Pets are a wonderful addition to the family. They bring laughter, companionship and love into our lives – and multiple studies have shown how our four-legged friends improve both our mental and physical health.
But there are some financial facts that can’t be avoided when talking about keeping animals as pets. They are an additional expense that we have to account for in our budgets.
We purchase food and care items for them on a monthly basis. We pay for grooming and for veterinary care as needed. We may even spend extra cash to bring them with us on trips or vacations.
Our furry family members have the potential to cost a lot over the years we have them. After all, dogs can easily live ten years and cats can lead lives that are twice as long.
But as pet owners, we’re convinced the unconditional love they bring into our homes is well worth it. Keeping animals may be a completely discretionary expense, but for the people that love them, they’re more than pets. They’re family.
That being said, there’s nothing wrong with balancing your desire to be a pet owner with the need to live frugally. Financially-savvy pet owners would be wise to focus on reducing veterinary costs, and learning how to avoid trips to the vet. Medical care is expensive for animals and people alike, so minimizing vet expenses will be the easiest way to make a positive impact on how much a pet costs over his or her lifetime.
A healthy pet is a happy pet – and also a more affordable one. Consider these ideas and tips for reducing veterinary costs.
Be Proactive and Schedule Routine Checkups
It may sound a bit counterintuitive, but a simple way to reduce veterinary costs is to see the vet on a routine basis. A yearly wellness exam will help your vet to recognize and diagnose a health problem before it becomes severe and needs expensive treatment.
Your vet can also help set guidelines for everyday care based on the changing needs of your pet. For example, the doc may be able to suggest a change in exercise in order to keep your pup’s health on the right track as she ages. Or they might suggest a new diet for your kitty as she progresses through different stages of life.
For cat owners, a yearly checkup becomes even more important. Our feline friends often hide their symptoms when they’re not feeling well, which makes it difficult for even the most attentive of owners to detect when something is amiss. A routine visit to the vet will help uncover any potentially hidden issues before they become full-blown illnesses or diseases.
Find Alternative Care Providers
If a yearly trip to the vet for a checkup places too much strain on your budget, consider some alternatives. Place a call to your local animal shelter to inquire about low cost animal hospitals. They should be able to provide you with contact information for trusted veterinarians who charge less than some other clinics.
Additionally, consider using a rural vet if that’s a feasible option. Vets who live in rural areas often have a bare bones setup, since they often make house calls for large and small animals alike. They might lack the fancy office of a city vet, but they may pass the savings from lower overheads on to their patients.
If you’re not comfortable leaving your current vet but are struggling to fit in the expense, don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you’ve been a long-time patient and maintain a good relationship with your veterinarian, there’s a decent chance they will be willing to work with you. It never hurts to ask.
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Keep Up with Preventative Care
Keep your pet up to date on his or her vaccinations. These are crucial for dogs and outdoor cats, as they routinely come in contact with other wildlife, like rodents, that can be carriers for serious diseases. Having them up to date on vaccinations will prevent them from contracting viruses and illnesses from interaction with animals that are feral, wild, or simply unvaccinated.
National, “big box” retail pet stores usually offer weekend clinics where they will vaccinate your pet for a heavily reduced fee. This could save you hundreds versus going to your vet. They offer packages as well as individual vaccines.
Provide High Quality Food to Maintain Good Health
Ensure that you’re feeding your pet well. Many foods contain fillers and not enough nutritional value. Do your research to see what brands are recommended for the type of pet you have and their specific needs (some breeds of cat or dog, for example, are more prone to certain health issues; feeding a diet that caters to their needs may help avoid future problems).
While better-quality foods may cost more upfront, you’ll likely see the savings over time. Pets on an appropriate, nutritious diet are unlikely to become as sick or susceptible to illness as animals fed a diet that is poor quality and devoid of essential nutrients. This means fewer vet visits and a lower likelihood of your four-legged family member suffering from an entirely preventable illness or health problem.
