Okay, I can admit this title can be a little misleading. This article is not meant to berate people who have financial issues when it comes to taking their pet to a veterinarian. The purpose is to offer tips to future and current pet owners on how to minimize your financial burden for your pet’s veterinary care. When I was a veterinary student, I would take part in a popular online Q & A forum about pet care. I admit I am being a little dramatic here, but people would ask questions like “ My pet is bleeding from all of it orifices and I can’t afford to take my pet to the vet. What should I do?” A common response from forum participants would be the title I chose for this post. So it made me think of these following questions. What does it mean to afford a pet? What is needed to afford a pet? How can you keep veterinary care affordable? Below are what “matters” for keeping veterinary care affordable.
Finances do matter
If you don’t currently own a pet or you are thinking about adding a pet to your household, you need to look at your financial situation. Just because you are not rich, it does not mean you cannot care for a pet. However there are certain financial situations where pet ownership is not beneficial. If your only source of income is government subsidized sometimes you may have to choose between your pet’s care and your own family needs. A recent loss or underemployment is also not the best time to think of getting a pet. Remember having a pet is a privilege, so it would be unfair to take care of it under those restrictive circumstances.
Illnesses from unvaccinated animals can be one of the most costly in veterinary medicine. Therefore it is important that pets receive vaccines on time and at the right frequency. A common illness in unvaccinated dogs is Parvovirus and unvaccinated cats suffer from upper respiratory disease. Treatment usually involves days of hospitalization with intravenous fluid therapy and can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Though vaccine protocols can vary, it is recommended that they are given as early as 6-8 weeks of age and repeated every 2-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Then vaccines should be repeated at least in one year. A one year or three year protocol may be implemented after that depending on risk of exposure. Whatever protocol your pet adopts, it is important that vaccines are given on time.
Heartworm Prevention matters
As I mentioned in a previous post Heartworm disease in dogs, heartworm disease is one of the most preventable disease in dogs. It can also be one of the most costly and risky to treat. Therefore it is important that your pets remain on monthly heartworm prevention to keep veterinary care affordable. Check reviews on some of the popular Heartworm Preventatives.
Flea and Tick Prevention Matters
Fortunately there are not too many deadly diseases that fleas can give your pets. But they can cause health problems. Flea allergy dermatitis is one issue that can lead to a necessary trip to a veterinarian. This results in needing costly steroid injections and antibiotics. Also fleas are a source of intestinal parasites called tapeworms. The treatment for this is a dewormer called praziquantel which can be pricey depending on the weight of your pet. However ticks are a different story. They are well known in veterinary medicine for their tick borne diseases. The most common ones include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichiosis. Most of these involve long term treatment that can become expensive. Keeping your pet on monthly flea and tick preventative can keep veterinary care affordable.
Spaying and Neutering matters
If you are not planning on breeding your pet please spay and neuter. If you plan on breeding your pet please read my article “Should I breed my dog?” to see if you are truly ready to breed. There tends to be more issues with females then males concerning this matter but both can still lead to a high veterinary bill. With intact females you may deal with mammary tumors, a pus filled uterus “pyometra”, and an “accidental” pregnancy. With intact males the main issue is prostate disease. Other issues also include tumors of the testicles and behavior wise males tend to roam more leading to an increased risk of being hit by a car.
Not every pet owner can afford a premium diet. So it is most important that your pet is fed a well balanced and consistent diet. Most common errors that can make veterinary care less affordable are the following.
- Changing the diet frequently which leads to common issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, and allergies.
- Overfeeding pets which leads to obesity resulting in further health problems.
- Feeding table scraps as a “treat” which can lead to conditions such as pancreatitis and even possible toxin exposure. Many human foods have a high fat content that can over stimulate the pancreas and some ingredients are not metabolized well by pets so they mimic toxins. (e.g onions, chocolate, grapes)
Though I cannot recommend a specific brand of food, I will say higher quality pet food tends to be in the pet specialty stores (e.g. Petsmart, Petco, Tractor Supply stores) vs the brands offered in grocery stores.
Yearly Veterinary visits matter
This is probably one of the most important matters to keep veterinary care affordable. Some of the most expensive conditions I have seen are in pets who haven’t seen a veterinarian in several years. Opportunities that are missed is a mass that if it was first detected earlier would be a simple surgery. Now it is an expensive, complicated surgical procedure. A heart murmur could have been managed with medications, but now is a congestive heart failure case which requires intensive care. A urinary tract infection that could have been easily treated with antibiotics now requires expensive surgery because the pet has bladder stones. I could go on and on with different scenarios of why yearly veterinary visits are important but I am sure you get my point. It is even recommended that once your pet turns 7 they are seen by the vet at least twice yearly to help keep veterinary care affordable.
If I were to change the title of this post it would be “If you can’t afford to love your pet, then you can’t afford a pet”. There are too many people who get a pet just because they “like” the idea of having one but are not ready to “love” the pet. At the risk of sounding like I am preaching, I would like to quote excerpts from my favorite bible scripture concerning love: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast …….. It does not insists on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; ……..Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends ……” 1 Cor 13:4-8 ESV. The purpose of the quote is to demonstrate that having a pet is a life- long loving commitment. No pet can be perfect, no matter how much you pay for one. Love is required above all things to provide the best care for your pet even when unexpected health issues come up. Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your comments.