by Dwain Hebda | Photography By Jamison Mosley
Anyone who has small children knows well how it can sometimes feel like they’re stuck in a revolving door with regard to health care and doctor’s visits. And, as any dog owner knows, the same can be said for our four-legged “kids” too.
Veterinary bills are a fact of pet ownership, be it routine or emergency. Given this, you want to choose your vet carefully. Personal recommendations and a laundry list of add-on services might put a vet on your shortlist, but do your homework. Ask for an interview and tour of the facilities before you take your dog for his or her first visit.
Dr. Brian Vandegrift, veterinarian with the Little Rock Animal Village and part-timer with ALLPETS Animal Hospital, in Little Rock, says not to ignore your first impressions when visiting a new clinic.
“The vibe and culture of the place is very important,” he says. “Take note of how you’re treated at the front desk or over the phone or whether you’re greeted when you walk in.”
Important questions to ask on your initial interview include whether the clinic accommodates after-hours emergencies, what are the scheduling options for making and changing appointments and, in clinics with multiple vets, if you will always be treated by the same person. It’s also a good idea to inquire about multiple pet discounts, if you’ve got more than one dog.
Taking these steps is important, because keeping your dog healthy is both essential and expensive. Just a quick tally of routine procedures adds up in a hurry.
“Some of the standard things would include heartworm preventative,” says Vandegrift. “A lot depends on the size of the dog, which is a huge factor in how much it’s going to cost. Say anywhere from $150 to $300 a year for preventative. Flea and tick would be about the same.”
Most vets would like to see the animal every year as a precaution,” he goes on to say. “An adult vaccination is closer to $200, but for the puppy series it’s going to be around $100 – $150 per visit. There are three of those sets, sometimes four.”
Vandegrift says one area that is becoming more and more routine are dental procedures, as most vets recommend a professional cleaning a couple of times in a dog’s lifetime (at around $200 a pop) to help prevent tooth loss later in life. And, he notes that just like with humans, there are the inevitable illnesses and injuries that come along which further adds to the expense of dog ownership.
“Most animals are going to have an episode somewhere along the way — an ear infection, skin infection, something like that. You’re looking at a few hundred dollars for one emergency,” he says. “In your dog’s later years when they start to go downhill, they’ll have some blood work involved and that’s a few hundred dollars more there.”
In the final analysis, how much is too much is really a matter of opinion. Some dog owners will go to extremes when it comes to pet care and modern veterinary medicine is able to accommodate them. From CT scans, MRI studies and neurosurgery to doggie cardiology, diabetes treatments and orthopedic surgery, pet owners can easily spend into the tens of thousands of dollars if they so choose.
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