Hi-Tech Care, Low-Cost Price

12 ways to save money on your veterinary bill without compromising care.

By | Posted: Tue Sep 3 00:00:00 PDT 2002

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4. Provide a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. Obesity can lead to orthopedic problems, hip dysplasia, diabetes, heart disease and chronic coughing. "We can spoil them to death," said Jan Strothers, DVM, of the North Alabama Veterinary Clinic in Hartsville, Ala.

5. Clean teeth and gums. Proper dental care with a product made for dogs prevents bacteria from growing under the gum line and getting into the blood stream. Over time, failure to do so can cause serious - and costly - health problems, such as heart and kidney disease.

In addition to providing preventive care, owners should:

6. Ask for generic prescription medications. Some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs come in generic forms, Dr. Strothers said. If a human drug equivalent exists, your veterinarian may write a prescription for the generic form.

Also check an animal supplies catalog, particularly for heartworm and flea-control medication. Catalog companies buy in bulk and often sell at a lower price. "However, many people find that the medications are less expensive and more convenient to obtain at their veterinarian's office," Dr. Strothers said.

7. Develop a good relationship with your veterinarian. Communication is a must, Howard said. When Rocky, her 2-year-old Boxer, showed signs of a spinal problem, she discussed treatment options with her veterinarian. They decided to try anti-inflammatory medications and rest, before resorting to an expensive battery of tests, including X-rays and tomography scans.

"I wanted to try the lea st invasive route, both for Rocky's sake and to avoid paying for all those tests if they weren't needed," Howard said. Rocky has not had any spinal problems in four years.

8. Don't assume taking your dog to a specialist will bust your budget. Often, a specialist can quickly diagnose the problem and has had much experience with the best treatments. When Howard lived in New England, her Boxer, Gretchen, developed a urinary incontinence problem. Her regular veterinarian, unable to find the cause, referred her to a specialist in Boston.

After one visit, for $75, the specialist diagnosed Gretchen's problem: the sphincter in her bladder did not work properly. A prescription for about $10 worth of medication solved the problem.

9. Use coupons from veterinary clinics seeking to build clientele. It can be a great way to save, but check out the clinic before your first visit. Request a "get to know you" visit during which you and your dog spend time with the veterinarian and the staff without any exam or treatments.

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