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PET EXPENSES, EXPECTED AND UNEXPECTED....

Posted Mar 13 2011 12:00am
Two different forms of "Madness"
show up this week...
St. Patrick's Day and
March Madness.

It seems that a lot of our readers were in the mood for a change of pace last week.  Many of you sent e-mails saying that you enjoyed the format...in the words of Rose, from Roanoke, VA: "I liked the looser structure, while still retaining the informative content.  It made for a very comfortable read."

OK, I hear you.  We'll go with this idea for a few more issues and then decide what follows. 

Let's take care of our poll questions first.  Just about half of you feel your dog recognizes itself in a mirror, this despite scientific evidence to the contrary.  Either the science is faulty or perhaps some of you are giving your favorite canine way too much credit.  Half of you also dress your dog in sweaters, raincoats, etc.  Of those who do dress their dogs in clothes, 75% say the dog seems to enjoy it.  Remember to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.   

One of the concerns of just about all pet owners is the expense involved in owning and taking care of a pet.  Many pet owners will make adjustments in their family budgets so that their pets will be able to eat the right foods, receive the necessary vaccinations, or have a certain surgical procedure.  In that light, a recent proposal in the Georgia state legislature has veterinarians and pet owners in Georgia concerned about the effect of the proposed new state law that provides for the taxation of veterinary medical expenses
Veterinarians across Georgia say a proposed tax would be bad for pets and could force some owners to make a life or death decision. Legislation now being considered at the state Capitol is a proposal to tax veterinary services.  Many veterinarians are sounding an alert to pet owners.  The Georgia Veterinary Medical Association says a bad economy has caused a 25 percent increase in the number of pets put to sleep in the metro Atlanta area in the last two years and they say raising the cost of vet bills would force more owners to make some very hard choices about their pet's health care.


Bob Ross has raised Duke since he was a puppy, but now Duke is in his golden years and Ross faces the prospect of more vet visits and possibly surgery some day. Ross said he worries that taxing the services he gets at his vet's office would force him to make some tough choices about Duke's health care.  "As most pet owners are attached to their pets, it would be almost like if they were to tax you on some aspect of your children's care," said Ross.


Trouble, a 13-year-old cat had oral surgery Wednesday. Right now, that service is tax free but under this proposal the vet's office would be required to collect state and local taxes on everything from the x-rays and anesthesia to antibiotics and boarding.


A state commission has proposed taxing all kinds of services in Georgia to help raise state revenues, including everything from hair cuts to oil changes and veterinary services. The plan promises the money back by lowering the income tax over three years.


Many veterinarians worry that some pet owners who cannot afford the proposed tax increase on costly procedures will either allow their pets to suffer or worse.  "People might have to make tough decisions, might not be able to provide good care. Their pets might be in pain. Or worse yet, they might have to opt for euthanasia," said Dr. Vince Obsitnik of the Animal Medical Clinic.


Vets across Georgia are starting an email campaign urging pet owners to write their representatives. The bills are House Bills 385 to 388.
Pet owners could see an almost eight percent increase in their medical bills if these house bills pass.


“I think they should find another way to get their money. I shouldn't be charged extra if I have a pet,” says pet owner Virginia Swift.


“I know everybody has to pay their fair share, the money has to come from somewhere, the state can't run without a budget, but I have a hard time agreeing with taxation on medical procedures whether it be an animal or human. I'm a veterinarian so I’m the animals' advocate,” says Veterinarian Dr. Sonny Odom.  Odom says he does not want to be the tax collector for the state when he is already charging some patrons extra for particular drugs their pets take because of taxes.


Senator Freddie Sims says economic times are tough and the state needs money for their budget.  “We’re trying to make it fair, equitable and balanced,” says Sims. “Rather than target property owners only or people’s personal income only, you’re using consumers and every one of us in one way or another is a consumer at some point in time.”  She says the economy is going through a rough patch and the state budget is in need of money. She says it is not lawmakers’ intentions to make any group or service feel like a target.  “In order for us to improve our revenue in the state, these are proposals. None of this has been passed yet but these are proposed fees and taxes on services that have not been taxed before,” Sims says.


