December 10, 2010

Saving Money on Pets, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two part guest post written by GB Savers reader Jen who is a Certified Veterinary Technician. If you haven't already, read Part 1 here.

Heartworm and Flea preventatives
Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes, so this is a problem in WI. Fleas live all year long on rodents outside and you can even bring them in on your clothing and shoes. A flea infestation is NO FUN so take the proper precautions for your pet. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't buy any flea preventative besides Frontline (topical liquid available at any pet store) or Sentinel (chewable tablet that also contains Heartworm preventative). The other brands, such as Hartz, have been known to cause major reactions and even death. (Believe me, I've seen it, and it's sad). Frontline is available over the counter at any pet store or vet, no prescription needed.

Heartworm preventative, such as Sentinel, Interceptor, or Heartgard, requires a veterinary prescription because if you give heartworm preventative to a dog who already has heartworm it can kill them, so they require a negative heartworm test before prescribing it. The Bay Area Humane Society has heartworm and flea preventatives available at a reduced cost.

***TIP: did you know that Frontline is proven to prevent fleas for TWO months?? It's only proven to prevent ticks for 1 month, which is why they have you apply it monthly, but in the winter, when ticks aren't a concern, save some money and only apply every other month.

Ovariohysterectomy & Castration (getting your pet "fixed")
This can be a pricey procedure but is important to your pet's overall health. Getting a female pet spayed before it's first heat cycle drastically reduces her risk of cancer, and eliminates her risk of a pyometra (a life-threatening condition in which the uterus gets infected and requires emergency surgery). Male dogs who are neutered have a drastically reduced chance of getting cancer or causing unwanted pregnancies. Both sexes benefit from decreased aggression.

Ways to save in this area are: get a pet from a rescue or humane society. These pets will either already be fixed or get their surgery at a reduced cost. The Bay Area Humane Society also offers these surgeries at a reduced rate for those who qualify.

If you have to go to the Vet:
In the unfortunate instance in which your pet requires a trip to the vet, try these money-saving tips:
  • Tell the receptionist that money is an issue when you make the appointment. This gets relayed to the rest of the team and alerts them to help save you money
  • Not all vets are created equal. Call around and find the best price, but make sure you're comparing apples to apples. Some vets include exams or medications in their quotes and some don't, so get the whole scoop.
  • Find a vet who will give a discount if you pay cash
  • FINISH THE MEDICATION! If your pet requires medication, make sure you give it to them until it's gone. Even if the condition appears to clear up after only a few doses, it's still there, and stopping the medication will only allow it to come back stronger and more resistant to drugs, requiring expensive medication in the future.
  • If tests are required, ask the veterinary team if the outcome of the tests would change the treatment. If the outcome isn't going to change how they treat your pet, ask them to just do the treatment and not the tests.
  • If the veterinary team tells you that your pet's teeth need to be cleaned, you should listen. The health of their mouth affects the health of the rest of their body. Plaque on their teeth is made up of trillions of bacteria, swallowing this all day every day begins to affect their heart, kidneys, and liver. Ask to see the teeth so you can judge for yourself how bad they are, or ask your vet for a rating on a scale of 1 to 5. Then, call around to see which veterinary office offers the best price. February is Pet Dental Health Month and most clinics offer a discount.
Don't self-diagnose. Trying to treat your pet yourself can often cause more harm than good. Things like aspirin, pepto-bismol, peroxide, and ibuprofen are extremely dangerous, and sometimes lethal to pets. Always check with a veterinary professional before treating your pet yourself.

I hope that I've given you a few ideas on how to better care for your pet while still keeping an eye on your budget. Merry Christmas!

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