Gas prices are going up, healthcare premiums keep rising, and now inflation appears to be rearing its ugly head. How can a good pet owner keep up with everything and still provide the best care for their four-legged family members?
Debra Garrison, DVM
With many demands on their checkbook, pet owners today are not only looking for the best care, but also the best value. Even though veterinary medicine has historically been a great value, the price of special diets, wellness care, grooming, and dental care can really start to add up. Luckily, following a few simple preventive guidelines can help you to make sure that your pet stays healthy and you save money.
Industry experts state that the average yearly cost for keeping a dog is about $1,200 and about $800 for a cat. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the cost of veterinary care is actually very reasonable when compared to human health care (www.hsus.org). Still, the prospect of an emergency or prolonged illness of their pet has many owners concerned.
The very best recommendation for saving money is to prevent those diseases that are easy to prevent and costly to treat. Diseases such as canine parvovirus, canine distemper, feline leukemia, or feline panleukopenia are all easily avoided by the administration of vaccinations during the puppy and kitten years or young adulthood. Each of the above mentioned infectious diseases can be extremely costly to treat. A puppy who contracts canine parvovirus can easily end up costing his owner in excess of $500-800 in hospitalization, antibiotics, and supportive care. Compare that price tag to the $10-25 cost of a routine vaccine and you can easily see the benefits and, of course, the savings. Additionally, talk with your veterinarian about which vaccines are right for your pet. Due to differing risk factors, your pet may not need every vaccine available and that can help to save you money as well.
Parasites, such as heartworms and intestinal worms, are often a source of disease and some can even be spread to you and your family. Simple, effective heartworm preventives are available and most will end up costing less than $10 per month. In the form of chewable pills, these preventives are also easy to give. Some of the medications will prevent heartworm disease and also stop the infestation of intestinal parasites. This inexpensive preventive step can actually save you from having to pay big money to treat your dog for heartworms or potentially treat your family for a roundworm infection. Due to the prevalence of intestinal parasites and the increase in heartworm cases across the United States, remembering your pet’s heartworm preventive can truly be a life-saver as well as helping you to save those pennies.
As a rule, most people are very good about brushing and caring for their own teeth, but how many would think about caring for their pet’s teeth? Proper dental care can be a big money saver for pet owner. Dental disease in our pets can predispose pets to heart problems, liver problems, and even kidney problems. The American Animal Hospital Association has stated that more than 80% of dogs and cats over the age of 3 years old have some sort of dental disease. Early preventative care, such as routine teeth brushing, proper dental chew toys, and oral examinations can help to prevent the need for a costly dental procedure. Most veterinarians now have a barrier sealant gel available to help slow the accumulation of plaque and tartar. Keeping the plaque away also means keeping away the high cost of dental disease and the other related problems.
Our doctors strive to keep us eating healthy and staying fit. Those same words of advice are equally helpful for pets too! Two 20 minute brisk walks are a great way to keep your dog in top shape and help firm up your shape as well. Studies have shown more than 25% of pets seen by veterinarians are obese and that extra weight can lead to problems in the joints, heart problems, breathing issues, and even diseases such as diabetes. Using a high quality diet for your pet can also help to prevent medical issues and keep him or her at an appropriate weight. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, buying a premium diet for your pet will end up saving money for you in the long run. Low-cost, generic brand pet foods are often low in energy, causing the pet to eat more to meet their energy needs, thereby finishing those cheaper bags faster than a similar sized high quality diet. The money you save by going generic might end up being spent solving a problem years later!
Finally, some good common sense rules will help you to save money on your pet care as well. Keeping your pet confined, or on a leash, will insure that he or she is not roaming the streets, at a risk of being hit by a car or attacked by another animal. Spaying or neutering your pet will prevent the need to spend extra money on the care and feeding of puppies or kittens and will also reduce your pet’s urge to roam. Seeing your veterinarian twice a year is a great way to catch problems and diseases before they get too advanced. And finally, either a pet health insurance policy or a savings account for your pet could help you to provide excellent care in an emergency situation.
Pet owners want to be able to provide the best for their furry friends. Keeping these simple ideas in mind will help to prevent costly disease and accidents to your pet. For more ways to reduce the potential cost of medical care for your pet, see your veterinarian.