PREVENTIVE CARE, PET HEALTH INSURANCE SAVE LIVES, MONEY
Do you know what you spend on your dog? Some of us prefer to remain blissfully unaware, while others track every penny. Most of us are probably somewhere in the middle, with a general idea of annual costs that we don't think of much -- unless we're hit with something out of the ordinary.
Trade groups that track these things put the "start-up" costs of a dog (not accounting for the cost of purchase or adoption) at around a thousand dollars on average, with annual upkeep of about $700 per year. Bear in mind two things: first, that costs often are higher in urban areas and on both coasts, and less expensive in rural areas and in the Midwest and South; and second, that "average" includes people who frankly are barely spending enough on their dogs to keep from being hauled in by humane officers and charged with neglect.
If you opt for a high-quality diet (recommended), a solid preventive-care regimen from your veterinarian (also recommended) including parasite control (protecting your dog and your human family, too), along with some "fun" purchases that can also make your life easier and keep your home cleaner, you can easily double those guesstimates -- and still be hit with some big expenses that can be financially and emotionally devastating.
Is a dog worth it? That's a question only you can answer, but if you think you want to have a dog in your life, be prepared to spend some money on your pet. A high-quality diet and good preventive care may seem like two areas where you can scrimp, but they're really not. Taking good care of your dog every day is a good long-term strategy, not only for avoiding budget shock down the road, but also for keeping your pet happier, healthier and longer-lived.
Cut the budget in other places if you must -- no dog was ever hurt by an owner who buys in bulk -- but make sure you can cover the basics. As a veterinarian, I've seen too many times the predictable outcome of people who don't -- and I'd just as soon you not have to be in that boat.
Above all, plan to avoid the worst outcome of all: Choosing euthanasia over treatment for no reason except expense. I doubt there's a veterinarian alive who hasn't donated care or cut costs to help out a long-term client in a jam, but these days, veterinarians are just as hard-hit by the economy as everyone else is. And that means we can't give away our services and keep the doors open.
Pet health insurance has been growing in popularity, and for good reason: It's saving the lives of pets.
Check it out. You'll want to look at all the companies and policy options, talk to your veterinarian, read the reviews and fiddle with the online formulas to see what company and choices fit best for your pet.
It's the perfect partner to planned preventive care, and if you need it, I guarantee you'll be grateful you have it. Your veterinarian will be, too.
Vaccine in leg
for good reason
Q: I took my cat in for her rabies vaccination, and my veterinarian gave her the shot in her leg. He's never done that before. What is the reason for that? -- via Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker
A: There is a kind of tumor known as a vaccine-associated sarcoma (VAS) that occurs rarely in cats. It is most strongly associated with either the rabies or the feline leukemia vaccine. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends that all feline vaccines be given in specific locations. This way, if a cat gets a tumor in that area, researchers will know which vaccine may have caused it.
The lower right leg is the recommended location for the rabies vaccine. In addition to helping researchers understand what's causing VAS, giving the shot in that location may make it easier to save the cat if she does get a tumor.
Vaccines used to be given mostly between the shoulder blades, but it's very hard to remove a fibrosarcoma from this area. Tumors in the lower limbs, on the other hand, can more easily be removed by amputating the leg.
It's very unlikely your cat will have any kind of reaction to her vaccinations, but it's good to know that your veterinarian is looking out for her well-being by both protecting her from diseases with vaccines and following the recommendations of the experts to prevent possible complications.
The location for injection isn't the only thing that has changed in recent years: So, too, has the number of vaccinations and their frequency. Check out the latest recommendations for cats at the AAFP website (catvets.com) and for dogs on the American Animal Hospital Assoc. website (healthypets.com, search for "vaccine"). -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- The Companion Animal Parasite Council warns that the mild winter in many parts of the country means high populations of mosquitoes, which in turn means a greater risk of heartworms in dogs and cats. The concern this year is that in areas such as the Midwest, the bitter cold has traditionally allowed many pet owners to skip heartworm prevention for much of the year as a cost savings. The lack of mosquitoes for much of the year makes that a calculated risk, at best, in normal-weather years, but not this one. Parasite experts warn of early emergence of mosquitoes, many of which transmit heartworms when they bite.
Those who took their pets off heartworm preventive medication should talk to their veterinarians about testing for the presence of the parasite this spring, and some may be shocked to find their pets testing positive for heartworms. However, the CPAC says most cats and half of all dogs are not protected against the potentially deadly parasite. For regional risk assessment, visit www.petsandparasites.org.
-- Parrots are able to control their irises, shrinking and enlarging their pupils rapidly in a display that's called "flashing" or "pinning." You have to read the whole bird to put the message in its proper context. Birds may flash their eyes when they're excited or when they're angry. Flashing accompanied by aggressive posturing, such as tail-fanning, signifies a bird who's bound to escalate his warnings -- and maybe even bite -- if not left alone. -- Gina Spadafori
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and also the authors of many best-selling pet care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.