Veterinarians say while pets may seem like a luxury to tax and people should only own them if they can afford them, they say that to many people their pets are like family.  “They're friends, they're little kids best friend, they're your grandmothers, and they’re there when no one else is so they mean a lot,” says Odom. “It is something that you have to look after and there's a certain standard of care that's expected.”


Vets are worried if pet medical expenses are taxed and they have to charge pet owners more, the owners won’t keep up with the care of four legged family members.

Two news stories contributed to this report:  http://www.mysouthwestga.com/news/story.aspx?id=587610  and http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/dpp/news/vets-pet-owners-concerned-over-proposed-tax-030211

As more states get deeper into their economic slump, their legislators will be looking for additional sources of revenue from previously untapped areas.  Even though legislators claim this type of "service" tax helps them to balance their budget without raising taxes, Helpful Buckeye has to ask, "How is this tax any different from raising already-existing taxes?"  If these politicians would just finally admit that, after cutting all that they can from their budget expenses, they still need to "raise taxes" in order to provide enough revenue to run their states properly, perhaps none of us would be scratching our heads over these supposedly non-tax increases...like this service tax on veterinary care.

So, while you're sitting there reading about what these proposed service taxes might mean to your wallet, perhaps you should also start thinking about whether it's more expensive to have and take care of a dog or a cat.  Which do you think costs more?  Jason Cochran has put some effort into this topic
SAVINGS EXPERIMENT: CATS VS. DOGS
Although the companionship of an animal is priceless, their upkeep costs money, and too many people get involved with pets before realizing they can't actually afford to take proper care of one. Our pounds are overflowing with creatures who were evicted by owners who found themselves in over their financial heads.
But the cold financial facts shouldn't keep you from sharing your love with a four-legged, furry friend. You just have to know how much you should expect to spend. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that, 37.2% of our households kept at least one dog, and 32.4% of us kept at least one cat, making the two animals the most popular domestic pets by far.


Of course, depending on your pets' temperament, it's easy to have both a cat and a dog. But if you broke down the costs of each, assuming both animals are healthy, how do the expenses differ? In each category, which costs more, dogs or cats?



Adoption

To save the most money and to save a life, don't use pet stores. Get your pet from the pound or ASPCA. You're more likely to get a mutt or mixed breed there (which, if you ask me, makes a more healthy and emotionally stable animal), but if you insist on a purebred, there are many rescue associations that you can find online by breed: Pugs, Dalmatians, Pit Bulls, and other popular breeds are often discarded when their owners tire of trends.  Even the ASPCA charges a fee for adoption, although the cost of starter health care (spaying or neutering, shots, micro-chipping) are folded into that. Expect about $75 for an adult cat or $125 for a kitten, which requires more care. Dogs cost $75 to $200, depending on how much health care they require.

Most expensive: Dogs

Spaying and Neutering


Shots and routine health care are more or less the same, although when it comes to surgery, you'll generally pay more for a larger animal. At the vet's near my house, a cat costs $160 to neuter, and a dog costs $290.

Most expensive: Dogs

Routine Health Care


Some pure breeds are afflicted by particular health issues -- for example, Cocker Spaniels are more prone to ear infections. But assuming that your pet is generally healthy, your basic health care costs for standard preventative procedures don't differ much.

Most expensive: Tie

Setting Up Your Home


Dogs, unlike cats, need more equipment: a leash (start at $12, with optional harness for $15 to $30). Your dog's energy levels and your schedule may require you to put it in a crate at bedtime and when you're not around. Those cost between $100 and $225.  Some expenses will be the same. You'll pay the same price for a pet carrier (for cats and small dogs) and food and water dishes no mater which animal you adopt. Flea powders, collars, and other routine care items also come with negligible price differences. Cats can claw furniture, but puppies can be just as destructive. In time, proper training can even the score.

The next time you're in a pet store, though, notice how many of the products, including toys, are for dogs. That's because dogs seem to go through toys at a faster rate than cats, and owners tend to indulge their emotive personalities more. Dog toys also cost a tiny bit more, or $5 to $9 per toy as opposed to $3 to $5.50 for cats.


