21 ways to cut vet costs
By Laura Shanahan

Personal Addendum at bottom dated 3/29/10
We are a nation of animal lovers. Indeed, we'd do anything to keep our pets in the pink of health -- and our vet bills prove that: We spend a hefty $18 billion per year on our furry, finned and feathered friends' medical services. But take heart. There are ways to keep your pet and your bank account healthy.

In answer to the question, "Can we do right by our pets and our pockets at the same time?" Dr. Andrew Kaplan, founder of City Veterinary Care in New York City, answers a resounding, "Yes, most definitely -- if you become educated and follow some simple steps." Roseann Trezza, executive director of Associated Humane Societies Inc., concurs. The keys, she says, are common sense and preventive care.

Plan ahead Of utmost importance is not waiting for an emergency before selecting a vet. A crisis is no time to attempt to make sensible decisions. Even if you already have a vet, are you aware of his or her policy regarding emergency services, hours and fees?

Matty and Michele Luxenberg had a pet-owner's worst nightmare when their 4-year-old cocker spaniel Jordy became acutely ill on New Year's Eve. "Our voice messages to our now-former vet's office went unreturned," says Matty. "We thought we had no choice but to take Jordy to an emergency center, which could've cost a fortune." Instead, the Luxenbergs tried the vet who just opened an office across the street -- Dr. Kaplan, who treated the ailing pooch pronto and did not charge a premium "emergency fee." Did you think emergency fees were unavoidable? They may be common, even standard procedure, but the trick is to ask a vet's policy before a crisis occurs.

Here are some other ways to increase the odds of doing right by your best friend and your finances:

Consider alternatives. Humane society or university vet clinics may offer thriftier medical services than private practitioners. Ask other pet owners about their satisfaction with establishments you consider.

Keep an eye out for special events, such as reduced veterinary-service events sponsored by government agencies or pet stores. Your local animal control or humane society can be good sources of such information.

Cheaper by the dozen! Well, it doesn't have to be anywhere near a dozen, but some vets will give discounts to folks who bring in several pets at once, so why not round up your whole brood for routine exams and inoculations?

Say if it's a stray. Many vets will discount their services if your pet was an abandoned or homeless critter you rescued. You may expect -- or ask for -- at least 10 percent off.

Say it loud: I'm senior and proud! Some vets also give seniors discounts as high as 20 percent.

Spay/neuter! Reproductive reasons aside, an animal that has been spayed or neutered has decreased chances of getting a variety of serious illnesses. It's also generally known that such animals have fewer behavioral problems. Says Dr. Kaplan, "There is a better than 99 percent reduction in the incidence of malignant breast cancer in dogs and cats if spayed before their first heat cycle. That benefit drops to 92 percent if the spay is performed between the first and second heat cycles. Un-neutered male dogs have a greater risk of prostate infections."

Keep careful records of your pet's inoculations and other health-care services. If you switch vets, you won't risk having costly procedures duplicated if you can't recall what was done.

Speaking of inoculations, don't assume a yearly schedule is necessary. There's been much talk in the medical community about repeating certain procedures only after two- or even three-year intervals.

Be selective about follow-up care. Don't automatically follow up with expensive emergency-hospital staff -- unless indicated by the hospital and endorsed by your vet. You can often follow up emergency care with your regular vet during normal business hours.

Learn what constitutes a true emergency. As examples, Roseann Trezza lists weakness and difficulty in breathing. As for emergencies that might necessitate a rescue of your pet while you're away, you can order free "rescue my pet" stickers from Associated Humane Societies by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to 124 Evergreen Ave., Newark, NJ 07114. (You'll also receive a sample copy of Humane News.)

Pet Health Insurance. It works in much the same way as it does for people -- there's generally a deductible, a co-pay or both, and forms to be filled out. Pre-existing conditions and certain procedures may not be covered. Fees, which are usually much cheaper than that for people, can range from roughly $10 to $30 per month.

Always seek a second opinion when a vet suggests a pricey procedure. This is very important for both your pet's health -- and your wealth. You'd do it for yourself, right?

Brush those pearly whites! Not only will your pet's teeth suffer if you don't -- it can affect its overall health. Oral bacteria can lead to serious problems and complications. (Ask your vet about the proper procedure for keeping kitty's teeth clean -- and good luck!) "You'll not only save on dental cleanings," notes Dr. Kaplan, "you'll eliminate the risk of the anesthetics used to professionally clean your pet's teeth."

Get samples of new products from your vet -- ask and ye may receive.

Consider dietary improvements. Check with your vet as to the advisability of switching your pet from its regular food to one tailored to it -- for example, a type of food geared to pets that are senior, overweight or prone to urinary tract problems. Upgrading to higher-quality premium foods can pay off in health dividends, Dr. Kaplan advises. Feed your pet food specific to its species for optimal health. If you have a hamster, for example, feed it hamster food -- not nibbles from your nachos.

Be your own pet (health) detective. You know about The Merck Manual, which lists symptoms of people's medical conditions? Well, check out the online veterinary version www.merckvetmanual.com to do the same type of detective work for your pet.

Use free resources such as your local pet-supply store. Personnel tend to be animal lovers with a fairly good layman's knowledge regarding a variety of critters. But even for questions that require a more expert opinion, they may point you in the right direction. Additionally, some stores sponsor day-with-a-vet events.

Read, listen and watch. Take advantage of other free resources, such as pet publications and TV and radio programs. Sue Moyer, an office manager with a multi-cat household, cites animal expert Warren Eckstein's national call-in radio program www.thepetshow.com  as a valuable source of information. "Among other things, I learned how to clip my cats' nails," she says of the difficult procedure.

More is less good when it comes to stuffing your pet with vittles. Overfeeding  pets can create the same health problems it can in people. "Studies in dogs have shown that a slightly underweight dog has fewer health problems and a longer lifespan than overweight dogs," notes Dr. Kaplan.

Don't let your pets run loose or unsupervised. Have fenced-in areas for four-footers, who should never be out of your sight. (In addition to the dangers of nature, there's the terrible one posed by pet-nappers.) Dogs should always be leashed, fenced or supervised.

The bottom line? Your pets are your best buds. To keep them healthy, you don't have to be wealthy!

From the files of Ozarkdogs:  When buying dog food, read the label.  Stay away from Wheat, Corn, Soy, Gluten, By-Products and Beet juice.  These either cause allergies, health problems or are totally useless.

Ivermectin 1% sterile solution is the active ingredient in Heartworm preventatives.  For $40 you can buy a 60 ml. bottle that will prevent heartworms for Two 100 pound dog for 5 years!!!   Bottle  Other forms of Ivermectin can kill your dog.  It must be 1% sterile solution.    Instructions   As a treatment    Be sure you understand this is ingested, NOT injected and the measurement is in 1/10th of a ml. or cc, NOT full ml.  DO NOT use on any Collie breed or Collie breed mix, just as you should not use Heartguard either on this breed.

Diatomaceous Earth food grade is great for many things.  It can often replace wormers and used as a flea and tick preventative.  Bought in bulk online it can be as inexpensive as $1.15 a pound.  A pound can go a long way on and in the dog.  It is also fantastic for sprinkling on the grass to get rid of fleas, ticks, ants, spiders, chiggers and other small pests.  Use Food Grade where your dogs will be, but in areas they do not go, non-food grade is good, but still about the same cost.  Instructions


HOME   back to Articles