Cheaper Pet Care
Pets on a Budget
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Cheaper Vet Bills?
I am a pet owner and have been frustrated with the increasing prices that vets are charging. I pay less each year for health and dental for myself and my husband. We do have a great insurance plan where we work.
I have 2 dogs and they are getting old (one is 13 the other 11 years old). The problem is compounded by the fact that they are old and their health is getting poorer. When they both go to their reward in dog heaven, I will seriously consider getting another pet. I recently read somewhere that a dog or cat will cost you $15,000 over their lifetime. At first this sounded ludicrous, but if your pet lives 15 years and you add it all up, on average you spend $1000/year. Each year I spend $264 on heartworm/flea pills, $210 on food. This year I had the added expense of 2 new dog houses at $206 and dog beds $60. All of the above expenses are nothing compared to the vet bills which totaled $644.
I manage to keep my expenses down by feeding my dogs a generic brand of dog food and buying it in 40 lb. bags and I buy 20 lb. bags of dog bones. I try not to have their teeth cleaned every year, but it may have led to the one tooth having to be pulled, so I didn't gain there. I also groom them myself although I don't do a very good job at it and keeping up with it and should probably take them to be professionally groomed on occasion. Do you have any advice for pet lovers on how to find cheaper health care for pets?
Try Animal Shelters
Have you checked with the local animal shelters in your area for lower priced shots? They usually have clinics at special times with really good prices. Ours also does a dog wash at the same time (they'll bath your dog and dip them for fleas for pretty cheap). Also, check with the vet, sometimes they'll offer you a discount on shots if you go on a certain day....worth checking into.
Vet Schools Save Money
I have taken my cats for veterinary care at The School of Veterinary Sciences @ the University of Wisconsin-Madison near where I live. The cost is minimal and you get to help train those who will become the DVMs as well as get direct contact with DVM professors who are knowledgeable of new procedures, etc., which they can perform there for a greatly reduced cost as well. My sister and brother-in-law use the School of Vet. Sciences for their farm animals- they come straight to their farm and give them assistance with feed rations, birthing problems, infectious diseases, etc. so they can keep their dairy heard healthy and well-cared for. We even got help with behavior problems in one of our cats from a behavior specialist who teaches at the U. Hope this helps- I am sure most universities- especially the state ones- will offer such programs even though it may be a bit of a drive. Just think of it as a fun, get-out-of-town day!!
Schatze, Beloit, WI
Ask the Store
I am the proud owner of three cocker spaniels, so I realize the expense of food and vet bills. For preventative measures such as yearly immunizations, heartworm pills, etc, I now take my dogs to PetsMart. They have a vet every other Saturday who provides low cost immunizations. You can call the local store for hours. Also, to cut down on the expense of dog houses and supplies, check the classified ads. Many times someone will be selling their pet supplies cheap due to the loss of their pet. I got a great doghouse for $35!
Be Your Own Vet
One way that we save alot of money on our 4 outdoor dogs is to give all vaccinations myself. . .any vet catalog carries 6 or 7 way vaccines and they are significantly less than what the vet charges. Then, take advantage of vaccination clinics to get rabies shots. Vet catalogs also sell wormers and numerous other pet care products. About the only thing my vet does is spay/neuter and surgeries on our animals. I worm them, vaccinate them and do other medications. . . if you have a cooperative vet, get him to write out the perscription for heartworm medication (if you use it) and buy it thru the vet supply catalog too (no markup)
Also, you can bathe your pets for fleas/ticks and not use flea collars. Building houses yourself can save a bundle. We had a 55 gallon plastic barrel, and I cut one end out leaving a 4 inch lip on one side and use that as a very durable and cheap dog house.
Also, as far as pet foods, be sure that you're not spending more money for an inferior food. Sometimes, if you compare protein content, etc, the more expensive foods are actually cheaper in the long run, because you don't have to feed as much (I've found this to be very true with cat foods- I feed Iams brand to my cat and only give him 1/2 cup per day. He eats much less of it that he does of the cheaper brands, because it's more digestible)
Homemade Dog Food
My first reaction to this writer is "Hey, your animals are a part of your family. Why would you begrudge them a dime?" and then I read on. The key to good health in animals is keeping them healthy. Just like people, they need a fresh, well balanced, healthy diet. The better the diet, the less the bills. Feeding a generic dog food is the first thing this writer should stop. First of all, they are full of fillers such as corn and other nasty things that the dogs don't digest. Most of the "cheap" dog food ends up excreted into the yard.
This person should either invest in a higher quality dog food where the first ingredient is chicken, lamb, or beef, or look into making their own dog food. I make my own dog food and my dog thrives with (so far) nary a health problem. It isn't that expensive either. Since there aren't "fillers" the dogs don't need to eat as much. Add to that maybe $5-10 a month of fresh bones (which will cut down on teeth cleaning) and you're feeding a dog a healthy diet that will maintain his good health.
In our community, the Humane Society offers vaccinations for pets every month or so. Different vets from around our area donate their time in an effort to offer affordable care to pet owners. The savings isn't so much in the vaccinations (although there is some), but in the lack of charge for the office visit. So it does help somewhat.
We also found a pet groomer that was just starting out, so her prices were lower than most of the other established groomers in town. We pay $75 for our cocker spaniel and miniature schnauzer to get groomed, when normally it would be that much for just one of them.
Sally in Grand Junction, Colorado
Advice from a Veterinary Technician
Being a licensed Small Animal Veterinary Technician as well as licensed Small Animal Dietitian, I have heard this a lot! First, make sure you are feeding your pets appropriately. For larger dogs the amount of food required is only 1/2 cup per 20lbs ideal body weight (weight is an issue when they get older, the more the weight there is more of a tendency for illness) Watch those puppy cookies also...not too many!!! You really do not want to feed your pets a generic food as it does not provide the nutrition that they need especially in the older years. Science Diet, Iams and Purina One are excellent choices...you can stretch your food by also feeding chicken and rice, does their coats wonders too (do not rely on the chicken and rice for their entire diet.....as it does not contain all the nutrients they need, a few times a month is not bad though.)
The higher priced foods seem to cost more in the beginning, but it does lower your vet bills. There have been many studies in this field. All those animal by products contained in generic brands may result in diabetes, heart disease, and a myriad of other problems. If you wish to change your pet's diet, do so gradually! You do not want to upset their systems! Also, go to a pet store and write down the addresses and phone numbers of Science Diet and Iams. They give free samples and their food is guaranteed!
Why buy an expensive bed? Make one yourself! Dog Houses! Aren't they a member of the family? Or does everyone in the family sleep outside. The garage is fine as long as toxins, such as anitfreeze, are out of reach.
Remember, your veterinarian is a physician, dentist, surgeon, radiologist, ophthalmologist, dermatologist, audiologist, and much much more all in one package. I can attest to the fact that their overhead is so high that they are not rich people. They do it for the love of animals. Think of it this way. Do you total up how much your children cost on a yearly basis? Of course you do not put a price tag on your children! Your furry kids are pretty cheap after all, and they don't talk back!
Visit the Country
My husband and I have found that if you go to a rural animal clinic (preferably in a small town) rather than a vet in a city or suburb, the charges are considerably lower, and the hours aren't as rigid. Our older dog was hit by a car recently, the vet stayed open late for us, kept him overnight from Wednesday to Saturday, performed all of the items necessary to keep him alive and out of pain, and our bill was only $150.00! The dog suffered a broken pelvis, and two months later was running around like a puppy. Try the rural clinics, they're great.
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