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First Things First
We recognize that cost is a major concern for pet owners, but selecting a veterinarian involves more than just price-shopping. There are several factors to consider when you choose a veterinarian, such as convenient office hours, how the veterinarian and staff treat you and your pet, and what type of payment options and plans they offer. Cost is often a factor, but it may not be the most important factor to consider. While some veterinary medical services may be offered at very low rates, remember that they also may not include comprehensive services. Make sure you compare “apples to apples,” so you know that the cost estimates you’re getting are for the same services. For example, one estimate might be for surgery alone, while another higher-cost estimate also includes some pre-operative bloodwork and post-operative pain relief; and when you add these services to the lower-cost estimate, the prices are more comparable than you originally thought.

And what about “Dr. Google?” More and more, people are resorting to the Internet to find information and guidance on health issues – for both themselves and their pets. Sorting out reliable from unreliable information online can be challenging, and the Internet is certainly not a reliable substitute for hands-on evaluation by your veterinarian or physician. Don’t get us wrong. Not all information on the Internet is wrong or misguided. But the AVMA urges you to be very cautious when relying on online information for decisions regarding your own health or your pet’s health. And steer clear of anyone offering online diagnoses or treatment recommendations, either for free or for a fee. They may be bogus, not to mention illegal.

A Penny Now or a Pound Later?
All of the veterinarians interviewed for this article emphasized that annual preventive healthcare exams and regular preventive care – such as vaccinations, heartworm testing, fecal parasite exams, dental evaluation and more – save pets’ lives by ensuring they’re healthy. They can also save pet owners money by reducing or eliminating the risk of health problems that can be more expensive to treat. The cost of preventive care usually pales in comparison to the cost of treating the disease or problem that would have been prevented. Regular exams can also detect problems early, before they become more serious…and probably more expensive to treat. In a nutshell, spending the money upfront on preventive care can save you a lot more in the long run.

“Routine monitoring for tick-borne diseases and parasites (including heartworm), as well as keeping your pets up-to-date on medications, can save their lives,” says Dr. Meghan McGrath of Radnor Veterinary Hospital in Wayne, Pa.

Pets should have annual wellness exams, and some pets may need more frequent exams, said Dr. Michael Cavanaugh, DABVP, American Animal Hospital Association executive director.

“Many people ask me, ‘How often should my pet see their veterinarian?’ My typical answer is at least annually, and it depends. Depending on the pet’s lifestage, lifestyle, and overall health status, they may need to be seen more frequently. The individual pet’s veterinarian is best positioned to determine how many visits per year are in order,” Dr. Cavanaugh said.

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