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11/04/2015 06:14 am ET

Like People, Pets Are Now Living Longer

The high costs of medical care, the need for more exercise, and hoping to travel more; sound familiar?
Gandee Vasan via Getty Images
It may be time to throw out the old dog years rule, you know, the one that says multiply a dog's age by seven to get his "human" age. A 10-year-old dog would be the equivalent of a 70-year-old person under this rule.
 
Just like us, dogs -- and cats -- are living longer and for many of the same reasons: better medical care, improved diet, and an understanding that couch potatoes with four legs run some of the same health risks as couch potatoes with two.
 
And also just like us, our pets' longevity needs to be accommodated. Here are some things that those with fur babies should know:
 
1. Small dogs live longer than big ones.
Chihuahuas, one of the smallest dog breeds, live 15 to years on average. Your Great Dane? Expect to say goodbye to him much sooner.

 

 2. We are all what we eat.
Our domesticated pets rely on us to feed them and, by all intents and purposes, we have risen to the occasion. At the same time that you shovel into your mouth something from the World Health Organization's bad-for-you list (and you know very well what we're talking about), you will drive out of your way for a bag of the organic good stuff for your dog. No cans of over-processed mystery meats for your big guy, am I right? 
 
3. We lavish love with our wallets.
In 2014, Americans spent $58 billion on their pets and they're on track to spend more than $60.5 billion this year, according to the American Pet Product Association. We spent $6.2 billion on grooming and treats for our pets in 2012 which -- according to The Atlantic -- is more money than Facebook made in advertising revenue that same year. Of the $58 billion we spent in 2014, nearly half was spent on veterinary care, which leads us to ....
 
4. Everyone has the same messed up health insurance.

Just like Medicare doesn't cover the things that older humans need -- eye glasses, hearing aides, and dental care -- pet insurance generally doesn't work out so great either. Consumer Reports says only in uncommon cases, when a pet required very expensive care, would pet insurance coverage pay for itself. One issue might be the lack of competition. Three companies control 90 percent of the pet insurance market. 

Consumer Reports used the lifetime vet bills of Roxy, a 10-year-old relatively healthy beagle, to test whether pet insurance was a good deal.  They adjusted Roxy's total bills into present-day dollars and asked the insurers how much their policies would have covered. None of the nine policies they compared would have paid out more than the projected premiums. The picture changed a bit when some hypothetical illnesses were added to Roxy's medical history: chronic arthritis, incontinence as a result of spaying, hypothyroidism, the removal of a benign tumor, and euthanasia. In that case, some policies returned a positive payout. Uh, euthanasia? Isn't that what we are hoping to avoid?

5. Where we go, they go.

Just a decade ago, only 19 percent of owners took their fur babies with them on road trips. Now that number has more than doubled to 37 percent of owners. And after all, retirement is for travel, right?

altrendo images via Getty Images
 
 
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