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21 ways to cut vet costs
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  • Spay/neuter! Reproductive reasons aside, an animal that has been spayed or neutered has decreased chances of getting a variety of serious illnesses. It's also generally known that such animals have fewer behavioral problems. Says Dr. Kaplan, "There is a better than 99 percent reduction in the incidence of malignant breast cancer in dogs and cats if spayed before their first heat cycle. That benefit drops to 92 percent if the spay is performed between the first and second heat cycles. Un-neutered male dogs have a greater risk of prostate infections."
  • Keep careful records of your pet's inoculations and other health-care services. If you switch vets, you won't risk having costly procedures duplicated if you can't recall what was done.

  • Speaking of inoculations,don't assume a yearly schedule is necessary. There's been much talk in the medical community about repeating certain procedures only after two- or even three-year intervals.

  • Be selective about follow-up care. Don't automatically follow up with expensive emergency-hospital staff -- unless indicated by the hospital and endorsed by your vet. You can often follow up emergency care with your regular vet during normal business hours.

  • Learn what constitutes a true emergency. As examples, Roseann Trezza lists weakness and difficulty in breathing. As for emergencies that might necessitate a rescue of your pet while you're away, you can order free "rescue my pet" stickers from Associated Humane Societies by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to 124 Evergreen Ave., Newark, NJ 07114. (You'll also receive a sample copy of Humane News.)

  • 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 include PetCare 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. 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 bird.

  • 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 pet's teeth."

Next: "Some stores sponsor day-with-a-vet events."
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