds to own. Like many large dog breeds, pit bulls are prone to hip dysplasia, a painful ailment of the hip joints that can lead to arthritis. It can also lead to some very steep medical bills.
“[Treatments] can range from one-off surgeries that generally cost around $3,000 to $6,000 to lifetime medications,” says Benson. “We have many hip dysplasia pets that have been reimbursed in the $10,000 to $20,000 range.”
Photo Credit: Calvin Dellinger
5th Most Expensive Breed: American Staffordshire TerrierAmerican Staffordshire terriers share many of the same health problems as pit bulls and bulldogs, including hip dysplasia and heart problems. According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the breeds ranks 14th among all dog breeds in frequency of heart problems.
Photo Credit: K. Kendall
4th Most Expensive Breed: SamoyedThese fluffy Russian dogs are prone to a condition known as Samoyed hereditary glomerulopathy, which presents itself early in the dog’s life and quickly leads to renal failure.
Meanwhile, those not afflicted with the renal disease still have a range of health problems that can eat into an owner’s bank account. Benson points to a 10-year-old Samoyed insured by Petplan who has had corneal ulcers, lymphoma and abscesses, resulting in reimbursed medical bills of $13,730 over the past three years.
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3rd Most Expensive Breed: RottweilerIn addition to the hip dysplasia that afflicts most large breeds, Rottweilers are also cancer-prone.
“When I see a Rottweiler over six or seven years old that just isn’t feeling well, the first thing I tend to look for is cancer,” says Benson.
Cancer can be treated with chemotherapy, but it isn’t cheap. One Rottweiler insured by Petplan racked up nearly $10,000 in reimbursed lymphoma treatments in a two-year period.
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2nd Most Expensive Breed: Bernese Mountain DogThese gorgeous Swiss working dogs are similar to Rottweilers in their health outlook, prone both to cancer and to the orthopedic ailments common to large dogs. Petplan insures one 4-year-old Bernese that has accumulated an impressive list of health care costs, including brain disease, pancreatitis, foreign body ingestion and nosebleeds. The tally over a three-year period was $16,676.
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The Most Expensive Breed: American BulldogWhen it comes to racking up medical bills, the American bulldog is best in show. According to Petplan’s data, the average annual health care costs for the American bulldog is 5.5 times that of the toy poodle, which is among the healthiest dogs.
While bulldogs tend to have long lives, they spend them devouring their owners’ wallets. As large brachycephalic breeds they’re prone to breathing and hip problems; one American Bulldog insured by Petplan was treated for allergic skin disease, bloat and urinary tract infections, totaling $9,562 in reimbursed vet bills over four years.
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