If you want to transition your pet to a new food, especially a healthier one, do it gradually. Mix a bit of the new food in with the old, and add more of the new food in each day, lessening the amount of the old food being given.
Additionally, make sure you measure out meals. Your pet should be receiving the proper amount for its age and breed.
Encourage a Happy and Healthy Lifestyle for Your Pet
Beyond preventative measures that encourage smart medical care and an appropriate diet, pet owners can continue reducing veterinary costs that an unhealthy animal incurs by making sure all the needs of our cats and dogs are met.
Here are some aspects of pet care to consider in order to maintain a happy, healthy lifestyle for your critter:
- Consider the specific grooming needs of your pet. While not every dog or cat will need extensive grooming, some breeds and types need a little help in this department. Keep costs low by taking a DIY approach; going to a professional is probably not required. Regular grooming can help avoid skin issues, and gives you the opportunity to do a quick, preventative check for potential skin diseases (or injuries, if you have a pet that spends time outdoors or around other animals).
- Spend plenty of time engaging with and playing with your pet will keep furry friends happy and feeling good. Dogs and cats benefit greatly from playtime. It encourages activity and exercise, which are obvious health benefits, and it also helps high-strung animals burn off energy.
- Ensure your pet has adequate shelter in every season. It’s extremely easy for dogs and cats to overheat in the summer. Avoid leaving any animal outside, alone, for an extended period of time. Always provide clean, fresh water and watch for signs of distress brought on by heat. While dogs often pant to keep themselves cool, it’s often a sign of a problem in cats. Again, make sure any animal that spends time out of doors has access to weather-appropriate shelter along with plenty of water.
Know Your Pet’s Personality and Breed
When dogs and cats start acting abnormal, most pet owners can sense that something is wrong. Is your pet scratching excessively? Is he lying around, not as active as usual? Is she making an effort to hide away from the family?
Unfortunately, a trip to the vet might be necessary, but it’s always better to go at the first signs than to wait. An early vet visit will likely be less expensive than waiting until an illness is full-blown and very serious.
Each breed of dog and cat comes with their own unique personality, but also with their own hereditary health issues. It’s well known that Labrador Retrievers are prone to hip dysplasia, and that Pugs have respiratory problems. Read up on your pet’s breed to find out what problems may arise, when issues tend to manifest, if there are any specific preventative steps you can take, and how to be prepared for any health matters that are typical of your pet’s type and breed.
Try Pet Insurance (or an Old Fashioned Savings Account)
It’s likely that, as pet owners, we’ll be required to deal with veterinary costs sooner rather than later. While we can do what we can to reduce these expenses, being prepared for costs will make it easier for us to make room in the budget both for expected and unexpected vet bills.
Taking out pet insurance may be one option, although you’ll need to carefully consider whether or not this works for your pet and your situation. Some find that there are too many loopholes to jump through with meeting deductibles and making claims. Pre-existing conditions and hereditary conditions, like the ones that were discussed above, are usually excluded from coverage.
However, veterinary technology is improving and more and more procedures are being offered to pets with health issues. This also means that advanced treatments are getting more expensive, in which case pet insurance might be worthwhile.
If insurance for your animal isn’t something you want to try, cover your veterinary costs in the same way you would cover unexpected people expenses or emergencies: with a special fund where you can set aside a bit of money each month earmarked just for pet expenses.
Establishing a savings account especially for pet needs will help you afford veterinary care when the time comes.
Of course, simply taking the time to care for your pet day-to-day will go a long way in preventing health issues that can lead to pricey vet visits. It is your responsibility as a pet owner to provide the animals in your care with food, shelter, love and attention.
They don’t require anything extraordinary to be content, and they give back what they receive in the form of cuddles, licks, unconditional love, and silly antics. They make us laugh, they provide a shoulder to lean on when no human will do, and they provide constant, unwavering friendship.
Take your pet’s wellness to heart, as they do the same for you.
Image Credit: Giusi Barbiani