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21 ways to cut vet costs

We are a nation of animal lovers. Indeed, we'd do anything to keep our pets in the pink of health -- and our vet bills prove that: We spend a hefty $18 billion per year on our furry, finned and feathered friends' medical services.

But take heart. There are ways to keep your pet and your bank account healthy.

In answer to the question, "Can we do right by our pets and our pockets at the same time?" Dr. Andrew Kaplan, founder of City Veterinary Care in New York City, answers a resounding, "Yes, most definitely -- if you become educated and follow some simple steps."

Roseann Trezza, executive director of Associated Humane Societies Inc., concurs. The keys, she says, are common sense and preventive care.

Plan ahead
Of utmost importance is not waiting for an emergency before selecting a vet. A crisis is no time to attempt to make sensible decisions.

Even if you already have a vet, are you aware of his or her policy regarding emergency services, hours and fees?

Matty and Michele Luxenberg had a pet-owner's worst nightmare when their 4-year-old cocker spaniel Jordy became acutely ill on New Year's Eve

"Our voice messages to our now-former vet's office went unreturned," says Matty. "We thought we had no choice but to take Jordy to an emergency center, which could've cost a fortune."

Instead, the Luxenbergs tried the vet who just opened an office across the street -- Dr. Kaplan, who treated the ailing pooch pronto and did not charge a premium "emergency fee."

Did you think emergency fees were unavoidable? They may be common, even standard procedure, but the trick is to ask a vet's policy before a crisis occurs.

Here are some other ways to increase the odds of doing right by your best friend and your finances:

  • Consider alternatives. Humane society or university vet clinics may offer thriftier medical services than private practitioners. Ask other pet owners about their satisfaction with establishments you consider.
Next: "Don't assume a yearly schedule is necessary."
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