Studies have repeatedly shown that a large majority of pet owners consider their pets as a family member. We spoil them with birthday parties, presents, and all manner of toys and treats to keep them happy. But, when money is tight, extra expenses need to go. Sadly, some pet owners choose to avoid veterinary visits as one means to save money. And believe it or not, others might give up their pets completely.
Knowing what you can safely do at home to lower your pet’s healthcare costs is a good way to insure a healthy pet and a healthy wallet. First, don’t skimp on wellness or preventive care. Vaccinations and parasite prevention are important parts of maintaining your pet’s health and yours as well. Diseases like rabies and Leptospirosis are zoonotic, meaning they can be spread between animals and people. Similarly, intestinal parasites or even fleas and ticks, are capable of transmitting serious diseases to our families.
Some owners might choose to buy vaccines online or from a pet store. While this idea sounds like a cost-saving measure, there are many risks. Vaccines are delicate biological suspensions and require constant refrigeration to be effective. Some need proper mixing in order to work correctly. Improper preparation could make the whole process worthless. Choosing a lower cost flea product or a “do-it-yourself” dewormer at a general merchandise store is another option a pet owner might try to save money. Sadly, according to the Center for Public Integrity (www.publicintegrity.org), these over-the-counter products are likely responsible for a sharp increase in pet deaths and adverse events in recent years. The EPA has received more than 25,000 reports of over-the-counter pesticide reactions in pets since 2003.
Pet emergencies shouldn’t be a place for shortcuts either. Some pet owners simply use topical antibiotics on bite wounds or lacerations in order to avoid treating the pet when initially injured. But, most of these animals end up coming into the veterinary hospital with out of control infections.
Always check with your veterinarian before giving any over the counter human medication to your pet! Many pet poisonings are caused by human medications. But don’t worry; you can still save on your veterinary bills with a few simple steps at home. First, play with your pet! Veterinary behaviorists all agree that a tired dog is a happy dog and happy dogs don’t tear up furniture or get into trouble. Since behavior issues are the number one reason for abandoning pets, this fun task might literally save your pet’s life.
Playing with your pet has health benefits as well. A well-exercised pet is less likely to be overweight and suffer from obesity related problems such as arthritis, certain cancers, or diabetes. Next, when exercising your pet, use appropriate restraints and confinements. Pets who roam freely are often hit by traffic, get into fights or eat something dangerous. Emergencies like these can end up hitting your wallet very hard.
Despite all of these precautions, some pets will just get into trouble or develop a serious disease. Although veterinary medicine is still a bargain compared to other health services, most of us would be hard pressed to pay a big veterinary bill out of pocket. Consider pet insurance, or setting aside some money each month for your pet in case of an emergency.
We all want to keep our furry friends safe and healthy, but it is challenging when just feeding the family stretches your budget. Talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s specific health needs and see what should be addressed immediately and what can wait.