5 tips for ensuring your pet stays healthy without breaking the bank
We know what people say: “I hate taking Spot to the vet – it’s a lot of money and sometimes I think they’re just trying to make me spend more money.”
But remember: Vets have the same kind of medical training (and almost as much of it) as family doctors have. Their years in veterinary college involved anatomy, physiology, surgery and pharmacology – just like your family doctor. And 99% of them did it because they have a deep love for animals. If they’d really wanted just to ‘make money’, they’d have chosen a medical field that involved humans.
However, we also know that when a pet gets sick, it can happen fast – and even modest bills can be a shock to the budget.
So here are our tips for keeping vet bills low – while also ensuring your pet stays healthy and gets the care they need, when they need it.
- Choose the right vet clinic for you. Establishing a long-term relationship with a veterinary clinic can help ensure that you get good advice based on knowledge of your circumstances, your pet, and your pet’s health history. So it’s worth finding one that you really ‘click’ with. You may prefer a clinic that specializes in feline health, or one with super-modern equipment, or one with a vet who seems super-friendly or super-smart – the key is whether you get a good feeling when you walk in the door, and trust the people who are interacting with your pet.If you’re looking for a new vet, don’t hesitate to request a 10-minute introductory meeting. Good vets understand the importance of establishing relationships, and they’ll be happy to spend a few minutes showing you their practice and meeting your pet before you sign on as a patient.
- Do get those early checkups done. New kittens and puppies can seem like an expensive proposition, with all the vaccinations and examinations and spaying and neutering. However, getting young animals fully examined and vaccinated in the first year or two will alert you to any potential issues and give you an opportunity to ask the vet for advice about things like food, grooming, exercise and temperament – all things that will have a huge effect on the health of your pet in the long-term.
- Ensure your animals get plenty of exercise. This is especially true for dogs, no matter the breed. Experts say that dogs should spend at least 30-120 minutes on an ‘activity’ every day (exact amounts will depend on breed, size, age, etc., and herding dogs like German Shepherds will generally need more activity than a Teacup Yorkie). That can be a brisk walk to the corner store and back, a hike in the woods, playing fetch in the park, training time – it’s all about physical and even mental engagement. Establishing and maintaining a vigorous exercise schedule right from the beginning will help pets stay physically and mentally healthy, longer.
- Don’t ignore your gut. Animals can be good at hiding pain and discomfort until a medical condition has become serious (and expensive). You spend the most time with your pet, and you know them the best. If they start to behave differently, go off their food, stop urinating/defecating normally, or just seem ‘off’ to you, don’t wait for things to get worse. An early intervention can not only save you money – it can also make the difference between a positive outcome and a negative one.
- Talk to your vet. Don’t be afraid to talk to your vet about your budget restrictions, right from the beginning. Ask them to lay out the possible courses of actions and costs, and what they consider ‘urgent’ vs ‘important’ or ‘nice-to-have’. Many vets will accept payment plans; many can offer treatment alternatives. If money is a concern – and it almost always is, for all pet parents – it’s much better to have an up-front discussion about this than to fret about the bills later.
What about pet insurance?
Pet Insurance is a great way to give you peace of mind without worrying about unexpected expenses for your pet. Insurance plans provide Illness and Accident coverage, from broken bones to ongoing illnesses such as diabetes. The best time to consider purchasing a plan is during the early stages before any pre-existing conditions develop. Older pets can still be insured, though may not have full coverage for things previously diagnosed. Insurance coverage can vary, though most policies cover diagnostics and treatments such as blood work, x-rays and ultrasounds, hospitalization, medications, and prescription diet food.
It is important to do your research to know which policy will fit your budget and your pets needs in the event of an unexpected vet visit. Though budgeting or setting up a savings account may seem like the better option, it can take time to save up an adequate amount to cover the unexpected cost of an emergency visit or for ongoing treatments of a condition.
While nothing is certain when you’re dealing with pets (or people), doing a little bit of research, prep and communication will help you avoid a painful situation in the long run.