If you’re like most pet owners, you’re at least somewhat concerned about the costs of pet ownership. An all-too-common money-saving strategy is to postpone or skip preventive care.
But attempting to lower costs by delaying or cutting back on preventive care—wellness exams, vaccinations, deworming, heartworm and flea and tick preventives—risks not only your pet’s health but also your budget.
In fact, your regular, ongoing investment in timely preventive veterinary care for your pet is likely to save you money in the long run while helping your pet enjoy a healthier, happier life.
At home, between visits to the clinic, your ongoing management of your pet’s nutrition, exercise and dental care can further improve quality and length of life while actually reducing the total cost of care over your pet’s lifetime.
One survey found that more than half of cat owners and nearly a fourth of dog owners had not visited the veterinarian in the past year. Yet, for adult dogs and cats, nearly all small animal practitioners—including us—recommend an annual wellness exam, with more frequent check-ups for older pets or those with chronic medical conditions.
These regularly-scheduled exams allow us to detect health problems early when treatment is likely to be easier and less expensive, with the best chances of success.
One of the wisest investments you can make in preventive veterinary care is in vaccines to prevent such deadly illnesses as distemper, hepatitis, rabies and Lyme disease. The potential costs of treating any of these conditions far outweigh the cost of the vaccines and, in some cases, protect your family from disease as well.
Your veterinarian will advise you on the core vaccines recommended for all dogs and cats as well as any additional vaccines worth considering based on your pet’s potential exposure to other, less common diseases.
Dogs and cats can pick up and play host to worms found in their environment—tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms and others. Some of these worms can be transmitted to humans.
To avoid the potentially serious and costly health problems that come with worm infestations, we recommend regular testing and deworming as part of ongoing wellness care.
Heartworm and Flea and Tick Preventives
One worm in particular—the heartworm—is so debilitating and potentially deadly that it merits annual testing and year-round preventive care.
See our post, “Protecting Your Pet From Heartworms,” for information about the dangers of heartworms and the preventives you can use to protect your pet.
For detailed information about fleas and ticks, see the ASPCA’s “Fleas and Ticks” page.
The ASPCA article includes tips for treating your house and yard for a flea infestation, but we recommend a proactive approach to flea control, using preventives to stop a full-blown infestation before it starts. See also the article’s directions for removing a tick from your pet.
Our veterinarians recommend preventives as a cost-effective way to control both fleas and ticks as well as heartworms year-round.
Spaying and Neutering
Besides preventing unwanted pregnancies, spaying and neutering reduce the risk of mammary tumors and prostate disease and can make your pet calmer and less likely to roam.
For details on the ideal ages for spaying and neutering your pet, see our post, “When to Spay or Neuter? It’s Complicated.”
The most common nutrition problem we see is overfeeding. The resulting overweight and obesity are associated with arthritis, high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes. These chronic health problems can be debilitating for your pet and costly to treat.
Consistently feeding your pet the right amount of food (and treats) to maintain a healthy weight not only saves you money on the food itself, but on the treatment your pet would otherwise need to address any of the related health concerns that could develop from overfeeding.
We also see food-related health issues—especially allergies and intestinal problems—in pets fed low-quality “economy” pet food brands. By upgrading to a higher-quality food, you may well see your pet’s chronic skin and digestive problems resolve over time as a result of improved nutrition. The investment in better food is more than offset over time by the reduced need for medical care.
Your veterinarian can help you choose an affordable, nutritious pet food and recommend the amount to feed to achieve and maintain your pet’s ideal weight.
Like people, pets benefit from regular, age-appropriate exercise. Walking and playing fetch with your dog benefit you as well as your pet.
See Everyday Health’s “10 Cat Exercises Your Pet Will Enjoy” for ideas on planning an exercise routine for your cat.
Keeping up with your pet’s professional and home dental care can ultimately save you money long-term by reducing the risks of oral and systemic infections and organ damage.
While only 10% of owners say they brush their pets’ teeth every day, those pets receiving regular home dental care need professional cleanings less often and tend to have fewer problems with their gums and teeth.
For more information about dental health care for you pet, see our blog posts, “Time to Focus on Your Pet’s Dental Health,” and “Dental Health Care.”
Let Us Customize Your Pet’s Preventive Care Plan
Our veterinarians are happy to recommend a preventive care plan tailored specifically for your pet based on age, breed, general health and lifestyle. Let’s discuss your pet’s plan at your next appointment.