The Price of Pets
The poor economy hasn’t only been tough on people – it’s also been tough on our pets. Numerous studies have shown that veterinarian costs are on the rise, and pet owners are choosing to forgo the vet to save money. Experts agree that this is not a good option for your furry friend, though.
“People should bring their pets in for an annual wellness checkup, every six months for older animals, because the sooner you catch a problem the easier and cheaper it is to treat,” says Jolanta Benal, a dog trainer and author of the book The Dog Trainer's Complete Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Pet.
Pet parents shouldn’t despair, though, because there are common-sense ways to help defray the costs at the veterinarian. Here are eight essential tips.
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Practice Preventive Care
This may seem like a no-brainer, but feeding your pet well, making sure it gets plenty of exercise and doing simple things such as brushing and rubbing it to check for lumps or changes in its skin or coat could help you save money in the long run. Also, administering those necessary drugs to prevent heartworm, or putting spot-on treatments that prevent pests may seem like extra unnecessary expenses, but they’re much cheaper than treating the ailments that may result if you cut that from your budget.
“Brush her teeth, every day if possible, to keep them free of tartar and maintain healthy gums,” Benal says. “Veterinary dentistry generally has to be done under anesthesia and bacteria from infected gums and jaws can spread around the body.”
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Feed Your Pet a Healthy Diet
Whether you decide to feed your pet commercially prepared food, a raw diet or a home-prepared diet, you should always be aware of what your pet needs to maintain a healthy weight and feel good.
Cathy Alinovi, a veterinarian in Pine Village, Ind., advocates for feeding a healthy prepared-at-home diet. “I show my owners how to feed pets food in a healthy, balanced way,” Alinovi says. “The savings is 50% less than regular grocery store pet food, so imagine the savings over prescription foods.”
If an at-home diet is too much work for your busy schedule, check out some tips for getting better deals on pet food.
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Alinovi also advises that you to shop around and compare prices. “Spays and neuters can range from $15 for tomcats to $400 for a big dog spay,” Alinovi says. “It depends on where you go and how they do things.”
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Stay on Top of Vaccines
Alinovi recommends administering vaccines once every three years, instead of annually, which is in line with the guidelines of some professional veterinary organizations.
“There are good studies that show many vaccines, like the traditional distemper combo, provide protection for more than seven years,” Alinovi says.
Many city, county and state health departments still require a rabies vaccine every year, but you could save on the other vaccines. Learning to administer vaccines (with the exception of rabies, which has to be administered in the veterinarian’s office), is another way to save, but the experts advise you to check the origins of the vaccines to ensure their quality and effectiveness in protecting your pet.
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Ask for Price Matching
Do you like your vet, but have found better prices elsewhere? Don’t hesitate to ask your vet to price match services or the medicinal products you find at discount sites on the Internet.
“If you and your pet are loyal clients, most veterinarians will match the price you find online if you bring a printout with you to the office,” says Amber Anderson, a veterinarian who writes for the industry. Another way to save is to ask your veterinarian for a multi-animal discount if you have more than two pets.
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Communication Is Key
Amy Robinson, a dog trainer, advises pet owners to tell your vet why you’re there and specify what you want done.
“If your dog or cat is going in for an ear infection, for example, you can probably skip a bloodwork panel,” Robinson says. She also advises getting a written estimate for the procedure.
“Once you have a written estimate, look at all of the components, and you may be able to negotiate with the vet on one or two,” she says.
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Don’t Double Pay
Most veterinarians consider a follow-up visit a week after an initial consult or procedure as part of the initial cost, but some will charge you for the follow up. Robinson says to ask your vet at the initial visit if the follow up is part of the initial fee. If it is not, ask your vet not to pay for the follow-up visit.
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Don’t Delay Care
Finally, if you see a change in your pet’s eating habits that lasts for more than a couple of days, or start hearing a cough or notice any changes to their coat, gums or find any lumps, act immediately. “Don't wait, or the problem will likely become worse and increase the cost of care,” Robinson says.
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