A KWINANA veterinarian wants to turn the tables on low incomes as a barrier to pet ownership and care.
Access to veterinary health care in Kwinana is often influenced by income, with many finding it hard enough to pay for their own health care let alone their pets.
Senior veterinarian Jade Hilzinger is passionate about the issue having experienced poverty herself growing up.
“If someone has something wrong with their animals but can’t afford to get the animal treated it’s heartbreaking,” she said.
“Having pets has so many positive benefits, particularly for children and income should not be a barrier to pet ownership.
“I’m passionate about it because I grew up on the bones of my backside too and know how hard it is.”
She works at Kwinana Vet Hospital where initiatives have been developed to create affordable pet care.
Called Vet Value Plans, a monthly fee covers standard treatments such as vaccinations and de-sexing.
Regular medications/treatments are even delivered to pet owners’ doors on the day they are due, reducing the risk of missed medications.
Centrelink now allows pet owners to pay approved vet expenses (includes the clinic’s Vet Value Plans) through Centrepay.
She said the plans, along with the increasing availability of pet insurance, made pet ownership and care more realistic for low income earners.
“Working with the community has been a real eye-opener and has made me realise that, when faced by the prospect of an unexpected bill, some pet owners simply put off taking their pets to the vet,” she said.
“Not only does this put the health and wellbeing of their pets at risk, but it often leads to bigger vet bills down the track, thereby exacerbating the problem.”
Dr Hilzinger recently returned to veterinary practice after seven years working for the Education Department and closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
She said there was a number of Australians struggling to make ends meet, even those in employment.
“Don’t assume that you can’t afford appropriate health care for your pets, or that there aren’t payment options. Talk to your vet – we work with our customers to help them decide what’s best for their individual circumstances and to plan for the expense in advance.
“If you have a pet, they deserve good health care.”