By Sari Reis
In a recent discussion I had with a veterinarian, who happens to be a client, we discussed how the biggest problem facing most pet owners today is the cost of veterinary care.
She shared with me the story of a young rottweiler, who had presented at a veterinary clinic for treatment nearly two months previously, very sick. Radiographs revealed a large, pointed object lodged in the intestinal tract. The veterinarian recommended urgent surgery to remove the object. The surgery was costly and the dog’s owners said they would have to think about it. Over the next few days, they thought the dog was getting better, and delayed a decision.
The day before my client told me this story, the dog was brought to the Humane Society at which my client is a veterinarian. He had become desperately ill in the last few days, and the owners couldn’t afford another trip to their veterinarian. They were forced to relinquish their pet because they couldn’t afford veterinary care. The Humane Society took the dog straight to surgery, but the damage from the obstruction was so extensive, and the patient was so critically ill, that the only option was euthanasia. This same sad story appears repeatedly in veterinary clinics all over this country.
Veterinary care can be expensive due to the sophistication of treatment modalities, the cost of state-of-the-art equipment, and the costly educational investment veterinarians make. So what is one to do if you love your furry kids but are concerned about the medical cost to care for them?
First, you can look into pet insurance. There are many different plans available that can reimburse your pet medical costs or offset them substantially. Conversely, you can set up a savings plan designed specifically to cover any major medical procedures your pet may require. One of the most proactive solutions and the least expensive is to have your dog or cat checked annually by your veterinarian. Commit to setting up a wellness check for your pets at the beginning of each year. Make sure routine preventive health care treatments are up to date. The best approach lies in a pet owner’s attention to their pet. Changes in behavior are often the only sign that an animal may be ill or in pain. Your observations and the progression of signs that something may be wrong are critical information for your veterinarian.
Changes in appetite, water consumption, and elimination habits are very significant. Is your cat eliminating outside of the litter box? Notice if your pet is favoring a limb, not jumping the way he used to or playing the games she normally likes. Feel his body regularly for lumps, bumps, or any other changes in the fur or skin. Is she hiding a lot, seem jumpy or more anxious or fearful? Is your usually easy-going pet more irritable and short-tempered? Does your pet smell differently? Anything unusual or unfamiliar could be a sign that your pet isn’t feeling well. By catching signs early, you can often head off more costly problems down the road.
No one knows your pet like you do. Use this privilege to keep your pet healthy, and to mitigate costly veterinary bills. Your attentiveness will strengthen the bond you already share with your pet, which keeps you both healthy.
—Sari Reis is a certified Humane Education Specialist and the owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting Services. For more information, you can reach her at 760-644-0289 or missionvalleypetsitting.com.