As a veterinary receptionist, or as my official title says, “client service representative,” I take many phone calls every day from owners who have pets with major health problems, yet have limited funds with which to care for them. I would also count myself in their numbers, but luckily, I work for the animal hospital so I do get many services at a hefty discount and I am allowed to carry a balance. (However, they do charge 18% on an unpaid balance, so it’s not such a huge benefit in that sense.)
Many times per day, I refer callers to low-cost animal clinics, who, I am sure, get overrun with walk-ins or appointment requests. A lot of times, I think the problems can be easily prevented. Take, for example, vaccinations.
Many times, people don’t bother to get their animals vaccinated after they adopt them. It may be ignorance – they just assume that the dogs or cats have received everything that they will ever need to get, by the time they are adopted. (We definitely hear that from some.) Or, it may be that they think the vaccines are too costly, and they might not take the time to actually call around and get pricing info on them. If they did, they might find some low-cost vaccination clinics, or as is the case with my animal hospital, certain days of the week when the vaccines are given at half price. Yes, HALF PRICE! There are also places like Vet-Co where you can go to get vaccinations. Sure, they might not spend as much one-on-one time with your pet as they do at my hospital, but you are getting the bare bones care that is really NEEDED for your pets to stay healthy.
For dogs, these are the vaccines we generally suggest:
- Distemper/Parvo (2 boosters and a third one that lasts for a year) starting when the animal is about 6-8 weeks of age. Boosters should be given about 3-4 weeks apart.
- Bordatella (commonly known as the vax for “kennel cough”). Again, get boosters, and a third one that lasts for a year. (Some places may say it’s only good for a year – check with the vet to see how long the one lasts that your pet is receiving.)
- Rabies!! Your pet can get a yearly vax as soon as they are 16 weeks of age. Once they have had the one year vax, when they come back the next year, you can get a three year vax.
If you are going to take your dog to a dog park, or the groomer, please please PLEASE get them vaccinated. I can’t tell you how many calls we get about dogs who have come down with kennel cough after they go to a grooming appointment.
Also, if you have a puppy, please don’t take them to a dog park or walk them on the sidewalks where a lot of other dogs venture, before they have had all their boosters. This is something i never knew growing up. Then again, as a kid, I never heard of parvo. Parvo is one of those disesases that is very easy for a young pup to contract and which can be SUPER expensive to treat if you have your pet hospitalized. Parvo is an illness that can be noticed by signs such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea (usually with blood in it) and many times, it can be fatal. Pups with parvo end up not wanting to eat or drink, and if they do, they can’t keep it down, or inside them. (i.e., the diarrhea). Oh, and when they have the diarrhea, trust me, it smells something AWFUL. Parvo is something you want to catch early, because for young pups, it can be FATAL.
For cats, these are the vaccines we usually suggest (and require to board at our facility):
- Feline panleukopenia
- Rabies (once they are 16 weeks of age)
Many times, people think that if cats don’t get outside, they can’t contract something contagious from other cats, or contract rabies. Well, have you ever had a bat fly into your house? Because I have. And while I don’t intend to make people afraid of bats (because they are actually kind of cute in their own way), they are known for being carriers of rabies. Or, if your dog gets into a fight with another dog that has not been properly vaccinated, (and, especially if yours has not been also), it might be at risk of contracting rabies, and therefore, passing it onto your cats. So, at the very least, get them vaccinated for rabies.
Another good preventive health care step to take for your pets:
SPAY AND NEUTER!!!
I cannot stress this enough, and I KNOW my friends who volunteer at shelters or sanctuaries will back me up on this — there are SO MANY unwanted pets out there in the shelters. So many shelters, whether it be for lack of funds and/or lack of space, euthanize dogs and cats on a daily basis. And SO MUCH of it could be prevented!! It really could!! Spaying or neutering is also good for their health! It can prevent a lot of problems such as a higher risk of cancer and plyometria (which requires surgery, pronto), just to name a few.
While people may be shocked to hear what some hospitals charge for spaying and neutering, they should ask some questions when they are calling around for pricing:
- Do you have any wellness plans that can bring down the overall cost to me or provide me with additional services that I can utilize all year long? (We do!)
- Do you know of any low cost spay or neuter clinics when I can have my pet fixed (or “altered” as we call it) for a fraction of the full price?
- Are there any shelters or sanctuaries that provide spay or neuter services to low-income individuals?
- Do you base your pricing for services on the income of the pet owner? (While it’s rare, some do.)
Keep in mind, also, that some cities, such as Albuquerque, charge pet owners more per year to have an intact pet than a spayed or neutered pet. It’s part of the city’s way of encouraging owners to be responsible owners. So in addition to preventing a lot of unwanted animals and health problems for your pet, why not save yourself some bucks, and do the responsible thing by getting your pet spayed or neutered? 🙂
If you do end up having a health emergency, ask the hospital if they do take payment plans, but be prepared to hear them say “no.” Many don’t. But many may take something called Care Credit, which is a credit card you can use for your own health or that of your pet. While it is a lifeline to some, and can give them some breathing room because the hospital can offer to input certain promotion codes depending on the charge applied (for us, it’s 0 percent for 6 months if the charge is over $200), keep in mind the interest rate that kicks in after that promotional period is pretty hefty. As in 26.99 percent. Let me write that again. 26.99%. To anyone who applies for it or uses it at my hospital, I tell them to make sure that they either get it paid off or make sure that balance is transferred off the card by the time the promotional period ends to avoid that hit. Because it’s huge and who can afford to pay interest at that rate??!! I certainly can’t! (And please don’t think I am endorsing Care Credit, I just mention it because like I said, for some, it is a lifeline when they can’t bear to say goodbye to their pet, but can’t afford the hefty vet bill all at once and don’t have other means to pay for it, credit card or otherwise.)
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And please note that all the opinions expressed herein are my own and not that of my hospital. I only speak for myself in my posts.
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