More than 23 million American households — nearly 1 in 5 nationwide — adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Additionally, in 2021 people spent over $123 billion caring for their pets last year with most of the costs covering food, vet care and over-the-counter medicine.
No matter how many expenses our pets incur, they’re worth it to us, but the truth is a lot of those costs, especially the ones associated with ER vet care, can be avoided. That’s because the cost of preventing disease and illness is always less than the cost to treat it. But which preventative procedures will ensure the best health for your pet and the best cost savings for you? Below is an outline of the top 5 things you can do for your pet that will help prevent problems that can cost you upwards of $10,000 over your pet’s lifetime.
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Keep up to date with vaccines
Vaccinations are the most effective way to prevent your cat or dog from getting common infectious diseases. This applies to indoor pets, too — many contagious diseases are airborne or can stay in the environment for months. For example, Parvovirus is extremely contagious and resistant and can be transmitted by any person, animal or object that comes into contact with an infected dog’s feces.
COMPARATIVE COSTS: If a dog contracts Parvovirus, treatment can run an average of $800 to $2,000+ or more per pet, depending upon severity. Alternatively, the DA2PPV dog vaccine, which includes protection against Parvovirus, is only $25. Another is Canine Influenza. Most dogs recover within 2 to 3 weeks without any further health complications. But if a secondary bacterial infection is present, the flu can progress to pneumonia, which can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,400 to treat and can be life-threatening.
Spay and neuter to prevent disease
Spaying and neutering your pet doesn’t just save you from the costs of caring for a litter of kittens or puppies in the future. The money spent on these procedures can prevent very painful, potentially fatal reproductive organ diseases, such as pyometra (an infection of the uterus), ovarian neoplasia (ovarian tumors) and prostatitis (inflammation or infection of the prostate gland).
COMPARATIVE COSTS: For prostatitis — which occurs most often in male dogs who have not been neutered — typically includes a lengthy round of antibiotics (4 weeks or longer). However, if your pet develops abscesses, most likely surgical intervention will be needed, which can range from $300 to $1,000. For female dogs, the fix for pyometra is surgery, which can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,200 to treat (and this can be even more expensive if it’s an emergency procedure). Plus, whenever there is surgery involved, keep in mind the added cost for antibiotics.
Take care of their teeth
Unfortunately, poor dental health in your pet doesn’t just cause bad breath, it can have damaging (and costly) effects on their overall health — such as tooth loss, gum disease, systemic inflammation and infections that spread to the heart, liver and kidneys.
COMPARATIVE COSTS: Treating periodontal disease can cost anywhere from $500 to $3000+ depending on the severity of the case and associated treatment. But keeping your pet’s teeth clean all year long can help you avoid these expensive procedures in the future. Practicing good dental hygiene with your pet at home is an affordable way to make a big difference, but getting their teeth checked by a veterinarian every 6 to 12 months is even better. Traditional vet hospitals charge $650 to $1,000 for dental exams, but Dr. Kelly’s dental procedures start at $220 and include the exam.
Protect them from parasites
Parasites can infect your pet any time of year. External parasites, such as fleas and ticks, might be less of a problem during some seasons, but internal parasites can be present year-round and have serious consequences. Internal parasites like heartworm, roundworm, tapeworm and Giardi can be fatal if ignored but are highly preventable with medication.
COMPARATIVE COSTS: Annual fecal exams, screening for tick-borne diseases (like Lyme and Ehrlichia) and preventative medications can greatly reduce the chance of a parasitic infestation and can even save your pet’s life. Consider that an exam to test for heartworm, Ehrlichia and Lyme Disease is less than $40 and heartworm preventive medications can cost just $5 to $15 a month depending on the size of your pet. If your dog contracts heartworm disease, you may end up paying $1,000 or more to treat it.
Keep up with wellness checks
Hands down, the cost of paying for an annual or bi-annual checkup at the vet will cost less in the long run than not doing so. Veterinarians know exactly what to look for during a routine examination. Whether it’s a bacterial infection, a problem with their weight, corneal ulcers or deteriorating joints, back or hips, regular vet examinations can help detect problems and disease as early as possible.
COMPARATIVE COSTS: Undiagnosed diabetes can cause a fatal emergency condition called “Diabetic Ketoacidosis,” which can cost upwards of $5,000 to treat. Or if cancer is permitted to grow unchecked, when it’s finally spotted, treatment costs may run into the thousands of dollars. Consider the cost of regular checkups that cost an average of $100 to $200. Not only can these “nose-to-tail” exams reveal any hidden problems, but they give you an opportunity to discuss behavioral changes or other issues you’ve noticed.
Preventative care for our pets is always better than reactive care, and it always costs less than treatment, surgery, or emergency vet care. Educating yourself about prevention and wellness care is the first step.
Authors: Dr. Kelly Patriquin, DVM, and Doug Patriquin, CEO, are the owners of Dr. Kelly’s Surgical Unit, a specialized veterinary practice, offering affordable and convenient surgical care for pets at 6 locations in the Phoenix and Tucson Metro areas. Services include a variety of low-cost surgical care including spay/neuter, dental cleaning and extractions, mass removals and more. The Dr. Kelly’s Surgical Unit team has performed over 120,000 affordable procedures since 2016. For more information, visit https://www.drkellysvet.com.