We know health care for pets can be expensive. It’s especially difficult when there is an unexpected illness or injury. Here are the 12 best ways to save money on veterinary care.
1. Get pet insurance for unexpected expenses.
If you know you will not be financially prepared to handle an unexpected illness or injury, pet insurance may be a good idea. It can mean the difference between treating your pet or not. Companies and plans can vary greatly in what they will cover. The best plans will cover specialists and advanced imaging such as CT scans and MRIs. A good plan will also cover eastern medicine such as acupuncture. Pet insurance is different than human health insurance. Veterinary bills are paid by you at the time of service and the insurance company reimburses you for your expenses. Pet insurance is offered by many different companies and each company may have several different plans. Be sure to choose a company that has been around a while. Read a lot of reviews and choose one with great customer service.
2. Be faithful with heartworm prevention.
Being faithful with heartworm prevention is an easy inexpensive way to save big bucks on veterinary care. There are many options for heartworm prevention and some of them are very affordable. Treating a dog that has contracted heartworm disease is very expensive. Not to mention the toll heartworms takes on the dog. There is currently no treatment for heartworms in cats.
3. Be faithful with flea prevention.
A dog gets a flea bite. It itches, so she chews on it. She causes little breaks in the skin. It gets even more itchy, she chews more. Now she has a bald spot, a skin infection and a terrible itch. Now she needs a doctor appointment, antibiotics, something to stop the itch, and flea prevention. She may even have to have the dreaded cone. So many vet visits could be prevented if pets were on consistent flea prevention. Fleas are miserable for the animal and easily preventable.
4. Come in for your yearly physical exam.
Yearly exams are not just about getting vaccines. The most important part of the visit is the exam. That is the time to catch health problems early. Every day during routine physical exams we find health problems the owner had not yet noticed. Ear infections, skin infections, heart murmurs, tooth problems, weight loss, masses in the skin or abdomen. Almost anything that is caught early is easier and less expensive to treat.
5. Have your senior lab work done.
At a certain age, it’s recommended to do yearly lab work. Most of the time routine labs come back perfectly normal. As animals get older and things start to change, making small changes such as the kind of food you feed or adding a medication can sometimes make a big difference. Making small changes as your animal ages can save a lot of money in the long run. And help your pet live a longer, healthier life.
6. Get routine dental cleanings.
Routing cleanings are not that expensive. Waiting until an animal has significant dental disease can add up fast. Take a moment to think about it. If you never brushed your teeth and never went to the dentist your mouth would be disgusting and your teeth would not be healthy. When you finally did go to the dentist, it would cost you significantly more than it would have if you went yearly. Dental disease also causes a lot more than oral health problems. Tartar is bacteria. Every time your pet swallows he ingests massive amounts of bacteria. If the level of disease is significant, the bacteria may also be entering your pet’s blood stream. When we see an animal with a significant amount of tartar, their white blood cell count is usually high due to infection. These bacteria can cause heart, kidney and liver problems among other health issues.
7. Keep your pet at his/her ideal weight.
Obesity causes a host of health issues. Heart and lung problems. Joint issues. One of the single most important things you can do for your pet’s health is to not let them become obese. Click here for more information on the health risks of obesity in your pet.
8. Don’t feed people food.
Feeding people food to pets can add a lot of calories and cause weight gain. High fat people food also commonly causes GI upset. Dogs cannot handle the amount of fat that people can. Treatment can range from home treatment with a bland diet and medications to hospitalization. Pancreatitis is very common when a dog has eaten something too high in fat. A dog with acute pancreatitis is very sick and must be treated with IV fluids and IV medications in the hospital until they are well enough to keep food down and are eating on their own. Feeding your pet fresh fruits and vegetables is generally fine. If your pet is on a prescription diet, check with your veterinarian first. Click here for a list of fruits and veggies that are ok to feed as treats.
9. Come in for rechecks.
There is a reason your doctor wanted to recheck your pet. Make sure an infection is gone and doesn’t require further treatment. Make sure something is healing as expected and doesn’t need a change in treatment plan. It is so much less expensive to make sure things are going according to plan than to realize there’s a problem down the road when it’s worse than it was.
10. Give medications as prescribed.
If your doctor prescribed a medication for your pet there was a reason. Give it as directed. Finish it unless the doctor advises otherwise. Especially antibiotics. Antibiotics can not be stopped early. The full course must be given to be effective. If your doctor recommended a recheck at the end of your course of medication, schedule the appointment during your last day or two or medication. If your pet needs a longer course, you don’t want to have a gap in between. Antibiotic resistant bacteria are created from stopping antibiotics early. If you have questions about your medications, call your doctor’s office BEFORE stopping the medication.
11. Groom your pets routinely.
Skin and coat and health aren’t the only reasons to give your dog regular baths. Regular baths for dogs can help you find new lumps and bumps while they are still small. Regular ear cleaning can prevent most ear infections in dogs. It can also alert you early that your dog has one brewing. Keeping your pet’s nails trimmed can prevent torn toe nails in dogs and ingrown nails in cats. Regularly expressing your dog’s anal glands can prevent impacted glands which can lead to anal gland abscess. Some dogs will express their anal glands on their own, especially larger dogs. If in doubt, ask your veterinarian or groomer. Your veterinarian’s office can trim nails and express anal glands for a nominal fee if you are not comfortable doing it yourself.
12. Keep vaccines up to date.
Vaccines in our pets are given to keep them healthy. But not every pet needs every vaccine. If there are vaccines you feel your particular pet doesn’t need, talk with your veterinarian. Puppies especially need their vaccines on time. Few things are as expensive and as sad to treat as parvo in a puppy. And it is preventable with vaccine given on time. Even with aggressive treatment, not every puppy will survive parvo. Few will survive without it. Please, please, please follow your veterinarians recommended vaccine schedule.
Just like your car or house, pets need maintenance. Regular and preventative care will save you money on veterinary care in the long run.