Omama Altaleb, special to wtop.com
WASHINGTON — Food, medicine, vet care, treats and toys can add up to quite the bill at the end of the month. Despite the priceless pet moments, pet care is pricey.
Dr. Katy Nelson, aka Dr. Pawz, a local veterinarian and host of “The Pet Show,” shares her tips on the best ways to ease the financial burden that comes with pet care.
When it comes to saving money on pets, don’t scrimp on preventive health care, Nelson advises.
Avoiding a $65 exam fee may seem like saving money at first, but Nelson warns, “You miss problems when they’re small, and instead, find them much later on when they are already untreatable. It’s something that becomes a bigger problem and much more expensive.”
Heartworm, flea and tick prevention is particularly important, as treatment is expensive and painful.
“[Pets] can contract Lyme disease, which could be fatal, and it could be, again, a very expensive treatment process,” Nelson says.
The No. 1 piece of advice she gives to pet owners is to invest money up front to end with a better and healthier outcome.
Pets need food, but not just any type of food. Nelson recommends keeping pets on a high-quality diet that includes fresh and nutritious foods. Although these foods may be more expensive, a healthy diet will be better overall, she says.
There are plenty of options, Nelson says.
“There’s even a refrigerated section now at the pet store. They have great no-preservative type foods,” she says.
However, if you prefer home-cooked meals, Nelson suggests consulting with your veterinarian to come up with a complete and balanced diet that is customized to fit your pet’s needs.
“A healthy diet can definitely be better for your pet in the long run and of course translate into dollars saved as well,” she says.
Whether your pet is sick or it’s time for the annual check-up, a visit to the vet is inevitable. Nelson says the best way to save money on pet visits is to be informed.
“I find that a lot of people come into their yearly check-up appointments, walk in and expect their pets to get shot and then go,” she says.
“You’re paying for your vet’s time, so make the most out of it while you go in, and really know what you want to ask and what questions you want answered.
“The vet is the advocate for your pet, and you’re the advocate for your pet. You are on the same team, and if you approach it that way, then you are going to have a better relationship with your vet, and a better health outcome for your pet,” she says.
If your pet does get sick, there are ways to save money on medication.
Nelson discourages buying medicine from online pharmacies.
“It scares me because I don’t know where those products come from. I don’t know the manufacturing source. I don’t know the expiration date and I don’t know if the labels have been switched,” she says.
Instead, Nelson recommends getting medications from the vet, since the products are trusted, American-made and within their expiration time period.
“You can ask your vet if there is a way to potentially match the price you find, or at least come close to that, because it’s a lot more convenient,” she adds.
Cutting out unnecessary expenses such as treats and toys can make a difference to your wallet.
American pets have a huge obesity problem, Nelson says. She says treats only cause more problems for overweight pets.
“Your pet doesn’t really need [treats]. It’s just like us eating ice cream every night, and we really don’t need that,” she says.
For pet owners who really like the ability to give their pets treats and want to keep them at the proper weight range, Nelson offers a solution:
Another suggestion is to bake homemade chicken jerky:
“It’s a super, super, healthy, pretty inexpensive way of making a treat. It stays good for a long time and it’s from a known source,” Nelson says.
Although finding inexpensive toys requires shopping around, Nelson says they are all over the place, in bulk and on sale. However, if you want to save money and avoid buying toys, you can make them at home.
“Pinterest has tons and tons of at-home toys you can make, just out of a tennis ball and sock essentially,” she says,
“Your dog doesn’t really care what color it is, or what it does, basically if you’re doing something with your pet, they don’t care if you have a toy or not. They really just want to have that interaction with you.”