Last night on consumer television programme Fair Go, there was an item about the high cost of veterinary care in New Zealand.
The makers of the programme compared costs for common veterinary procedures in cats and dogs – thinks like dental cleanings and microchipping. And for those of us working in the companion animal field, it came as no surprise that there can be a huge variability in costs.
I remember when I was studying pet nutrition, our first assignment included a question about the cost of the first year of a dog’s care. We had to itemise all costs for everything from food to flea treatments to veterinary care. And like so many other living costs in New Zealand, our prices were higher. That’s what happens when you live on comparatively small islands in the middle of the Pacific! In fact, my tutor said that our costs were the highest of all others in the class from around the world.
However, the Fair Go programme basically advised viewers that the way to control their costs was to shop around. While I agree with this point – to a point, there’s a lot more that you can do to keep the costs of your veterinary care - and your dog’s overall care – reasonable.
And I’m also a big supporter of the adage – YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. In every aspect of my dog’s care, I aim to purchase quality products and services. They may not be the cheapest – but I’m satisfied that they are the best.
In my opinion, you should:
- Adopt a preventive healthcare approach first
As soon as your dog comes into your life, vow that you will do the best you can for them. This means choosing high quality, nutritious foods (‘you are what you eat’) and giving your dog the right amount of exercise. Ensure your dog doesn’t become overweight and clean their teeth.
For teeth cleaning, there’s the old-fashioned approach which includes giving dogs raw meaty bones. There are also good dental chews on the market and toys like rope chews act as dental floss. There’s also some very good toothbrushes and toothpaste you can buy because not all dogs get enough cleaning from the items that they chew.
- Build a relationship with a vet
If you go all over town chasing the best price, no single veterinary practice will have a full picture of your dog’s health history. Shop around and then try to stick with the same vet. Be honest about your ability to pay and if the practice knows you, they will be in a better position to offer you a payment plan or a reduction in price. You probably won’t have that as an option if the veterinary practice has never seen you before!
If you are unhappy with any service that a veterinarian provides you (including cost) you should raise your concerns with the practice first to see what solutions are available. Then, if you’re still not happy, go out and find yourself another vet that you can work with.
- Complementary therapies for longevity and quality of life
Complementary therapies like my massage, acupressure and laser therapy practice have a role in keeping your dog healthy (and the vet bills down). I offer advice on rehabilitation and exercise programmes that can help reduce your dog’s dependence on pain medication, for example. I’m an advocate for therapies such as hydrotherapy and acupuncture, both of which I use for my own, aging dog.
- Shop online
There are many outlets where you can find pet products at a more reasonable price than a traditional pet store or veterinary practice. These include sites like Trade Me, but also online pet pharmacy My Vet. I also source and sell products online through my company – Canine Catering and, because I’m a smaller operation with lower overheads, you will pay a lower price.
(In general, retail costs are higher because there are more costs for doing business. They have shop assistants to pay, rent, and bills for heating, maintenance and electricity. )
I hope these tips give you a broader perspective on the costs of caring for your dog. If we save money, we have more money to spend on our families which includes our pets!