21 October 2011
Medical Care for Your Pet: How to Save Money on Vet Expenses

Americans spend an astounding $41 billion a year on pet care – a staggering number that surpasses the gross domestic product of most countries in the world.

Yet, in these tough economic times, pet owners are faced with having to delay or even forgo annual exams, vaccines and dental hygiene.

What’s a responsible pet owner to do?

The Best Defense…

A new study released by Portland-based Banfield Pet Hospital shows that most common illnesses can be prevented by more frequent visits to the vet, including the “Big Three” of pet diseases:

  1. Dental disease – 68 percent of cats and 78 percent of dogs are affected by dental disease such as tartar, gingivitis, loose or infected teeth – which can lead to heart and kidney problems (and expensive procedures!).
  2. Ear infections – Some breeds of dogs, such as spaniels, retrievers, small terriers and miniature poodles, are more prone to infection (ditto for Himalayan and Persian cats).
  1. Diabetes – Just as with humans, this illness is mainly associated with obesity and lack of proper exercise in cats and dogs.

Pet Health Insurance

One way to protect your furry friend is with pet insurance. The American Veterinary Medicine Association endorses it, and research clearly shows that insured pet owners visit their veterinary clinic more often.

Pet insurance is generally affordable – in many cases, less than $300 per year. The best plans let you select a veterinarian of your choice and base reimbursement on your vet’s actual fees, rather than using a “usual and customary” fee guide. Comprehensive coverage should cover hereditary and congenital disorders as well as chronic or recurring illnesses. Leading insurers to consider include PetFirst Healthcare, Petplan, PurinaCare and Vetinsurance.

Other Options

As the economy softens and veterinary costs rise, there are additional steps you can take to make sure your cat or dog remains in the best possible health, including these:

Payment plans – National plans such as CareCredit offer no- and low-interest plans, providing a simple and convenient way to move forward with treatment.

Online Rx – Online pet pharmacies can certainly save you money. But be sure to look for the Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practices Sites accreditation (aka the Vet-VIPPS seal). And certainly discuss less expensive alternatives with your vet. For example, the canine arthritis medication Rimadyl is available in the generic alternatives Novox and Norocarp.

Wellness plans – Different from traditional insurance, these affordably priced healthcare plans spread the cost conveniently over 12 months. Plans typically include unlimited office visits and physical exams, vaccines, screenings and other proactive care.

Vaccination Clinics – Low-cost vaccination clinics are offered at some veterinary practices (found commonly in large pet supply retailers) or animal feed-supply stores. Some vets may also offer other specials on pet foods, dental cleanings and other services.

Low-cost spay/neuter programs – Spaying or neutering your pet can save money by preventing serious health problems including uterine, ovarian and testicular cancer. Many local shelters provide resources for low-cost or no-cost spay/neuter surgeries.

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