Flickr User Pat Cullen
The joy our pets bring to our lives is priceless, but their care can cost us a bundle. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), from 1996 to 2006 spending on veterinary care for dogs and cats rose from $11 billion to $23.2 billion annually. But there are ways to protect your pets as well as your pocketbook. Here are tips on how to save money on pet health costs.
Save Money on Veterinary Care: Tailor Vaccinations to your Pet's Lifestyle
A Labrador Retriever who likes to go on long trail hikes with you would benefit from getting a Lyme disease vaccine, whereas an urban Shih Tzu whose treks get no more adventurous than a walk around the block can probably do without it. Don't scrimp on "core" vaccines that are required by law or vaccines that prevent airborne-transmitted diseases.
According to Dr. Colleen Currigan, DVM, founder and owner of Cat Hospital of Chicago, if there is no risk of exposure to feline leukemia virus (transmitted through direct contact with urine/saliva primarily of an infected cat), then there is no need to vaccinate for feline leukemia virus - so it's okay to pass on that one. The same applies to Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
The most cost-effective things you can do to save money is keep your cats indoors, get regular check-ups for your pets so small problems don't become big ones and spay or neuter your pet.
Save Money on Veterinary Care: Check for Local Low-Cost Resources
Contact your local humane society or state to see if there are grant programs or lower cost services. For example, PACC911 (Phoenix Animal Care Coalition) has designated the Emergency Medical Fund for its partnering rescue groups to use toward vet bills.
Those who live in the southwestern U.S. can visit www.petservice.com for low-cost vaccine clinics (these as well as inexpensive spay/neuter and microchipping are frequently offered in other parts of the country and often advertised in stores like Petco, etc.)
Save Money on Veterinary Care: Keep Up with Upkeep
Brushing your pets regularly can reduce furballs in cats and can buy you time between professional groomings. "Have your vet teach you how to clip nails on dogs, cats, ferrets and bunnies and ask how to maintain dental health", suggested Anne Marie White of Utica, N.Y, owner of 5 cats and a ferret and former associate director of the Stevens Swan Humane Society.
Dental problems can shorten your pet's life span and cost a small fortune. After Brian Crouch's Swedish Lapphund, named Vanna Gogh, broke her lower right canine, he was told it either needed extraction (which would shorten her life span) or filling: the latter would cost over $2500. "We live in Seattle so we drove up to a city south of Vancouver, left the dog with a veterinary dentist, and made a day of it in a scenic part of Canada," said Crouch. "Our dog got to keep her tooth for less than the cost of extraction, and she had great care."
Save Money on Veterinary Care: Buy your Own Supplies
Laura Jackson of Chicago, IL had to give her dog subcutaneous fluids for about 18 months. "One bag of fluid cost $20 at the vet and it was about $3 online! When you're using a bag every two days, this is not insignificant.
Same thing for the needles: they cost 25 cents each at the vet. The last box I bought cost about $6 for 100 needles." All Jackson needed was her vet to call in the Rx to the online supplier, which he was happy to do.
Preventatives like Frontline and Heartguard are available online as well.
While Saving Money is Important, DON'T Scrimp on Diet
Money is better spent on good quality pet food, free from by-products and dyes, than vet visits later. Avoid feeding your pets table scraps. "Realize that fancy pet shop brand does not necessarily mean best quality, and the name brand grocery store pet food does not necessary mean "junk" food," said Dr. Currigan.
"Talk with your veterinarian about the best diet for your pet and one that is less costly, if your cat (or dog) does not have special nutritional needs."