CUT PET CARE COSTS
Simple strategies can save money without short-changing your pet
By Dr. Nancy Kay
Today, the human-animal bond is stronger than ever. The more tumultuous the world is around us, the tighter we cling to our beloved pets. They soothe us with their predictability and unconditional love, and they consistently give in excess of what they receive. Imagine then, the heartache someone feels when it’s necessary to cut back on a pet’s health care because of financial hardship.
If you are in a financial pinch — who isn’t these days? — here are some things you can do to economize while still doing a great job of caring for your pet’s health.
? Lay your financial cards on the table when talking to your vet. Talking about your bank account may be difficult, but such a discussion can lead to options that make better financial sense. Rarely is there only one way to diagnose or treat a disease, and you are entitled to an explanation of every single option for your pet.
? Request a written cost estimate for veterinary services before they are provided. How else can you know if your bill will be $200 or $2,000? Requesting an estimate does not reflect how much you love your pet; you are simply being fiscally responsible.
? Kick the once-a-year vaccine habit. We used to think that standard vaccinations such as distemper needed to be given annually. We now know that these vaccinations provide a minimum of three years’ worth of protection, once the puppy or kitten series has been completed. If your vaccine reminder card suggests otherwise, talk to your veterinarian.
? Don’t neglect your pet’s preventive health care, as it could cost you money in the long run. For example, administering a heartworm preventive is less expensive for you (and safer for your dog or cat) than treating heartworm infection.
? Feed your pet less food! Just as with humans, many dogs and cats are overweight. Ask your vet for her honest opinion about your pet’s waistline. If she agrees that your precious family member could lose a few pounds, put less food in the bowl. This new habit will translate into cost savings and result in a healthier animal, which means fewer veterinary bills.
? Be a savvy consumer of supplements for your pet. Some supplement suppliers would like you to believe that your pet’s good health is dependent on their products. Avoid being seduced by such ads, and talk to your vet about exactly which supplements are worthy expenditures for your dog or cat.
? Investigate options for paying your veterinary bills. Perhaps the clinic administrator is willing to barter for products or services. Look into CareCredit, for example, a reputable line of credit that can be used to pay for veterinary expenses. The company provides interest-free payment plans that may be advantageous compared to standard credit card payments.
? Consider investing in pet health insurance, especially if you are inclined to take the “do everything possible” approach for your pet. Do the math and determine if insurance makes financial sense in the long run. And before you sign on the dotted line, do some research to find a provider that is a good fit for you and your pet.
What should you do if your pet is ailing and you are forced to contemplate euthanasia because of financial constraints? Before succumbing to such a drastic decision, I strongly encourage a thorough investigation of every other conceivable option. Consider researching rescue associations, borrowing money from friends or relatives, applying for a donation from a pet health assistance organization, or finding a financially capable guardian for your pet. Exploring these options might just save a life and will do wonders for your peace of mind.
Dr. Nancy Kay is a board-certified specialist in internal medicine and the author of the book “Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life.”