smart spending

21 ways to save on pet care

1. Indulging Fido and Boots with gourmet vittles, homeopathic medical treatments and expensive grooming can put you in the poorhouse.

2. Consider alternatives. Humane society or university veterinary clinics may offer thriftier medical services than private practitioners.

3. Keep an eye out for special events, such as reduced veterinary-service events sponsored by government agencies or pet stores.

4. Some vets will give discounts to folks who bring in several pets at once, so why not round up your whole brood for routine exams and inoculations?

5. Speak up if it's a stray. Many vets will discount their services if your pet was an abandoned or homeless critter that you'd rescued. You may expect -- or ask for -- at least 10 percent off.

6. Say it loud: I'm senior and proud! Some vets also give seniors discounts as high as 20 percent.

7. Spay/neuter! Reproductive reasons aside, an animal that has been spayed or neutered has decreased chances of getting a variety of serious illnesses.

8. 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.

9. Be selective about follow-up care. Don't automatically follow up with expensive emergency-hospital staff -- follow up emergency care with your regular vet during normal business hours.

10. Learn what constitutes a true emergency. For example, weakness and difficulty in breathing is an emergency.

11. 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.

12. Shop around for medicines, online and locally.

13. 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?

14. 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.

15. Get samples of new products from your vet -- ask and ye may receive.

16. Consider dietary improvements. Upgrading to higher-quality premium foods can pay off in health dividends.

17. 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.

18. More is less good when it comes to stuffing your pet with vittles. Overfeeding can create health problems.

19. Be your own pet (health) detective. Check out the online veterinary version of The Merck Manual and do the detective work for your pet.

20. Use free resources such as your local pet-supply store. Their personnel tend to be animal lovers with a fairly good knowledge regarding a variety of critters.

21. Read, listen and watch. Take advantage of other free resources, such as pet publications and TV and radio programs.

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