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Caring For Your Older Dog
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Excuse Me, It Costs What???
Everyone wants a dog or kitten to care for and have as a companion. But how many of us think about the cost of providing good health care for our pets? As a veterinarian in Los Angeles, I see many people who adopt animals but cannot afford to provide adequate maintenance health care.
First of all, kittens and puppies need vaccinations and deworming every three weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Kittens need to be tested for FIV and Feline Leukemia virus and puppies for heartworm. Also, a huge part of pet health care in the southern states is monthly flea medication. There are several great topical medications and one oral tablet available for flea prevention that lasts a month at a time. Many people do not plan for that expense, even though everyone knows we do not have a frost in Los Angeles and therefore fleas live year round. Regular maintenance flea control costs about $10-$13 per pet per month.
Most pets are reasonably healthy in their younger years. However, all owners should save for an unexpected pet emergency, such as the dog that ate the garbage or the cat that has a blockage. I have seen people euthanize their young male cat instead of paying for a catheter and a few days of care. Every pet owner needs to have accessible at least $1500 of emergency medical money in case of that type of emergency. A planned trip to your local veterinarian will save you a lot of money, rather than waiting and then running to the emergency veterinarians. So plan ahead. If you think your pet is not doing well during regular business hours, get them in for an appointment instead of waiting until only emergency hospitals are open and spending more money.
Also, think about senior care for your elderly pet. Pets are considered seniors after age eight. It is very helpful to have an annual physical with blood work and urinalysis as preventative measures and look for trends between years. Trends can establish low-level disease of some organs and start early treatment to slow down aging problems.
Also, pets develop arthritis just as us humans do – aches and pains as we age or do excessive physical activity. Many of my clients tell me that their dog is just slow to get up and accept that as normal for that age. Maybe the pet would get up more easily if it had anti-inflammatory medication for the pain of arthritis? There are many vitamin supplements for arthritis as well as prescription pain and inflammatory medications available for dogs and cats. Those medications require a physical exam by a veterinarian and usually some blood work. Then the medications can work to provide your pet with a pain-reduced senior life. When your pet is a senior, there could be extra expenses for you in order to provide a pain free life, such as x-rays or yearly blood work. Sometimes alternative medicine such as acupuncture can be very helpful, yet require pet owners to incur additional expenses.
All of these routine, age-related health care practices need to planned for by pet owners. I often see people adopting another pet when they haven’t provided for the needs of their existing pets. The lure of a new kitten or puppy is always exciting but can you provide for all of these pets? It is a soul-searching question you must answer before you adopt a new pet.
I am an advocate of pet adoption, to be sure. I’d like to think that new adoptive owners have thought through the financial ramifications of their decision before they adopt. Pet ownership is a wonderful experience, but it does require commitment, a financial obligation, and planning.
Dr. L. Birr, DVM
Community Veterinary Center
10617 Burbank Blvd.
N. Hollywood, CA 91601