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5 tips to save on pet health care

Pets are like members of the family. But unlike other family members, they probably don't have health insurance. Should they?

By Stacy Johnson Jul 6, 2011 12:47PM

This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.

 

People love their pets like family. So it's not surprising a survey found that 91% of pet owners in the U.S. and Europe would give up their vacations to pay for a pet's surgery.

 

That's from Grey Healthcare Group. But this, from The New York Times, is surprising: Only about 3% of pet owners have pet insurance.As we reported last week, that can mean more than $1,500 out-of-pocket for problems like torn ligaments and eating what they shouldn't.

 

In the video below, Stacy Johnson explains policies for pets. Then read on for more ways to save on pet medical care.

Dr. Anvita Bawa, the veterinarian featured in the video above, says insurance is a good idea for high-maintenance animals. "Especially bulldogs, rottweilers and Dobermans," says Bawa. Policies can be as cheap as $15 a month, although there are deductibles and co-pays.

 

However, as Stacy mentioned, many pet policies won't cover preventive care, older animals, or breed-specific genetic conditions. Read the fine print and find out if your critters will get coverage worth the price.

 

Here are some other ways to save, insured or not:

  • Check out the local animal shelter. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has local listings for animal shelters. These places may offer discounted services and cheaper (sometimes even free) vaccinations. Plus, they work for animals, not for profit, so they may be a good source for recommendations and referrals as well. 
  • Comparison shop. Just like doctors who treat two-legged patients, vets don't all charge the same rates. Visit HealthyPet.com for local listings of vets accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association. Then call them up and get some quotes. 
  • Find cheaper prescriptions. Compare the prices your vet charges with online and local stores, including warehouse stores. Ask your friends and animal shelter workers what they use. There are plenty of places to find pet medications online. 
  • Take good care of your pets. This sounds obvious, but it's easy to miss if you have a busy lifestyle. Make sure your pets are getting a proper diet -- some animals have very specific needs. (This doesn't mean generic pet food is bad, as long as it has the right ingredients.) Make sure they get enough exercise, and that you follow all your vet's recommendations. Don't skimp on preventive care like vaccines. Spend enough time and money to save yourself heartache and debt later.
  • Prioritize your pet budget. Many people treat their pets like kids, and it's natural to want to spoil them. If you have the money, that's OK. But remember that health is more important than luxury, and animals don't need a lot of expensive toys or high-priced food. Unlike kids, they have no sense of how much money you spend. Your time and affection are worth more than what's in your wallet.

There's no alternative to professional care for your pet, but if you really can't afford it, check out our story: "The vet or the Net? How to save on your pet's health."

 

More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

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