Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to Save Money on Vet Bills

You can find a lot of articles online about how to save money on your pet care bills, like by buying Old Ranch Genuine By-Products dog food or getting your pets’ vaccines at the feed store or cornering your neighbor veterinarian in her garden rather than taking your pet to her office. I’m here to say: Don’t do any of those. Instead, if you want to save money on pet care, keep your pet healthy by using common sense and following these rules:

  • Keep your dog on a leash (with the other end of the leash attached to your person) or in a fenced yard.
  • Keep your cat indoors.
  • Spay or neuter your pets, preferably by one year of age. This reduces or eliminates the risk of many health problems (breast tumors, uterine infections, testicular tumors, prostate infections, etc.), prevents pregnancy complications, and reduces the urge to wander. Think of unspayed/ unneutered pets as teenagers with raging hormones but without even the tiniest modicum of sense to avoid moving vehicles.
  • Don’t give your pet any human medications or supplements without first consulting with your veterinarian.
  • Don’t let your pet get into illicit drugs.
  • Check out the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center website for a list of poisonous plants to keep away from pets. Big ones are lilies for cats (including Easter lily flowers in floral arrangements this spring) and grapevines for dogs.
  • Don’t keep any rodenticides (rat bait, mouse poison, gopher bait) on your property, even if you think they’re out of reach of the dog. There are various types of rat bait, which cause fatal hemorrhage, fatal kidney failure, or fatal brain swelling. Call an exterminator or use old-fashioned mouse traps.
  • Don’t keep snail/slug bait (metaldehyde) on your property. Let the snails eat your hostas, or put out small saucers of beer to trap the snails. (We vets don’t want your dog drinking beer, either, but mild intoxication is preferable to fatal muscle tremors, seizures and hyperthermia.)
  • Use only “pet safe” antifreeze.
  • Don’t let your dog ride in the back of the pickup truck.
  • Don’t ever leave a pet in a closed vehicle in the summer.
  • Don’t feed your pet real bones. Real bones can break teeth and perforate intestines.
  • Keep your pet on year-round parasite prevention (heartworm, intestinal parasites, fleas and ticks).
  • Don’t let your pets eat these people foods: grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, chocolate, macadamia nuts, or anything spicy or fatty.


  1. The first thing I thought to answer that question - preventative medicine, as you said. This is a great list of reminders for pet owners. I may print this out for a copy to everyone that adopts through the rescue I work with. Thanks! :)

  2. As a corollary to the final point, if you make vegetable broth with 2 onions, 2 leeks, and 2 whole heads of garlic as part of the recipe, take the boiled vegetable mush all the way out to the outside trash can to ensure that your kitchen trash isn't so magically delicious that your greyhound devours the entire pile & ends up hanging out at the vet for several days with alarming CBC numbers. Yeah.

  3. Just a reminder, "pet safe" antifreeze with propylene glycol is safer than traditional ethylene glycol antifreeze, but it's still not completely safe and can still cause the death of your pet if ingested in large quantities. Still recommend keeping it locked and safely away from your pet, and you should still consult with your veterinarian if you suspect that your critter ingested some!

  4. If you first consult your vet about giving your pet your medications, don't disregard their advice and do it anyway.

  5. Replies
    1. Grapes (and of course raisins) can cause acute renal failure in dogs. There is no known safe level of exposure (a very small dose can cause toxicity, or can be well tolerated, but you don't know until it's too late). See http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/grapes/

      Garlic causes oxidative damage to red blood cells, and is dose dependent. Cats and certain dogs with sensitive red blood cells (eg shiba inu) are more likely to be affected, but any dog or cat is vulnerable if enough is ingested. See http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/garlic/

  6. I have a client whose pet is in congestive heart failure, that is now doing great on the triad (furosemide, pimobendan, enalapril). So great that the owner thinks the dog is superman again and has been provoking it to attack raccoons (which ended in a rabies vaccine, wound debriding and a convenia injection for the dog) and feeding it macadamia nuts, among various other things that I don't recommend for pets to eat. He's gotten tired of me telling him 'no', so he sends his wife in. She then calls him from my exam room to tell him how much trouble he's in with 'the vet'. Ugh.

  7. Don't leave your pet in ANY vehicle if it's even moderately warm. Opening the windows does not significantly lower the internal temperature of the vehicle and temps can skyrocket within 10 minutes.


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  9. Actually, as an even safer alternative to mouse traps (although I don't know about the toxicity to dogs and cats), I read that you can soak cotton balls in peppermint oil and set them in places that mice might be getting through or places where food is kept (like your pantry). The scent seems to offend and they don't come around anymore. I'd never tried it but recommended it to someone months ago, and she said she hasn't seen a single mouse since. :)

  10. Have you thought about investing into a Pet Insurance plan? Not only does it really help cushion the financial blows that come with those vet bill, but still allows your pet to get top-notch care.I got a plan for my Bulldog Zoey and honestly couldn't be happier with it.