Britain Cares for Animals Better than Humans

Britain’s National Health System is notoriously underfunded. The government makes ends meet by denying service. The elderly don’t get transplants. People pull their own teeth. Indeed, Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants more people to treat themselves.

But pets need not worry. Brits might be unwilling to care for themselves and their neighbors. But they will spend on their pets. Reports Reuters:

Forget worming pills and a flea collar — a trip to the vet in Britain these days could be about heart surgery, joint replacement, chemotherapy or a host of other cutting-edge procedures.

Britain is one of the few countries in Europe to offer many of these complex treatments: devoted British pet-owners have fuelled a fast-growing insurance market that helps fund care which would otherwise take a big bite out of a bank account.

Research firm Datamonitor has forecast the country’s pet insurance market will grow to almost 600 million pounds ($1.18 billion) in 2011 from nearly 380 million pounds in 2006.

“It wasn’t that big a market a few years ago but now it is growing,” said Kelly Ostler-Coyle, a spokeswoman for the Association of British Insurers. “It is a combination of how much people value their pets and (the fact) that there are more providers in the market.”

At Davies Veterinary Specialists, the largest private clinic of its kind in Europe, a lobby full of barking dogs is evidence of the lengths pet-owners are prepared to go for treatments for their pets, which can easily cost thousands of pounds.

The sprawling complex not far from London boasts five operating theatres and nearly 30 veterinarians — with specialties ranging from orthopedics to oncology. Its facilities include a gleaming new MRI machine and CT scanners.

“People are very dedicated to their pets here and willing to spend time, effort and money to get them well,” said Lea Liehmann, a soft-tissue surgeon at the clinic.

Canada is much the same way. If you want a CatSCAN or MRI for yourself, get in line — but if you’re willing to pay you can get one for your pet  right away. A medical system that treats animals more quickly than humans is strange indeed.