January 16, 2013

ImageIf all this talk about the fiscal cliff and higher taxes has you worried about how you are going to be able to afford to keep your pets healthy in 2013, then this article is for you.

There are many different approaches to keeping health-care costs down while still keeping your best friend fit and healthy but perhaps the best way is to look at the problem the other way around; keeping your pet healthy will actually keep your health-care costs down.

Don’t skimp on routine check-ups

Because pet’s age faster than people, the yearly check-up is crucial to detecting health issues that could cause expensive problems in the long run. As pet’s get older, it pays to increase those check-ups to twice a year. Finding and treating disease early will decrease costs of treatment in the long run, and more importantly will also prevent or delay onset of discomfort and pain for your pet.

Be familiar with the genetic diseases from which your breed of pet is prone to suffer.  If you know what to look for, you and your veterinarian can watch for these problems and act early. Stay in contact with local and national breed clubs because they often offer screening tests for genetic problems at low or no cost to you and they may even have funds to assist you with the costs of caring for a pet with certain ailments.

Prevent common problems

Ear infections are one of the top reasons pet owners seek veterinary care. Asking your veterinarian about a regular ear cleaning regimen that you can do at home might prevent this problem. Dental care is very expensive for pets. Start brushing your pet’s teeth on a daily basis to minimize dental care costs in the future. Keep your cat’s environment stimulating and stress free to reduce the risk of urinary tract diseases.

Don’t smoke around your pets. Secondhand smoke can exacerbate respiratory diseases and lead to nasal and lung cancers. As cats groom, they ingest the toxins from the smoke which can lead to oral cancers. Quit now and you’ll save money on your veterinary bills. At the very least, consider not smoking around your pets.

Overweight pets have expensive orthopedic problems and higher risk of ailments such as diabetes and heart disease. Give the body what it needs, but not too much, and it can do amazing things to heal itself. By feeding your pet a high quality food and keeping him lean, you will drastically reduce veterinary bills.

Spay or neuter your pet

The costs of owning an intact pet are higher due to several factors that include an increased propensity to fight or escape, higher rates of ovarian, uterine, testicular or prostatic disease and the high cost of having and raising a litter of puppies or kittens. Most veterinarians spay and neuter pets at competitive rates, but if cost is still keeping you from having your pet spayed or neutered, contact Pet Helpers or The Charleston Animal Society. Thanks to local donors and grants, these organizations can spay or neuter your pet with minimum cost to you.

Keep parasites at bay

Fleas and ticks are not only nasty, but they carry diseases that can affect you and your pet. Use a veterinary approved flea, and if needed, tick, prevention year around on all dogs and cats to prevent costly diseases. If just one flea gets into your house, you will need to undergo an expensive regimen to get rid of all the progeny that little flea left behind. Heartworm disease is very expensive to treat in a dog and we cannot even treat cats if they become infected. So, keep all pets on a monthly heartworm prevention too.

Your vet can help you find the most inexpensive combination that will protect your pets. Veterinary staffs are used to doing cost comparisons and helping you get the prescriptions you need to keep costs down.

Don’t over vaccinate your pet

Only have your pet vaccinated for the diseases to which he or she is likely to be exposed. This varies widely from pet to pet and must be discussed with your veterinarian every year. Avoid veterinarians who appear to offer “low cost vaccinations” but then vaccinate for everything under the sun. It  may be true that one clinic’s vaccinations are cheaper than another’s, but if your pet doesn’t even need some of those vaccinations, then you have not saved a dime by going the cheaper route.

Save money on medications

In today’s world there are infinite suppliers of just about anything you need, and this includes pet medications. There are many reasons to consider buying your medications from your veterinarian: products have been stored correctly, experienced veterinary staff are familiar with doses and dosing, you are supporting a local business and prices are often competitive with online sites. That said,  your veterinarian won’t always be the cheapest place to get your pet’s medications. As more pharmacies, both onsite and online, begin to carry pet-specific drugs, you can ask your veterinarian about getting a written prescription for medications so that you can shop around. This is especially important to consider if your pet is going to be on a medication for a long time. If you want to read more about your choices on this topic, refer to http://www.beesferry.com/Veterinary-Care-Tips-by-Dr.-Saenger/filling-your-pets-medication-prescriptions

Prepare for future expenses

Sometimes there is just no way around an expensive treatment or surgery for your pet. In these cases it is best to have prepared ahead of time. You can do this by establishing a little Health-Care Savings Account for your pet or by purchasing health insurance. Just setting aside $50 every month into your pet’s savings account is probably more economical, as the money earns a little bit if interest if you don’t use it. However, most of us don’t have the discipline to put in money every month and then stay away from it. Insurance companies can help if you are one of these people. The catastrophic  plans that only cover for major illness or injury are very affordable. If a more broad plan encourages you to provide more preventive care for your pet, then this may prove to save more money in the long run.

Find someone else to pay

If your pet has been diagnosed with a serious disease, do a quick search to see if there are any clinical trials going on that could help your pet. The website www.animalci.com/about coordinates this information into one place.

If your pet is having an expensive crisis right now and you just don’t have the funds to pay for his care up front, find a veterinarian who accepts CareCredit or a similar payment plan. Companies like CareCredit (www.carecredit.com) extend credit for both human and pet health care costs with low monthly payments.

Be persistent, proactive and honest

Prevention truly is the best medicine, and it is the cheapest too.

If the economy is causing a drain on you, tell your veterinarian up front. If you are a good client and a friend of your veterinary hospital, your vet may give you a discount on some services. But, most importantly, veterinarians are experts at prioritizing medical care. They can help you pick and choose the best tests and treatments for your pet and your budget.

Take the time to research and shop around for the lowest pet care prices, but remember that establishing a relationship with a veterinarian can be the best and most effective cost-saving investment that you can make.

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