21 ways to cut vet costs
- Consider pet
health insurance. It works in much the
same way as it does for people -- there's generally
a deductible, a co-pay or both, and forms to be
filled out. Pre-existing conditions and certain
procedures may not be covered. Fees, which are
usually much cheaper than that for people, can
range from roughly $10 to $30 per month. Carriers
Pet Insurance (1-866-275-PETS) and VPI
Pet Insurance (1-800-USA-PETS or 888-899-4VPI).
- Shop around for medicines, online
and locally. Discountpetmedicines.com
has a wealth of links to thrifty pet-med sites.
(1-800-381-7179) offers everything from Yogurt
Drops for your doggy to a mini "jukebox"
that plays "Love Me Tender" to your
- Always seek a second opinion
when a vet suggests a pricey procedure. This is
very important for both your pet's health -- and
your wealth. You'd do it for yourself, right?
- Brush those pearly whites!
Not only will your pet's teeth suffer if you don't
-- it can affect its overall health. Oral bacteria
can lead to serious problems and complications.
(Ask your vet about the proper procedure for keeping
kitty's teeth clean -- and good luck!) "You'll
not only save on dental cleanings," notes
Dr. Kaplan, "you'll eliminate the risk of
the anesthetics used to professionally clean your
- Get samples of new products
from your vet -- ask and ye may receive.
- Consider dietary improvements.
Check with your vet as to the advisability of
switching your pet from its regular food to one
tailored to it -- for example, a type of food
geared to pets that are senior, overweight or
prone to urinary tract problems. Upgrading to
higher-quality premium foods can pay off in health
dividends, Dr. Kaplan advises. Feed your pet food
specific to its species for optimal health. If
you have a hamster, for example, feed it hamster
food -- not nibbles from your nachos.
- Be your own pet (health) detective.
You know about The Merck Manual, which lists symptoms
of people's medical conditions? Well, check out
the online veterinary version merckvetmanual.com
to do the same type of detective work for your
- Use free resources such
as your local pet-supply store. Personnel tend
to be animal lovers with a fairly good layman's
knowledge regarding a variety of critters. But
even for questions that require a more expert
opinion, they may point you in the right direction.
Additionally, some stores sponsor day-with-a-vet
- Read, listen and watch.
Take advantage of other free resources, such as
pet publications and TV and radio programs. Sue
Moyer, an office manager with a multi-cat household,
cites animal expert Warren Eckstein's national
call-in radio program thepetshow.com
as a valuable source of information. "Among
other things, I learned how to clip my cats' nails,"
she says of the difficult procedure.
- More is less good when it
comes to stuffing your pet with vittles. Overfeeding
is an especially common problem with fish, and
the results can be catastrophic. The uneaten food
rots in the tank, creating a toxic environment.
Overfeeding landlubber pets can create the same
health problems it can in people. "Studies
in dogs have shown that a slightly underweight
dog has fewer health problems and a longer lifespan
than overweight dogs," notes Dr. Kaplan.
- Don't let your pets run loose
or unsupervised. Have fenced-in areas for
four-footers, who should never be out of your
sight. (In addition to the dangers of nature,
there's the terrible one posed by pet-nappers.)
Dogs should always be leashed, fenced or supervised.
As for cats, they unfortunately fall from windows
of apartment buildings so often, the phenomenon has a name: high-rise
syndrome. Jewelry designer Jon Fjerkendstad found out about this
the hard way. While he knew never to open his windows wide enough
for his beloved Siamese Mickey to fall through, a thoughtless visitor,
warned not to, did just that.
"The emergency visit cost about $350," recalls
Fjerkenstad, who immediately afterward rigged his windows to lock
in place. The happy news is that Mickey recovered and lived to nearly 20.
The bottom line? Your pets are your best buds. To
keep them healthy, you don't have to be wealthy!