Don’t let the economy get you down. (Wikimedia) Saving money is on everyone’s mind these days. While we can cut back on that cup of Starbucks or a new pair of shoes, we can’t stop providing for our pets. On average a dog costs $1,200 per year and a cat costs around $800.
I’d argue those figures are even higher for many people who indulge in specialty pet boutique offerings like custom beds and sweaters.
While pet food and cat litter remain fixed expenses, there are steps that you can take to reduce the amount of money that you spend on your pet’s health. By planning ahead you can lower the chances of having to pay costly veterinary bills. Making prevention your goal will not only save you money but it will also keep your pet happier and healthier.
- Vaccinations. Infectious diseases are on the rise and veterinarians have found that vaccinations are an effective way of protecting .your pet. Discuss with your vet which vaccinations he feels are necessary as well as the frequency with which future vaccinations need to be administered. Necessary vaccinations depend on your pets’ lifestyle, how often he’s indoors, exposure to other animals, and are not uniform for all pets.
More easily transmittable and potentially fatal diseases are part of core vaccines. For dogs they usually include: distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus and rabies. Cats receive panleukopenia, calicivirus and herpesvirus, and rabies as part of their core vaccines. Lyme disease and kennel cough are two non-core vaccines that can be given to your dog depending on his lifestyle.
- Heartworm protection. Heartworm occurs when a mosquito bites an animal that has been infected, gets the worm larvae in its blood and then goes on to bite a healthy animal. While this disease is more common in dogs than cats, it is extremely debilitating and can be fatal if left untreated. There are a number of heartworm medicines in the form of pills, injections and topical liquids. Talk to your vet about the best course of action for your pet. The disease is curable in dogs, but unfortunately is not in cats yet. By preventing worms from infecting your pet you can avoid expensive x-rays, bloodwork, and injections that are necessary to treat heartworm.
- Dental care. Just like you, your pet’s mouth needs to be kept clean every day. Oral care is extremely important in your pet. Infected gums and tartar can lead to more serious infections throughout the body. Invest in specially formulated toothpaste for your pet in addition to a diet that promotes good dental health. There are also gels and rinses that can be used to aid the cleaning process. Look in the pet store for chew toys that rid your dog’s teeth of plaque build-up. Make it a point at your next visit to the vet to ask about dental care so that you are equipped to do it at home. That way you can prevent expensive and painful extractions and infections down the line.
- Exercise and diet. Like humans, cats and dogs are also experiencing an epidemic of obesity. In 2007, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 43% of dogs and 53% of cats were overweight. Also like us, increased weight leads to heart disease, diabetes and a number of other ailments. While it’s easy to show our pets love by giving them an extra treat, think twice before you do. A fat pet is most likely unhappy and unhealthy. With regular exercise and a well rounded diet, you can prevent weight-related illnesses and give your animal a better quality of life.
- Pet insurance. While you may have trouble securing your own insurance, pet insurance has become increasingly popular. By paying a small monthly fee, pet owners can get coverage for costly procedures, medications and visits to the vet. There are a variety of different plans out there so do some research to find one that’s right for you. Many plans have premiums and co-pays, and may have restrictions for particular breeds or require that you go to a certain veterinarian. With greater technology in veterinary medicine also comes at higher costs. Insurance is a practical way to pay for all of the treatments that your pet may require in the future.
- Wellness exams. Do not forgo the yearly exam for your pet if you want to save some money and you think your pal is healthy. Animals age more rapidly than humans and often do not outwardly show signs of illness.
Use the visit to ask questions about the latest in treatments, nutrition and dental health so that you are in the know. Many illnesses are treatable if caught early on, so save yourself and your pet the pain and suffering and make that trip to the doctor.
- Spay/neuter. All pets should be spayed or neutered when they are young; however, it’s never too late to have the procedure done if your pet has not been fixed. Having this done not only prevents unwanted pregnancies in your pet but it also ensures a great chance of reproductive health. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 50% of all breast tumors in dogs and greater than 85% of all breast tumors in cats are malignant. Spaying your pet greatly reduces the chances of mammary gland cancer and other illnesses that afflict the reproductive system.
- Prevent accidents. Whether ridding your house of poisonous plants or foods that are harmful to animals, take the time to make your home pet-friendly. Also, think about new items that are brought in on a daily basis. Don’t leave your medications or cleaning products lying around. Be cognizant of open doors and broken fences to prevent runaways and car accidents. Use baby gates to keep animals off of new furniture or a light colored rug. Move vases and antiques out of reach. While you can’t avert all disasters you can minimize the risks by preparing a safe environment for your animal companion.
- Know your pet. Be familiar with your breed and your specific pet. If you know that your pet is prone to joint problems, discuss with your vet ways to prevent or delay the onset of arthritis. There may be a particular diet or certain medicines that will help your pet live without pain and prevent a more serious and costly illness in the future. Think about your pet’s routines. If you can tell that certain times of year or certain behaviors are typical when you pet is unwell, take action before the ailment is full-blown.
- Give love. An enjoyable and easy way to nurture the health and well being of your pet is through love and attention. A pet that is loved is more likely to be well behaved and less destructive. The more time you spend with your pet, the more easily you can determine if something is wrong with his health. Taking your dog to the park or giving your cat an extra cuddle is also free!!