Dr. Scott Sandeman

Dr. Scott Sandeman

We Americans are spending more than ever on our pets — almost $70 billion a year by current estimates.

Of that total, 25 percent is spent on medical, surgical or preventative health care. As with human health care, owners do, and should, seek ways to save on expenses without compromising their pet's health. Here are some suggestions from veterinarians and the American Veterinary Medical Association to lessen the cost of owning a pet.

1. Keeping up with preventative health care.

Making sure your dog or cat has at least an annual exam by your veterinarian is critical in catching small problems before they become big, expensive issues.

Giving proper and timely vaccinations, preventative medications for parasites and heart worm medication are all ways to save.

Catching diseases early with a thorough exam or preventing them altogether with regularly scheduled medications or vaccinations is much less expensive than treating. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure when it comes to your pet’s health.

2. Having your pet spayed or neutered.

Society doesn't need any more stray or homeless animals and your pet will be healthier. While the timing or age of spaying or neutering some pets is still undecided, most pets will live longer and better lives without their breeding potential.

3. Checking on prescription savings.

While some advertised online pharmacies purport to offer substantial savings, make sure you use only U.S. based companies and never buy from a pharmacy that claims to not need a prescription. Some medication manufacturers won't guarantee drugs that are purchased online. Check with your veterinarian first before any purchase, as free doses and coupons may only be available there.

4. Keeping your pet at optimum weight.

This can decrease the risk of cancer, diabetes and arthritis. Remember that premium and especially grain-free diets (recently linked to heart disease in some dogs) may be unnecessary and overly expensive.

Check with your veterinarian for other ways that might allow you to save. Most veterinarians will have options that can make a difference with your finances but still offer a healthy choice.

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Questions? Send them to Dr. Sandeman, Home & Garden, Quad-City Times, 500 E. 3rd St., Davenport, IA 52801. Or, email to papertrained@ mchsi.com. Dr. Sandeman cannot answer letters or email personally, but questions of general interest will be answered in this column.