According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners will spend $12.2 billion on veterinary care this year. Here are seven ways to cut your bills without missing out on your furry friend.
Schedule annual exams.
“One year in a pet’s life is equivalent to seven in a human’s life, so a lot can change quickly,” says veterinarian Karen Felsted of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. The problem is that most pet owners don’t think annual checkups are necessary — a survey found that 63 percent of dog owners and 68 percent of cat owners question the need for regular veterinary care. However, annual checkups can help catch problems before they escalate, or prevent common problems (like heartworm or dental disease) altogether, allowing you to avoid costly fixes later.
Help them stay slim.
More than half of pets are overweight, and just like humans, those extra pounds increase their risk of diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. How do you know if your pet is chubby? Both cats and dogs should be generally hourglass in shape and you should be able to feel their ribs. To help Fido lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, exercise him daily, avoid feeding leftovers, and limit treats.
Don’t skimp on pet food.
In general, look first for foods that contain protein, such as turkey or chicken (not “meal”). Because they have better ingredients and more research behind them, quality foods also cost more. But here’s the kicker: Unlike low-quality foods, which require you to feed your pet more to get the appropriate nutrients because of the numerous fillers, high-quality foods are so nutrient dense that you can feed your pet less (if you do this if you don’t, your pet will gain weight).
Bring your pet indoors.
Although pets can get sick, they have a reduced chance of being hit by a car, tangling with other animals, or eating something harmful that could send a pet to the vet. When outdoors, keep pets on a leash.
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Watch for telltale signs of serious trouble.
Certain early warning signs can alert you to health issues that should be treated before they escalate. “If you can catch a serious illness early on, your pet will have fewer complications and secondary illnesses, which can keep costs down,” says Felsted. These signs include:
• Weight loss (particularly without dietary changes), which may indicate diabetes, kidney disease and some types of cancer
• Vomiting or diarrhea, which could mean your pet has swallowed something foreign or has inflammatory bowel disease
• Bad breath, which could indicate dental disease or abscessed teeth
• Extreme or unusual lethargy
• Pain or limp when moving, which can be a sign of arthritis
Consider pet insurance.
“Pet insurance can help you pay for conditions that require expensive treatments,” says Felsted. Since policies vary, do your homework before committing. First, decide what coverage you want. For example, you might want to pay for wellness checkups out of your own pocket, but want to protect yourself from serious injury. Let your personal finances guide you and remember that the more comprehensive the coverage, the more it costs. Also consider your pet’s current health – for example, does it have an inherited condition that could be costly to treat later?
Talk to your veterinarian.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your ability to pay for care. Why? “Instead of an expensive gold-standard treatment, your veterinarian may recommend a medically appropriate alternative that’s less expensive but will still benefit your pet,” says Felsted. Also, ask if your vet gives discounts when seeing multiple pets in the same exam; Some vets do this as a courtesy.
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