Common Pet Owner Dilemmas and Their Money Savvy Solutions

May 15, 2013

Being a pet owner can be pricey, but Coloradans love their pets. How do we take good care of our pets without breaking the bank?  Here are some tips and recommendations for being a thrifty pet owner and still doing everything possible for furry family members.

1.  “I just saw the cutest dog at the Westminster Dog Show and I found a breeder in Tennessee who sells them for $1000!”

Adopt, adopt, adopt: Adopt a shelter pet, save a life. It’s that simple. If you want a specific breed that you aren’t finding at the shelter then check out the rescue groups. Adopting from a shelter or rescue could save you thousands of dollars in comparison to buying from a breeder. Denver Dumb Friends League (DDFL) also helps new families with a list of hospitals that do free shelter exams within the first two weeks after the adoption. For new pets that need to be spayed or neutered there are services in place like the Meow Mobile and Lulu Mobile provided by Denver Area Veterinary Medical Society (DAVMS) and DDFL (respectively)  that do low cost spays and neuters. Keep in mind service is based on income qualification and/or residency.

2. “You want how much for vaccines and a spay?!”

Plan and budget: You budget for a new car, a new house, and even a new wardrobe. Why not budget for your new housemate? If you plan to spend at least $1000 for the first year after getting a new pet, you won’t be as in shock as when routine care or emergencies come up. Set up a savings account to put aside the money for Fido’s expenses on a regular basis and dip into it as needed. Preventative medicine does cost money but it is cheaper than long term illness, hospitalization or surgery. Don’t trim the fat by skipping vaccinations. Just ask your vet which ones your pet really needs. This can differentiate based on exposure.

3. “We haven’t taken my cat to the vet in years but she’s fine. She just drinks a lot of water and isn’t very active.”

Annual Exams: There are many illnesses that can be found via routine lab-work or just getting a lump checked out. Behavior changes as “minor” as drinking a lot of water or sleeping a lot can indicate illnesses such as diabetes. This and other medical issues left untreated can not only be costly but fatal for your little friend.

4.  “I know you are closing soon but the diarrhea started two weeks ago and she stopped eating on Monday. We wanted to get her checked out before we left town this weekend.”

Don’t wait until the last minute: As long as your pet has been seen in the last year, most vets will allow you to drop off fecal or urine samples as problems arise to help get them on the mend faster. Additionally, most vets and vet techs can accommodate with phone consults to help you. Something like diarrhea can indicate something as simple as dietary indiscretion or as serious as pancreatitis or a foreign body. An ER visit will always cost more than an office visit. Be sure to call your vet in a timely manner.

5. “That place only charges $100 for a dental cleaning and I don’t have to worry about my dog being under anesthesia!”

Be wary of “too good to be true” deals: “Amazingly cheap” vets are all around. This doesn’t mean your pet is getting quality care. Dental cleanings without anesthesia are not safe and not effective. Your pet runs the risk of aspirating if fluid goes down their trachea and they cannot pull teeth or clean efficiently (can your dog say “Ahhhh?”) On the flip side, large hospitals are great when you need a specialist or have an emergency, but when you go in for routine visits the prices are going to be higher because you are paying for overhead of the hospital. Find a veterinary team that you trust (the techs are just as important), that fits your budget and stick with it.