When choosing a pet, do your research. Look at the pros and cons of the particular breed/type of dog or cat you are considering. Breed specific information is available from The American Kennel Club, Animal Planet (Dogs) or Animal Planet (Cats). Additionally, it is important to look at your climate, lifestyle, and ability to care for the pet that you choose.
For example: are you able to provide for the extra cost, space requirement, and exercise needs of a large dog? Can you provide the necessary skin and ear maintenance required by some breeds? Or the grooming for long haired dogs and cats? Do you know about the potential health risks associated with short faced dogs and cats?
The pet that is not spayed or castrated is vulnerable to many devastating and expensive illnesses. These include: toxic infections, cancers, skin disorders, and various complications associated with other diseases. In addition, the non-neutered pet is much more likely to urinate inappropriately, fight, roam, and be hit by a car. Of all the TOP 10, spay/neuter is one of the easiest and most crucial steps to take in order to spend a little and end up saving a lot.
Don't be fooled into thinking that your pet doesn't have intestinal worms because you can't see them in his or her stool. Most intestinal worms shed only microscopic eggs, and most puppies and kittens have these worms, even if the eggs don't appear in a sample. It is therefore important to have puppies and kittens tested and dewormed at the first visit. Adult dogs and cats should also be screened yearly and treated as necessary. All dogs should be tested yearly for heartworms (transmitted by mosquitoes) even if they are consistently on a preventive.
Many diseases are expensive to diagnose, treat, and manage once they have become advanced. Often, these pets must be referred because they need more advanced care. Early detection and intervention are crucial in order to keep costs low. Routine examinations (at least annually) by your veterinarian can reveal problems in their early stages when treatment can be cost saving and life saving for your pet. For older pets, routine bloodwork can screen for diseases not always evident from an exam.
Feed name brand foods appropriate for the species (dog or cat) and age (growing vs. adult) of your pet and provide plenty of fresh water at all times. Don't let your pet get into the "people food" habit: Gastroenteritis, Diabetes, and Pancreatitis are but a few of the many dangerous and expensive diseases that can result. NEVER give bones unless you are prepared to spend an enormous sum to have your pet on a surgery table in order to remove an obstruction.
Waiting and watching the progression of illness or "lumps" can be a gamble that results in expensive treatment later. Don't wait; have your pet examined by a veterinarian! Many illnesses become expensive as they progress, and often "lumps" will grow or change beyond the point where they can be inexpensively removed.
Prevent heartworms, flea infestations, and intestinal parasites with at home preventive medications year round. The health and financial consequences of these easily preventable diseases are enormous.
Most problems associated with behavior in pets involve dogs because, let's face it, cats have their own agenda and most of their issues are resolved by controlling their environment. Behavioral issues in dogs cause many problems, and they can result in more expensive vet visits if your dog must be sedated for an exam, or cannot be handled. A properly behaved dog is the result of a lot of time and effort. Like a child, a dog needs direction, non-physical discipline, and consistency. In order to have a confident and secure dog, your pet needs daily attention and play, socialization to people and other pets, creation of situations in which he or she can succeed, and clear-cut feedback from you, the owner. Be the pack leader! If you allow your dog to be the leader, you will likely have problems. Get your pet used to having ears, paws, coat, etc. inspected regularly without resistance. Start early and maintain training throughout life and you're more likely to end up with a happy, unafraid, and well behaved dog that is a pleasure to live with.
Complete and timely vaccinations are crucial in order to prevent serious diseases and the high cost of treating them. It is so sad to see a sick pet that could have been saved by a $15 shot. Ideally, puppies and kittens should be vaccinated beginning at 7 weeks of age with boosters at specific intervals until approximately 16 weeks of age. After this initial puppy/kitten series, a yearly booster of most vaccines is recommended.
Pet Wellness and preventive care
Common sense supervision will help prevent the most common accidents that can result in costly vet bills. These include: being hit by a car, gaining access to poisons, and exposure to environmental extremes. Unsupervised interactions with children can result in injury to the child or your pet. Be vigilant and aware.