I was asked this question by a magazine reporter, and figured I would share with my faithful readers.
Pet owners are my bread and butter. I completely adore my patients, but it breaks my heart when one of these preventable mistakes happen.
Mistake #1: Asking about pet insurance after an unhappy diagnosis.
Pet Insurance operates under similar rules as human health insurance, in that if you approach the insurance company with a preexisting condition, you will likely
be turned down for insurance not be able get coverage for that condition. After your dog hurts his knee in a sports injury, or after he’s been diagnosed with arthritis, or after you figure out she’s got diabetes, is not the time to look for pet health insurance. The time to look for insurance is before your pet gets sick; ideally, when they’re still in the puppy or kitten stage, when you can lock in the lowest premiums.
Mistake #2: Counting on low cost clinics for all your pet care.
Many cities, Indianapolis included, now have wonderful low-cost facilities that provide spay and neuter services to low income families that otherwise would not be able to afford care. Some of these facilities also offer heartworm testing and vaccine clinics. All of that is well and good, but what none of these clinics offer is a complete physical examination by a licensed veterinarian. It’s a rare pet that can go their entire life without illness, and the sooner these things are diagnosed and treated, the better. Your pet ages many times faster than you do. A yearly physical examination is essential to protect and maintain health.
Mistake #3: Cheap flea stuff.
About half of my appointments this month have been for itchy skin, and many have been caused by fleas. Most pet owners of itchy dogs have used some kind of flea medication prior to coming to me, but times are tough, and pet owners are often looking to save on flea drops by buying store brands that claim to be just as effective as veterinary drops. I’m here to tell you it’s not true. The flea stuff your veterinarian sells works better, faster, longer, and may even come with a guarantee of effectiveness that the store brands can’t touch.
Mistake #4: Failing to train your dog.
Many dogs and cats are surrendered to animal shelters across the country for treatable behavioral problems. Most of these problems could be addressed by partnering with a proper veterinarian-approved dog trainer. In Indianapolis, we recommend Canines in Action, and our friend Laura VanArendonk Baugh. Take it from me: spend some money and put a few months of hard work into training your dog when she’s young, and you’ll save yourself 10 years of grief. You don’t expect your children to know everything without going to school first, right?
Mistake #5: Getting a pet without properly researching it first.
Live in an apartment? Don’t get a working dog or she’ll go crazy. Can’t afford lots of veterinary visits? Don’t buy a purebred dog of a breed prone to medical problems. Don’t like cat pee on your furniture? Don’t have five cats.
Here is a wonderful site where you can research dog breeds and their breed-related medical problems: Canine Inherited Disorders Database
Like my dear old dad used to say… “measure twice, cut once”.
Nine times out of ten, the frustration of owning any pet can be avoided by some simple planning, and following this formula:
1. Ask yourself: Can I afford a pet? Can I afford unexpected medical bills? Can I afford wellness care? Expect to spend more during your pet’s first year, what with puppy/kitten vaccines, spay/neuter, dealing with worms, etc. than during the next 5-10.
2. Plan for education: Budget (in time and money) for several months of dog training.
3. Plan for the worst, hope for the best: Buy pet insurance. (we like Trupanion)
4. Do what your vet tells you. Vaccines, heartworm and flea prevention, yearly physical examinations, all of these things are necessary for health maintenance in pets.
5. Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with proper planning. :)
Thanks for reading!