Cats aren't big on treats, either. A $2.50 jar of catnip and a few cheap felt mouse decoy toys will satisfy them for weeks, while dogs go through Milk Bones ($7 a pound), generic biscuits ($6.50 for 2 pounds of the Petco brand), and pig ears ($17 for a dozen). Dry snacks are the cheapest route here, and they're good for dogs' teeth, but soft treats are popular, even if they're much more costly ($6 for six ounces of Snausages is a typical price).

Most expensive: Dogs

Food

Dry food is always cheaper than wet food, but animals are picky, so you never know what you'll have to buy until you see snouts turning up at what you've served. Here, the price is pretty close: about $1.50 to $1.75 per pound for dry for both cats and dogs.


Cats eat less food than dogs, though, which can make expenses lower. Cans of wet food contain less food for felines than for canines, making them cheaper than single-serving meals for dogs. Figure on 60 to 90 cents for a can of wet cat food versus $1.50 to $2 for a can of wet dog food.

Then again, dogs are more likely than cats to settle on dry food. That means cats tend to eat less food, but it's more expensive per weight. Assuming your dog eats a half-pound of dry food a day (75 cents to 87 cents) and your cat eats one can of wet food a day (60 cents to 90 cents), the cost is pretty much even.


There are other variables, such as if your animal requires a special diet, but that can happen to either a cat or a dog. Your dog may be enormous, with an enormous appetite to match, but assuming you've got a small- to mid-sized dog that doesn't mind dry food, the cost is close to a cat's appetite for wet food. (If your cat likes dry food, good for you! That's the cheapest route of all.)



If your pet eats dry food, buy it in bulk bags for even more savings. That way, you'll pay $35 for 20 pounds ($1.75/pound) of cat food, versus $11 for 4 pounds ($2.75/pound). Buying in bulk for dogs creates similar savings, and since dogs usually gladly dig into dry food, buying in bulk is more feasible with man's best friend.

Most expensive: Tie

The Poop Question


You have to pay for your pet's meals both coming and going. For cats, a pan filled with litter will do the trick. You'll use about 2 pounds of litter a week. Petco's cheap house brand costs $18 for 30 pounds, or 60¢ a pound, and the fancier (if that's the word) Yesterday's News brand goes for about 73¢ a pound. So for a cat, you'll spend about $1.20 to $1.50 a week to help it take care of business.


This is where the expenses really mount for dogs. If you have a yard, pooping is free as long as there's someone around to let it out. If you don't, or if need someone to walk it, you'll pay. Poop collection bags cost $9 for 60 or $15 for 120, so you'll spend about 12¢ to 15¢ each time your dog goes to the potty. Assuming that happens twice a day, you'll spend $1.68 to $2.10 a week for bags. That's not much more than cats.


So if you walk your dog yourself, it's a tie.

But if you work a lot, or travel a lot, you'll pay more for a dog. If you have to leave home for a couple of days, a cat can make do with plenty of water, food, and a clean litter box. But a dog will eat your house. They require daily attention and exercise, while cats generally don't.



Hiring someone to walk your dog will hit you for $15 to $25 per walk. Hiring someone to walk your cat is just an exercise in madness.



And when you go away, boarding a cat costs about $15 a day, while dogs start at $18 for animals under 30 pounds and scales up for heavier dogs, typically capping out in the mid-$20s. That's the price in both a typical town (Penrod Kennels in Milton-Freewater, OR), and in the big city (Barks 5th Avenue in Houston), although there's no shortage of luxury kennels and indulgent doggy day care facilities to milk you out of far more cash.

Most expensive for apartment or city people: Dogs.

Results

The results are clear, and it's not even by a whisker. For most lifestyles, dogs are higher-maintenance so they're more expensive. Although cats and dogs tie in some arenas, there's not a single category in which cats are pricier.


Some dog owners might say there are some benefits to the extra spending. Dogs can be taken with you on vacation, they can play with you at the park or accompany you on long walks, and they're vastly more social and playful than cats. A cynical pet owner could argue that they get more return for their dollar on that count, though of course, the self-reliance, low maintenance, and soothing presence of a cat are selling characteristics on their own.


