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21 ways to cut vet costs
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  • 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 to do the same type of detective work for your pet.

  • 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 events.

  • 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 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!'s corrections policy -- Posted: May 4, 2006
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