Lowering Vet Bills: 10 Tips for Keeping Costs Down
Posted Dec 11 2008 9:14pm
The cost of vet care for 2008 is estimated at $10.9 billion, up almost a billion from last year. With the economy tanking, jobs disappearing and the stock market down, many of us are postponing or foregoing dog care because we can’t afford treatment. It’s time — past time! — to cut out those unnecessary products and services too many pet parents think are essential — but may actually be harmful. Here are some cost-saving ideas that will also make dogs healthier:
1. STOP VACCINATING UNNECESSARILY! No more vaccinating against diseases your dog is unlikely to catch and against diseases to which your dog is already immune. Not only is unnecessary vaccination a huge waste of time and money, the resulting adverse health consequences can ruin doggy health and cost you a fortune in vet bills down the line. Watch our video Vaccinating Dogs for suggestions, and read or reread “Rethinking Vaccination” in our book, Scared Poopless. Also, read our blog article on titer testing. ( Click here.) This simple blood test is especially important to prevent over-vaccinating puppies.
2. FEED QUALITY FOOD. Although spending more for high quality food may seem a strange way to save money, it is your absolute best shot at long-term doggy health and lower vet bills. Start feeding wisely and you may see allergies, intestinal problems, joint ouchiness and other ailments disappear. At the very least, stop feeding grocery store brands and switch from kibble to canned. Better yet, feed frozen raw or fresh cooked or raw. My book has two chapters on food, one of them you can read free by clicking here.
3. FEED LESS. According to Purina’s much promoted 14-year study of 48 Labrador Retrievers, “lean-fed” dogs (receiving 25% less food than their littermates) eventually developed the same health problems as littermates as they aged, but needed treatment for ailments 2.1 years later. That is, treatment began at a mean age of 12 versus age 9.9. Here’s the secret to longevity: It’s not about feeding a particular brand; it’s about feeding to a healthy, lean (not too skinny) condition. Cut out all fattening corn-laden foods. Don’t leave food out all day and don’t overfeed. Remember: fat dogs aren’t cute; they’re expensive.
4. BRUSH TEETH MORE OFTEN. Few things are more expensive, or risky, than dental procedures. Avoid them by feeding low-carb foods (not kibble) and by brushing your dog’s teeth at least three times a week. Use a good paste meant for dogs (not Humans!) and use gauze around your finger or a super-soft toothbrush.
5. STOP GIVING UNNECESSARY OR DANGEROUS DRUGS. Check out your dogs meds (especially steroids and arthritis medications) on-line by name, and at the websites listed under Preventing the Preventable on my website link page. Also, if it’s not mosquito season where you live, why are you giving heartworm meds? No skeeters … no heartworm. Fleas aren’t much of a problem during the winter in most places either. Check out my book’s chapter, “Stop Pest-ering Me!” or do research on-line to learn more about heartworm and flea life cycles and natural methods of pest control. Just make sure your research is from reliable, unbiased sources. Websites that look “scientific” may be fronts for manufacturers of pet meds. Also check out my blog post on Heartworms for more information about protection.
6. GET FLUFFY A BLOOD TEST if she hasn’t had one in the last year (or six months for senior dogs). Remember, dogs age faster than we do and a thorough blood test (with a chem panel) is the easiest (and sometimes the only) way to detect disease while it’s still curable and cheaper to treat. Also test yearly for heartworms, whether or not you use meds.
7. STOP GIVING DANGEROUS TREATS that can perforate or lodge in tracheas and intestines: cooked bones, rawhide chews, pig’s feet and other too-hard chews. Surgery for obstructions and perforations is very expensive and may come too late to save your dog’s life.
8. WASH YOUR DOG’S FEET after a walk on chemically-laden surfaces like city streets and salted roads. Beware park areas which may have been recently fertilized, or treated with herbicides, without your knowing. And don’t use toxic chemicals in your home or yard. If it’s on your dog’s feet, before long it will be in your dog’s mouth. If it’s in your dog’s mouth, he’s on the slippery slope toward cancer.
9. SECURE TRASH, RECYCLING BINS AND TOXIC CHEMICALS FROM PETS. You’d be shocked at how much money is spent on inadvertent poisoning from snail, ant and rat bait, and also the general ailment called “Garbage Can Syndrome.” (Thanks to Pet Evironmentalist Elizabeth Allen of C4PAW.com for her work in this area.)
10. RESEARCH ON-LINE HELP. Check out the additional cost saving ideas at the Human Society ( click here ) and in the Smart Money article ( click here ). Californians, e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger and tell him we can’t afford his new 9% tax on our vet bills! Click here.
In short, think before you spend. Ask questions. Don’t automatically reorder drugs. Consider alternatives. Become an educated consumer and trust your own instincts.