Pet Wellness and Insurance Plans
One reassurance every nervous new parent has is that regular check-ups, starting just a week away, will help keep their babies healthy and safe. According to Alea Harrison, DVM, Vice President of Veterinary Quality at Banfield Pet Hospital.
Regular wellness visits and proper home care can also protect your wallet as well as your pet’s health. “New pet owners aren’t always fully aware of the cost of raising and caring for animals,” Harrison says, but emergencies can be expensive. A recent survey by Banfield, which operates a network of veterinary clinics across the United States, found that, on average, current dog and cat owners spend between $45,000 and $55,000 on care during the life of their animal. “Removing a single bad tooth can be three times more expensive than professional dental cleaning and 25 times more expensive than monthly home dental care,” she says.
We asked Harrison for advice new and longtime pet owners can use to protect their pets and their bottom line.
Be proactive to help avoid illness.
“It’s important to focus on preventative care to prevent disease,” Harrison says, and “to make sure we have early detection or diagnosis.” Three main ways to do this:
- Stay up to date on vaccinations. The first step, Harrison says, is to make sure your pet is vaccinated. “Vaccines can really help protect against preventable diseases that have serious long-term health implications.” She stresses the importance of communicating with your pet’s veterinary team to ensure your cat or dog receives the right individualized care. Generally, however, the most common vaccines include rabies, feline leukemia, and Lyme disease.
Pay attention to dental care. Harrsion says that over the past year, 85% of adult dogs and 80% of adult cats (ages 3-10) who have visited a Banfield animal hospital show signs of dental disease. But pet owners can actually prevent these oral health issues with routine care like annual professional cleanings and home grooming (yes, you should brush your dog’s teeth!). Discuss with your veterinarian which care program is appropriate for each animal. Also watch for signs of illness. “Some people tolerate bad breath because it’s their beloved pet,” Harrison says. “But it can be a sign of disease progression.” If your dog or cat has an unpleasant odor, check for other warning signs such as excessive drooling, mouth pain, bleeding, and reluctance to drink. “Oral health issues are one of the most common diagnoses Banfield sees in dogs and cats,” she says.
- Protect yourself against parasites. Also keep an eye out for parasites like heartworm, fleas and tapeworms. Heartworm is contracted through mosquito bites and could be fatal to dogs and cats, Harrison says. Over the past 10 years Banfield has seen an increase in the number of cats with this diagnosis and there is currently no safe treatment for the removal. “It’s so important to make sure we prevent this disease,” Harrison says. Prevention can take the form of monthly oral medication, topical, or even an injectable.
Plan a regular care schedule and stick to it.
Just as you make sure to have regular checkups, your pet should follow a similar pattern. “It’s important that they take comprehensive biannual exams,” Harrison says. These visits should typically include internal and external parasite screenings, dewormings, fecal exams, vaccinations, and dental cleanings. Again, she suggests making a plan with your care providers to fully optimize your pet’s needs.
“There are also ways owners can have their questions or concerns answered without going to the vet,” says Harrison, referring to offerings such as the telehealth service provided by Banfield called Vet Chat, which connects owners to veterinarians 24/7. “Vet Chat is not a substitute for in-person veterinary services or treatment, as we cannot diagnose, treat, or fill prescriptions, but does provide owners with information and advice in real time to help decide if your pet should be seen,” she says.
Consider a pet wellness plan – it can save you life and money.
Wellness plans differ from regular pet insurance in several ways. “Insurance helps cover the unforeseen aspects of owning a pet,” Harrison says. “You can be reimbursed for things like accidents or emergency visits, injuries, surgeries and, in some cases, hospital stay and medication.” There are a variety of coverage levels and prices.
Wellness plans, on the other hand, aren’t technically insurance, but they can help you budget for care and make it easier to stick to that regular schedule. “These are customizable packages of preventative services like comprehensive exams, blood tests and dental cleanings,” says Harrison. “Most people don’t find out about insurance and wellness plans until after they need them.” She gives an example of parvovirus, a highly transmissible gastrointestinal disease in dogs, and its different protocols: Treating the virus costs 24 times more than just preventing it with a vaccine, which you can control with a wellness plan. be. “It’s so important for pet owners to understand that prioritizing their pet’s preventative care is not only good for the pet’s health, it can also save them a lot of money in the long run. “
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