Vet bills got you in doghouse?

By LINDA LOMBARDI Modified: March 26, 2009 at 7:40 am •  Published: March 26, 2009
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/> Read the fine print carefully for these options. All insurance plans have exclusions.

At the vet
Vets charge differently, so when choosing one, you may want to factor this into your decision. But afterward, Worth recommends you avoid shopping around for each procedure on the basis of price. Consistency is important to your pet’s care, and what’s more, a vet is more likely to be flexible when you’re in a bind financially if you have a long-term relationship.

Don’t be uncomfortable mentioning money — there’s usually more than one treatment option.

Don’t neglect care and medicine that can save you money in the long run. Spay and neuter your pets, which prevents health problems as well as unwanted litters: for referral to low-cost providers, go online to www.spayusa.org.

Have the vet show you how to do routine care yourself, such as nail clipping and toothbrushing.

At home
Feed quality food, but don’t overfeed — it’s not only a waste of money on food, but being overweight can cause costly health problems in pets.

Keep cats indoors. It’s safer and better for their health.

Train your dog. A dog that comes when you call is less likely to run off and get into an accident.

Exercise your dog; it’s good for him, and a tired dog is less likely to find ways to get into trouble.

And make sure your home is dog-safe. There’s a good reason ASPCA insurance excludes coverage for multiple instances of foreign object ingestion.

In a financial bind
If your vet is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association, he or she can apply to its assistance fund. Ask whether a payment plan is possible. But remember, most vets are businesspeople, and times are hard for them, too.

Call your local shelter. In a few communities, there are low-cost clinics for low-income residents.

If all else fails, there is a list of small charities that help with vet bills. Go online to www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/what_you_can_do_if_you_are_having_trouble_affording_veterinary_care.html.