Having a pet can bring a lot of joy into our lives, but their care can be expensive. Probably the biggest expense is veterinary care. The good news is that there are ways to save and keep the cost as low as possible without sacrificing your pet's health and well being. A little pre-planning and common sense can go a long way. Here are a few tips.
1. Do your research before you acquire a dog to find the breed that's right for you, your lifestyle and your expected budget. Some breeds have more inherited health issues than others, which translates into more veterinary care throughout their life. Some breeds require a great deal more grooming than others. It's important to plan ahead and have a basic idea of what to expect.
2. Be sure to keep up with preventative care to head off any future problems. Heartworm is a disease that can be very expensive to treat. In the long run, prevention is cheaper than the trips to the vet to treat the illness or disease.
3. Have problems checked out by your veterinarian when they first come up, rather than waiting for them to turn into a crisis on the weekend. Your regular veterinarian is likely to be less expensive than the emergency clinic, and problems are much easier to manage if caught early.
4. Be aware of what your dog eats. Certain foods and household substances can be toxic to your pets. Know what's safe and what isn't and keep unsafe foods and items locked up or out of reach. Take the time to train your dog what is "off limits" and what he is allowed to play with or chew on, and supervise play time as much as possible. You'd be surprised what common household items have been swallowed, resulting in a costly trip to the emergency clinic.
5. Take the time to do regular home grooming, including brushing your pet's teeth and cleaning ears. Initially there will be a training/adjustment period for your pet to get used to the procedure, but it's better than the costly problems than can crop up otherwise. Professional dental cleaning can be very expensive and usually requires your pet to be under anesthesia. And regular, simple ear cleaning can ward off ear infections and other problems.
6. Watch your dog's weight. Obesity can be a cause of numerous health problems in our pets. Feed your dog a healthy, well-balanced diet. Ask your vet what the proper weight is for your pet, and if necessary, adjust their food to keep them at that weight. Also provide plenty of exercise to keep them in tip top shape.
7. Consider pet insurance. Pet insurance is a controversial topic, some people swear by it, others feel it is not worth the effort. Take an evening to sit down with a cup of coffee and do your own research. Compare plans thoroughly, what the premiums and deductibles are, what is covered, and what is not covered. Most insurance companies cover illness and injuries only, not routine care, but it can be a lifesaver if you are faced with an expensive illness in your pet. It can provide peace of mind knowing you have the resources to pay for needed treatment, rather than having to make the awful choice to put your pet down.
8. Consider starting a savings account if you opt not to have pet insurance, just for your pet's care. Decide how much to put into the account monthly or weekly. Discipline yourself not to touch these funds for anything but pet care, and if you are diligent enough, you can build up a savings enough to pay for large veterinary expenses that may arise. One positive about a savings account is that if you don't use the money, it is yours to keep to use towards a future pet.
9. Research to find the best veterinarian for you. Ask your friends, family, and co-workers who they recommend. There are many wonderful veterinarians available who are not overly priced. Some offer monthly payment plans, others offer "wellness programs" that may save you money in the long run. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
10. Look for coupons, rebates or promotional offers. Many local coupon mailers and magazines will have veterinarian ads with coupons or discount offers. Your vet may also have rebate forms available for certain medications. Schedule your pet's dental cleaning during "Dental Month", or watch for other special promotions..
11. Ask your vet if they offer any discounts. Some will offer discounts for "established" patients, or for referrals. Take advantage of any discounts available to you.
12. Watch for local vaccine clinics. Many local vets offer low-cost vaccine clinics on weekends where you can get your pet's basic vaccines at discounted rates. Call around, or watch the calendar of events on this website for any special clinics coming up.
13. Spay or Neuter your pet early. You’ll save on vet bills for serious medical conditions such as breast, uterine and testicular cancer. You’ll also greatly reduce the risk that your pet will be hit by a car or injured in a fight, since animals “on the prowl” are prone to wandering and aggression.