There are lots of variables, including where you live, the size of your pet and the amount of free time you can spend at home taking care of it, and the health of your animal. But with all things being equal, cats have the edge.

Dog owners can rationalize all they want about the intangible benefits of having a dog but, as Jason has adequately shown, from the perspective of expenses alone, cats take this battle...hands (paws) down.

You can find Jason Cochran's report at wallet pop: http://www.walletpop.com/2011/03/01/savings-experiment-cats-versus-dogs/

Just when dog owners are tired of being reminded that their choice of pet is costing them more money in the long run, comes this report from American Public Media that Border Collies and other herding-type dogs run into trouble because of their boundless energy. Their unspent energy apparently has contributed to some destructive behaviors at home.  But some sheep farmers in the Pacific Northwest are getting paid to let those dogs herd a real flock of sheep.  This is a fascinating story from "Marketplace":

The popularity of herding dogs has come a long way in recent years.  We're mainly talking canines such as Australian Shepherds. So some sheep farms now let dog owners rent time with their flocks so their herding dogs can do what they do best. 



From Olympia, Washington, Ann Dornfeld reports....


Ann Dornfeld: On this chilly Saturday, half a dozen city-dwellers are lined up with their dogs along a muddy field. The dogs are waiting for their turn to chase a flock of sheep into a tiny pen.
Sylvia Griggs is the facilities manager at Fido's Farm, an 80-acre spread with hundreds of sheep. It's been in operation for seven years. Griggs says business is booming thanks to the growing popularity of herding dogs as pets.


Sylvia Griggs: A large base is mainly Australian Shepherds. People have no clue how active those dogs really are. They're not designed as a pet. The dogs are bred to work, to have a job, and they don't do well if they don't have some type of outlet.  When herding dogs don't have an opportunity to round up livestock, they devote that extra energy to nipping at your kids' heels as they ride their bikes or chewing up the house.


Greta Zuercher knows firsthand. She's here with her young Border Collie, Tess.


Greta Zuercher: She destroyed some Oriental carpets -- every single one she chewed the edges. I ended up duct-taping them to the floor to keep her from chewing them.


Dornfeld: How much were those worth?


Zuercher: About $5,000 each.


Today, Zuercher is spending $15 so Tess can spend a day with the sheep. Zuercher lives in a Portland suburb. But she says the two-and-a-half hour drive is worth it. Zuercher says as soon as she got Tess around sheep, it was clear that this dog was born to herd.


Zuercher: It was actually really interesting. I carried her into a packed pen and she had them all in the corner just by looking at them. It was just impressive to me.


Zuercher says Tess' behavior has improved a lot since she started herding. Sylvia Griggs says Fido's Farm now gets more than a dozen customers like Zuercher a day.


Griggs: Basically, it's all word-of mouth! We do very little advertising about the herding.


Other breeds can herd, too. Standard Poodles, Rottweilers and Rhodesian Ridgebacks all have a knack for it, apparently. But if your dog doesn't have a natural herding instinct, Fido's Farm gives lessons for $35 a pop.


Helpful Buckeye supposes this is the canine version of the movie, City Slickers, in which Billy Crystal and friends from New York City visit a dude ranch in order to become toughened cowboys.  This opportunity to allow the herding dogs to dissipate some of their pent up energy obviously lets their owners keep down the "costs" of canine destruction at home, while helping the sheep farmers make a few bucks in the process.  In the American way, it's a win/win situation!

This report is available at: http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/03/02/am-farmers-get-paid-to-let-pet-dogs-herd-their-sheep/

This concludes the discussion of some of the types of expenses pet owners can expect to confront as they work to give their pets the care they deserve.

Before getting to the end of the trail this week, Helpful Buckeye would like to share this very topical report with our readers.  Topical, because it has to do with Daylight Saving Time, which goes into effect this weekend (2 AM, March 13th) in all states except Arizona and Hawaii.  Do you think pets are at all affected by Daylight Saving Time?  Michelle Bryner of LiveScience.com offers this answer
You might think it unlikely that the switch to daylight saving time (DST) could throw your cat or dog's busy schedule — eat, sleep, eat, sleep — off-kilter. But, as it turns out, some animals are so in tune with their owners' schedules that the one-hour spring forward can cause some confusion.



