Ask the Vet: Save Money on Veterinary Care by Preventing Disease
Q: My income is limited, but I wouldn't part with my dog, Max, or cat, Mimi, for anything. How should I spend what I've budgeted for pet health care?
A: The best way to save money on pet care is to prevent disease rather than treat it. Let's start with some free ways to do that.
First, keep Max and Mimi slim. Research shows that slim dogs live two years longer than their heavier counterparts. Moreover, slim pets develop fewer chronic diseases, which can be expensive to diagnose and treat. For example, overweight dogs are at risk of osteoarthritis, and overweight cats are prone to diabetes.
Minimize tooth and gum disease by feeding a dental diet accepted by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. These diets, which reduce plaque and tartar, are listed along with recommended treats and other dental products at http://vohc.org/.
In addition, brush your pets' teeth with pet toothpaste every day or two. Discard bones and other hard toys that can fracture teeth badly enough to require extraction.
Comb or brush Max and Mimi every day or two to prevent mats and the skin infections that can develop beneath them. If either pet gets ear infections, minimize recurrences by cleaning ears weekly.
Every month, clip Max's nails so they don't break off at the quick and necessitate a veterinary visit. If he's had anal sac problems, learn how to empty his anal sacs, and do it monthly.
If you smoke, stop. If you must smoke, do so outdoors. Pets that inhale secondhand smoke run a higher risk of cancer. Cats are especially vulnerable because they also ingest toxins from the smoke when they groom themselves.
Schedule wellness visits with your veterinarian at least annually. Your vet will examine Max and Mimi, looking for problems that can be addressed before they become serious. In addition, your vet can provide preventive care, such as vaccinations and parasite control.
Vaccines are inexpensive and they protect your pets from dangerous diseases. At minimum, Max and Mimi should receive the distemper-combo and rabies vaccinations. Ask your veterinarian whether your pets should have additional vaccinations based on their lifestyles and the diseases prevalent in your area.