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!
Healthy oral hygiene is important for our pet for multiple reasons. Clean teeth are not only cosmetically pleasing; they also promote good smelling breath and better long-term health.
If poor oral health causes an infection in our pet’s teeth or gums, it can spread to their kidneys. This is especially true in cats. Older cats often suffer from kidney failure, which can be caused by an oral infection spreading to kidneys. Valvular heart disease can also be caused by poor dental hygiene. Bacteria from a pet’s mouth can travel to its heart valves, causing them to change shape and become leaky.
Original article by Marybeth Bittel, Tails Magazine
When I was a young music student growing up in Chicago’s western suburbs, my family adopted an Airedale puppy we named Beethoven. I picked Beethoven out at the shelter because all the other puppies rushed forward to greet me, while he hid shyly in the corner. Most trainers agree that’s not necessarily the ideal benchmark for selecting a furry friend, but we got lucky. Beethoven matured into an outgoing, even-tempered, fun, and affectionate family member who sternly guarded our front yard one minute, and romped through our sprinkler the next.
But then came the Fourth of July. Fireworks went off at random intervals around the clock. We discovered that when it came to loud noises and ear-popping explosions, Beethoven was absolutely terrified.
At first we wondered how this could have happened. After all, we’d never left our beloved boy outside while pyrotechnics peppered the sky. He hadn’t been exposed to extreme noises as a puppy. In all likelihood, Beethoven’s fireworks aversion, like so many pet fears and phobias, was just one of those things that took hold when his sensitive hearing encountered a sudden trigger he could neither see nor anticipate.
So we did what numerous pet parents do when their cherished companion is struggling: we cuddled him, coddled him, and cooed comforting words of reassurance. We also sat, feeling helpless, watching him cower and hide as the problem held steady each year. In fact, through all the years of Beethoven’s life, he never overcame this disabling sense of distress, no matter how soothing or supportive we attempted to make his surrounding environment.
When my husband and I began working with abused rescue dogs, we noticed that most arrived with an array of deep-rooted anxieties acquired over time. One Bichon was terrified of rotary fans. A Shih Tzu mix became a jittery mess during thunderstorms. A sweet and docile Foxhound routinely hid from houseplants. These fears ran the gamut, but they had one thing in common: They were exceedingly real to the dog, and they had a great impacts on the entire family.
We began working with local animal behaviorists, and that’s when we learned an invaluable truth: The way we, as caregivers, react to our pet’s anxieties can actually perpetuate the patterns.
Why would this be? As Abe Mashal, owner of Marine Corps Dog Training in St. Charles, explains, “Dogs form extremely solid bonds with their humans. That means most canines are highly attuned to any type of interaction with their human ‘pack’ members.” So when something a dog is doing earns our attention—whether that attention takes the form of praise, pampering, or peevish irritation— the behavior is often unintentionally reinforced.
“Reinforcement,” a common term in the world of animal behavioral training, is really just another word for strengthening. In reality, a reinforcer can be anything that strengthens a behavior.
So for those of you thinking, “I never reinforce my dog’s non-stop barking! I scold her on the spot,” see if these examples sound familiar:
“Every interaction with your dog has the potential to teach and reinforce, merely because you’re paying attention,” explains Sara Swan, owner of Narnia Pet Behavior & Training in Plainfield. How can you tell if this is happening? Simply observe over time. Dogs continue to engage in behaviors that provide some sort of payoff. If you’re dealing with a fear or anxiety response that’s ongoing—such as Beethoven’s abhorrence of fireworks—some kind of inducement is likely contributing to the pattern. In Beethoven’s case, his reactions earned him almost round-the-clock nurturing.
Fortunately, we as dog parents can leverage these same dynamics when it comes to re-programming undesirable behaviors. Let’s say your 80-pound “lap dog” excitedly jumps on you whenever you come home from work. When you withhold the coveted attention—immediately going back out the door, or turning your back on him—many pups gradually begin to seek out a different behavior.
The same thing can work with a fear response. If your pet is terrified of your Swiffer mop, for example, try propping it against the family room couch and just leaving it there. Then, simply act like it’s no big deal and go about your daily routine, even if your pup exhibits an unsettled reaction. Very gradually, over time, as your furry friend begins to approach the mop with quiet but tentative curiosity, reward that calm behavior with brief praise or a small treat. Keep it up, and eventually your dog can learn that “mop = calm = good.”
Helping your dog manage his stress is one of the keys to having a happy and healthy pet. If your animal companion has specific challenges beyond what you’re comfortable handling, always reach out to a certified animal behaviorist who can help you develop targeted interventional techniques that will work on your pet’s unique needs. It will not only help with unwanted behaviors, but strengthen your bond, as well.
Safe, Drug Free Ways To Soothe Your Pet’s Stress
The Thundershirt. The ThunderShirt leverages the age-old principle of swaddling an infant to promote calming reassurance. Simply fasten this snug, stretchy shirt around your pet’s ribcage. During anxious episodes of panting or hyperventilation, it provides ongoing sensory feedback that suppresses this common panic response. ( Thundershirt.com )
Music or ASMR. As a musician, I can attest firsthand that deep, resonant tones often work wonders on a nervous pup. You can also try leveraging something called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is promoted by many hypnotists and human sleep therapists. ASMR is a subjective, perceptual phenomenon characterized by a distinct calming or scalp- tingling sensation in response to quiet, seemingly mundane sound triggers. Certain pets appear especially receptive, and may even be lulled to sleep. To gauge effectiveness, try playing low, calming music or ASMR audio with your dog in the room. Use a meditation CD, or visit YouTube to access ASMR recordings by reputable “ASMRtists” such as The Waterwhispers.
Calming Sprays. Help create a relaxing environment for your pet by using a calming spray on their bedding or by plugging in a calming spray diffuser. Many cats and dogs experience reduced anxiety and stress after being exposed to these non- sedating sprays, which use soothing scents such as lemongrass, cinnamon, and lavender to encourage relaxation.