Just like humans, animals have internal clocks that tell them when to eat, sleep and wake up. This biological timekeeper, also known as circadian rhythm, is set in motion by natural sunlight. However, for pets this effect is minimized by the artificial environment they live in, where light comes on not with the rising sun but with the flip of a switch.


Humans set their pets' routines, said Alison Holdhus-Small, a research assistant at CSIRO Livestock Industries, an Australia-based research and development organization.


"Animals that live with humans develop routines related to human activity — for example, cows become accustomed to being milked at particular times of day, or pet dogs become accustomed to going for walks or being fed at a particular time of day," Holdhus-Small told Life's Little Mysteries. "When humans apply daylight saving time to their own lives, if they carry out their routine according to the clock, the animals can become confused." Holdhus-Small gives some examples of how animals might respond to a time change: If a farm owner arrives an hour later (when the clocks are turned back) to milk the cows, they will be waiting, bellowing because their internal routine tells them that they're late. Conversely, if the farmer arrives an hour earlier (when the clocks are turned ahead) the cows will not be inclined to come in to milk until closer to the "proper" time.


"When humans change the clocks for daylight saving, to suit our preferred working environment, from an animal's point of view, we are suddenly behaving oddly," Holdhus-Small said. "To the animals, it is inexplicable that suddenly dinner is an hour later or earlier than expected."


This behavior shift could cause animals psychological and physiological stress, Holdhus-Small said. A cow's udder, for example, will continue to produce milk regardless of DST and pressure will build up until the cow is milked. Household pets might get grumpy when they show up to an empty food dish at their perceived dinner time.


So when you set your clock forward an hour this weekend, remember that your pets need a little paw-holding during the time change. Holdhus-Small suggests gradually changing the animal's activities by a few minutes a day rather than the whole hour at once.

Some of you had to be wondering about this very question, Helpful Buckeye suspects.  So, there you go.  This report can be found at: http://www.livescience.com/13166-pets-affected-daylight-saving-time.html

SPORTS NEWS

One of Helpful Buckeye's favorite times of the sports year begins this week...yes, that's right, March Madness!  On Thursday, both of Helpful Buckeye's alma maters will begin the quest for the NCAA Basketball Championship.  Both Ohio State and Pitt were selected as #1 seeds, with the Buckeyes being the overall #1.  Of course, there are usually 5-10 teams that are capable of winning 6 games in a row during this tournament and winning the Championship.  However, being a #1 seed is a good place to start.  Helpful Buckeye is hoping that at least one of my schools will remain when we reach the Final Four.

With all of the good things happening to the Ohio State basketball team, it's hard to believe the bad atmosphere around our football program.  With our head coach now guilty of trying to cover up information about a problem with some of the football players, he has already been given a punishment from the school.  What the NCAA will do remains to be seen, but Helpful Buckeye says that he should have been fired as soon as this charge was verified.  As long as he walks the sidelines in Ohio Stadium, no one will have any respect for him or our football program.

PERSONAL STUFF

Helpful Buckeye rode his bike outdoors on Friday (the 11th) for the first time this year...6 days earlier than last year.  Since we haven't had as much snow as last winter, the bike lanes don't have as many piles of hardened snow or deposits of cinders.  This is always an exciting day for me...sort of like "Opening Day" in baseball.  After riding the upright stationary bike in the gym all winter, while waiting for the warm and sunny days to return, I felt like a caged animal that has been let loose.  I saw our resident Bald Eagle 3 times during my ride...it felt great! 


While cruising, thoughts of my 2011 Quadathlon were formulating in my mind.  I've got it narrowed down to 4 probable events that will no doubt present a harder challenge than those of 2010.  One thing I'll need to change is the name of the Quadathlon.  It will no longer be "...of Northern Arizona" since one of the events will take place in southern Arizona and another will be in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  So, let's just go with Helpful Buckeye's Annual Quadathlon for now.  Helpful Buckeye has already had inquiries from several friends about coming along as "athletic supporters", groupies, and mainly fun-seekers. 

Here's an anonymous toast, found by Desperado
May you always haveLove to share, Health to spare,And friends that care.


~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~




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