Prevention, Prevention, Prevention
In tough economic times, it becomes necessary to lower our daily expenses, and we always look for another avenue for cost-cutting. Unfortunately, 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 costly, and no cat owner wants to be unable 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 cat’s health care program can significantly reduce your vet bills on routine health care and 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, the truth is the exact opposite. Instead, take your cat to a holistic vet for their annual (or bi-annual) wellness exam. A veterinary exam is vital to accessing your cat’s overall health. In addition, early detection can often greatly minimize future serious illnesses and maladies or even be completely avoided by early detection.
Work with your holistic veterinarian to establish a program for your cat regarding 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 severe diseases and conditions.
Vaccinations: While cat vaccinations have traditionally been given annually, new research has shown that the antibodies created in response to often vaccinating last 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 hunting and eating wild animals. Parasite infections can cause severe and life-threatening cases of vomiting and diarrhea. You can avoid expensive vet visits by identifying and treating internal parasites before they become a problem.
Treating your cat for external parasites (fleas, ticks, etc.) monthly can help prevent some parasite infestation, avoid skin problems related to flea bite allergies, and prevent tick-borne illness; all issues which would require veterinary attention to treat. Be aware that many “cheaper” pet-store and supermarket varieties of flea treatments can cause severe 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 a 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 severe problems. Routine blood work can detect these and many other disorders before clinical signs appear, allowing your cat to be treated before severe 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 is a tiny percentage of cats that will need medication. You may be able to save money on drugs by asking your holistic vet for a generic prescription or by obtaining a prescription to get your pet’s meds o online. Because they buy in large bulk quantities, many online pet pharmacies can provide the same medications as your vet at lower prices. You could save significant money over time by taking a few minutes to shop around online. Take care to do your homework, and select a reputable online pharmacy, though- out-of-the-country pharmacies have been caught selling fake medications or containing incorrect or impure amounts of a drug.
Dental care is a vital part of keeping your cat healthy; sometimes, dental cleanings under anesthesia will be an unavoidable necessity. However, you can minimize the number of dental cleanings your cat will need in their lifetime by providing excellent dental home care.
Daily Brushing your cat’s teeth daily is the best thing you can do to keep their 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 toothpaste can be dangerous to cats and dogs. Brush the teeth daily, ensuring you get the outsides of the teeth in the back of the mouth, which often has the most accumulation of gingivitis and tartar. While your cat may be initially skeptical of what you are doing, most cats quickly become accustomed to the practice and become cooperative with the procedure.
Dental Chews– Several brands of chews are available that help reduces gingivitis and even help remove tartar from the teeth. While daily brushing is the best way to keep your cat’s teeth in good health, raw meat diets are an excellent prevention method and vital in cats who 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 lower prices than preparing meals made with real meat, fish, chicken, lamb, or turkey, be wary. Prepackaged foods are inferior; they are primarily fillers and meat by-products (the animal parts unfit for human consumption, such as chicken beaks and feathers). So, in addition to providing poor nutrition, you will often 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, save 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 will experience a health crisis. However, holistic vet care is not only more effective but is also 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 the best natural food for your cat and avoiding commercially prepackaged pet foods. In addition, you can prevent most cat health problems by giving your cat supplements that cannot be found in any food. Spending more upfront for better nutrition and proper supplements will minimize your vet bills in the long term while keeping your cat happy and healthy.