Prevention, Prevention, Prevention
In tough economic times, it becomes necessary to lower our daily expenses, and we are always on the lookout for another avenue for cost cutting. Pet health care may quickly become an area of the budget where funds are tight, and cuts must be made. Thankfully, there are several things you can do to help reduce your cat’s health care costs, without sacrificing your cat’s overall health and well-being.
Vet bills can be extraordinarily expensive, and no cat owner wants to be in the position of not being able to afford the veterinary care necessary to treat or save the life of a beloved pet. While unforeseen illnesses and accidents will always happen, making prevention a cornerstone of your cats health care program, can greatly reduce your vet bills on routine health care, as well as life threatening illnesses.
Avoid the Temptation – Don’t Skip the Annual Exam
While it may seem like the best way to have cat health care on a budget is to avoid taking your cat to the veterinarian entirely, in fact the truth is the exact opposite. Make a point of taking your cat to a holistic vet for his or her annual (or bi-annual) wellness exam. A veterinary exam is vital to accessing the overall health of your cat, and often, future serious illnesses and maladies can be greatly minimized, or even completely avoided by early detection.
Work with your holistic veterinarian to establish a program for your cat of routine health care needs and costs. These may include fecal screening, parasite control, and routine monitoring blood work, all of which are vital to preventing more serious diseases and conditions.
Vaccinations While cat vaccinations have traditionally been given on an annual basis, new research has shown that the antibodies created in response to vaccinating often lasts several years. If you have a senior cat, or a cat that is indoor-only, and is never exposed to other cats, talk to your vet about stopping vaccinations altogether; this is healthier for your cat, and easier on your pocketbook.
Fecal Screening and Parasite Control Cats that go outdoors should be screened yearly for common internal parasites that can be acquired from drinking standing water and from hunting and eating wild animals. Parasite infections can cause serious and even life threatening cases of vomiting and diarrhea. By identifying and treating internal parasites before they become a problem, you can avoid expensive vet visits.
Treating your cat for external parasites (fleas, ticks, etc) monthly can help to prevent some parasite infestation, as well as to avoid skin problems related to flea bite allergies, and prevent tick borne illness; all problems which would require veterinary attention to treat. Be aware that many “cheaper” pet-store and supermarket varieties of flea treatments can cause serious and potentially deadly reactions and sudden illnesses in cats. Chemical flea and parasite treatments can and often do have serious side effects. A holistic vet will have natural and safe options available.
Blood work Especially in older cats, routine blood work in the form of the complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry analysis is vital in ensuring that your cat is healthy. Hyperthyroidism, diabetes and kidney failure are three diseases that can be life threatening if not treated, and cats rarely show outward signs of illness until these diseases have progressed into very serious problems. Routine blood work can detect these and many other diseases before clinical signs appear, allowing your cat to be treated before serious damage to the body can occur. A holistic vet will often work with dietary inputs to adjust various elements such as the glycemic index. Food is always the first place to begin a treatment plan.
Other Money-Saving Vet Tips
If your cat does require more than just dietary manipulation, your holistic vet will always start with natural, gentle, and safe treatments. However, there are a tiny percentage of cats that will need medication. You may be able to save money on medications by asking your holistic vet for a generic prescription, or by obtaining a prescription to get your pet’s meds online. Because they buy in large bulk quantities, many online pet pharmacies are able to provide the same medications as your vet at lower prices. By taking a few minutes to shop around online, you could save significant money over time. Take care to do your homework, and select a reputable on-line pharmacy though- out of the country pharmacies have been caught selling medications that are fake, or contain incorrect or impure amounts of medication in them.
Dental care is a vital part of keeping your cat healthy, and at sometimes, dental cleanings under anesthesia will be an unavoidable necessity. However you can minimize the number of dental cleanings your cat will need in his or her lifetime by providing excellent dental home-care.
Daily Brushing Brushing your cats’ teeth daily is the single best thing you can do to keep his or her teeth healthy, and avoid frequent professional teeth cleanings. Cat toothbrushes are available at your vet or pet store, or a human toothbrush will do, but be sure to use toothpaste made specifically for pets. For example, the xylitol in some toothpastes can be dangerous to cats and dogs. Brush the teeth daily, making sure you get the outsides of the teeth in the very back of the mouth, which often have the most accumulation of gingivitis and tartar. While your cat may be skeptical of what you are doing at first, most cats quickly become accustomed to the practice and become cooperative for the procedure.
Dental Chews– There are several brands of chews available that help to reduce gingivitis, and even help remove tartar from the teeth. While daily brushing is the best way to keep your cats teeth in good health, raw meat diets are a great prevention method, and vital in cats who simply won’t tolerate brushing.
Better Health through Nutrition – When times are tight, it may seem tempting to abandon a quality diet and switch to commercial pet foods- canned or dry. Although supermarkets, and big box stores like Wal-Mart sell prepackaged cat foods at cheaper prices, than preparing meals made with real meat; fish, chicken, lamb, or turkey, be wary. Prepackaged foods are inferior, they are mostly fillers and meat by-products (the parts of the animal unfit for human consumption, such as chicken beaks and feathers). In addition to providing poor nutrition, often you will find you have to feed more of the “cheap” food due to its lack of quality content.
During the pet-food recall of 2007, prepackaged pet foods found themselves at the center of the problem. The Chinese added Melamine to boost the protein content of their pet foods. While the foods on the shelves today are currently considered safe, the best way to avoid potential food problems, and to keep your cat healthy (and by that extension, saving on vet bills) is to make sure your cat’s food is made from quality pure meat sources.
Holistic Veterinary Care is the Lowest Cost and Most Effective Option
There is no denying that orthodox veterinary care is expensive, and there is no crystal ball for knowing when your cat is going to experience a health crisis. However, holistic vet care is not only more effective, it is much less expensive. You can find a holistic veterinarian near you at www.ahvma.org.
The Bottom Line
Cat health care on a budget is possible and best accomplished by learning what is the best natural food for your cat, and avoiding commercial prepackaged pet foods. By doing this and giving your cat supplements that cannot be found in any food, you can prevent most cat health problems. Spending more upfront for better food and proper supplements you will minimize your vet bills in the long term, while keeping your cat happy and healthy.