14. Make use of local low cost spay/neuter clinics. UCAN is a highly recommended spay/neuter clinic here in Cincinnati. Their rates can be significantly lower than most veterinary hospitals. You can also find voucher programs that many vets will honor to save you money on the procedure. Check our Spay/Neuter page for some local resources.
15. Sign up for a pet first aid class. Watch our calendar for upcoming pet first aid classes and clinics. For a fee you will get hands-on training and a manual. Knowing how to perform basic first aid could possibly save your pet's life in an emergency. Always consult your veterinarian in case of emergencies or illness, but knowing basic pet first aid will help you know how to recognize what's going on and act quickly.
16. Check our Financial Assistance page for help in extreme situations. There are organizations that can help with large vet bills. Care Credit is a pet care credit card that may also be of help.
Plan ahead and you can prevent future advanced problems that end up costing a lot of money. Proper routine care, prevention, research, knowledge and common sense... and it is possible to save money and still have a healthy and happy pet!
Education is the first step in pet poison prevention.
Pet owners should take the time to educate themselves on the various, sometimes unexpected, pet poisons in their environments. The Pet Poison Helpline provides an extensive list of poisonous items for pet owners to be aware of, but here are a few of the most common items seen by veterinarians:
Many people believe certain dog breed, such as huskies and malamutes, are capable of living outside all of the time because of their thick coats. However, no dog breed should be consistently left unprotected outside. According to the City of Cincinnati, when the temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, a pet owner should not leave their dog outside for longer than sixty minutes without adequate shelter. For outside dogs, owners should provide a warm, dry, draft free shelter with fresh, unfrozen water. Heated water bowls are a great option to ensure consistent access to unfrozen water. Owners should also feed their outdoor dogs more during the winter because their bodies use more energy trying to keep warm. In 2016, the City of Cincinnati passed an ordinance with further restrictions and shelter guidelines for dog tethering and weather conditions, which can be found by clicking here
A common winter hazard that vets encounter consistently with cats is engine belt injuries. Cats will climb into cars to keep warm, and without knowing they’re there, people will start their cars and harm the cats. Before starting your car in the winter, it’s advised to give the car hood a few raps to make sure there are no cats cozied up inside.
Pets start an estimated 1,000 fires per year. While this isn’t a huge number, it’s easily preventable. Pet owners should identify the risks in their home and make sure they’re contained from pets. Risks to consider include, open flames such as candles, space heaters, stovetops, fireplaces, and frayed wires chewed by puppies.
Even if all fire hazards are contained from pets, there’s still always a chance of a house fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) , there’s a home fire reported every 86 seconds in the United States. So while the hope is that you and your pets never have to face a fire, it’s important to have a plan.
In case of a fire, pet owners should hang window clings that let firefighters know there’s a pet in the home. The ASPCA offers a free Pet Fire Safety Pack that includes a window decal. When leaving home, pet owners should know where their pets are and keep them close to exits if possible. Pet owners should also consider investing in monitored smoke detectors that alert homeowners of a fire when they’re not home and automatically dispatch firefighters.
Getting your dog microchipped is an easy and relatively inexpensive procedure that drastically increases the odds that your pet will find its way home if it’s ever lost. A microchip is a tiny chip that’s about the size of a grain of rice and contains a unique identification number. It’s injected into a pet’s skin between the shoulder blades on their back. When scanned with an electric scanner, the chip will show the unique identification number and manufacturer of the microchip. This unique identification number will be linked to the pet owner’s contact information in the microchip manufacturer’s database.
If a stranger ever finds your dog, a shelter or veterinarian can scan your pet for a microchip. Once they have the identification number and manufacturer from the chip reading, they will call the manufacturer in search of the pet owner’s contact information. Therefore, if a dog owner moves or changes their contact information, it’s extremely important for them to update the contact information associated with their pet’s microchip identification number.