It seem like we're paying a lot for vets who are still "in-practice!" That was my poor attempt at veterinary humor. In all seriousness if you welcome vet bills like a rash, here are a few simple tips to keep you splurging on your Starbucks habit while also allowing your pooch to be in optimum health. Skipping on routine veterinary wellness exams is #4 on my "7 Mistakes that can shave years off your pet's life" series.
According to research by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), it costs more than $1,600 a year to care for a dog, While I happen to know a few dog owners that blow through twice that amount in a single week and that's only to cover the "doggy day care staff," gourmet food, and the wardrobe, these high-profile canines also have more social media followers than our very own President, so you get the picture. While a majority of us list food as the main expense of owning a dog, for others veterinary care tops the list.
Most pet owners view their pets as part of the family, and spare no expense when it comes to their beloved pooch. That being said, the reality is most of us have some budget perimeters. Pet care expenses can suddenly put YOU into the dog house if Fido has an accident or illness requiring emergency treatment or surgery. Even the bill for routine exams can leave you feeling like you got kicked in the gut when all those, labs, tests, vaccines and whatnots get added up and require a swipe and signature. -(Darn! -There goes that new Celine bag I was saving for.) In an effort to help keep your costs down, I recommend a few things:
First and foremost DON'T pinch your pennies and cut corners when it comes to feeding the best quality food you can afford. I personally have tried numerous quality pet foods and I love Nulo. It's reasonably priced, contains the highest amounts of lean animal protein from sustainable, humanely farmed livestock in the USA, low glycemic carbs, and the probiotic BC 30. It can be found in all PetSmart stores, many specialty pet boutiques as well as online. I have seen terrific results feeding my pets Nulo, but whatever you choose, remember, the nutrition you provide your pet is one of the most important tools in keeping your pet healthy AND keeping your veterinary costs down.
Please be picky about finding a great vet. I can't tell you how many horror stories I hear from pet parents about bad experiences they've had with vets. Do your research. If possible find one who has experience with your breed of dog. Ask for references from rescue groups, dog clubs, trainers, and/or friends. Most vets give very low cost or complimentary consultations, -go get one. If the vet, office environment or staff makes you feel uncomfortable or their philosophy differs, shop around. And it should go without saying, if the vet is condescending, rude or seems abrupt with either you or your pet, RUN for the door.
When we adopted Raisin from Pugs and Pals in Newport Beach, I chose to continue his care with Dr. Gail Renehan, DVM, and Dr. William Radovitch, DVM, owner of Airport Irvine Animal Hospital. It was a bit of a drive, (ok, a horrendous drive in traffic) but they are SO worth the extra effort. The entire team is brilliant, caring, and compassionate, as well as very knowledgeable about the breed. I love my vet team and have learned so much from them. I also trust their expertise and judgement implicitly. I hesitate to publicize them too much for fear I won't be able to get an appointment if needed. 😜. Your vet team is your partner and it's so important to be able to communicate and have a good relationship with them
Once you've found a great vet, Your pet should be seen at least once a year for a regular check-up. However, if your pup is older or has a chronic health condition, a check-up every six months or more is a good idea. Preventive health care is just that. It involves regular monitoring of your pet’s health status and taking proactive steps as necessary to prevent the development of disease. You’ll be able to check on things like organ function and make changes in your pet’s treatment protocol, to prevent more serious issues from occurring.This definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach; it should be tailored to your individual pet’s needs.
While it’s crucial to take your pet for a professional exam at your vet’s office at least once a year, you should also be doing at-home physical exams on your pet regularity. This is a simple, inexpensive and very effective way for you to keep a close eye on your pet’s health as well as detect any issues early on. With specifics, here is an article by Dr. Laura Becker, DVM.
Steps for Performing an At-Home Pet Exam
Perform the exam in a relaxed environment when your pet is not stressed or excited, or after an exercise session or nap (when they’re likely to be sleepy and ready to relax). Put them on your lap, start with the tip of their nose, and work your way to the tip of their tail.
I have found it extremely beneficial to keep a chart for my pets. If you notice an unusual bump, lump, wart or abrasion and you don’t think it warrants immediately racing to the vet, I like to snap photos and make notes in my smartphone. I use an object or tape measure to indicate exact size and location. If it gets bigger a day or two later, I know it's time to call the vet. I am also a fan of shooting video clips of my pet's gait, unusual cough or behavior. This has been highly effective in helping my vet make a solid diagnoses. In the past my dreadful sketches and reenactments have only left her more baffled and my pet never performs on cue. On occasion I can simply send a text or email file and save myself a visit.
Lastly, I highly recommend all new pet parents get an insurance plan. New puppies need lots of vaccines and more regular routine care visits. A new rescue/shelter pup might come with some unexpected health issues. While you are getting to know your new pet, a good insurance plan will protect you and keep your costs from spiraling out of control should something unexpected pop up. Plus, you are going to need that cash for all the great toys, beds and goodies you'll want to spoil them with.
There are several insurance plans and price options and they cover everything from all wellness visits and services to strictly major illness and accidents. Banfield is one of the nations largest veterinary practices with offices nationwide. They offer a wonderful pet health plan for all ages and stages. There is a one-time low enrollment fee and small monthly charges which cover all office visits and preventative services. Another terrific feature of Banfield is that all your pet's information is in their national database, should you move or require care while traveling. Most Banfield offices are open evenings/weekends and located inside Petsmart stores so you can grab a toy, treat or supplies for your sweetie following their visit.
As a pug owner, I've had my share of steep vet bills. I've also tried several pet insurance companies and presently I'm thrilled with Embrace. They too offer a variety of plans for everything from preventative care to major medical with deductibles. I highly recommend Embrace for those pet parents requiring specialty vet care or who use a variety of veterinary services.
Remember, when it comes to your beloved dog, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. By spending your pet care dollars wisely, feeding your dog quality food, partnering with a trusted vet, doing home exams to catch issues early, and purchasing some insurance you can actually save lots of money (possibly even a house payment's worth) by reducing your pet’s future veterinary care costs. Please keep me posted on just what you plan to do with all that extra cash? 💰💰💰💰