Provide a nutritious diet and regular exercise to keep your dog in good health and maintain proper weight. Overweight dogs are more likely to have joint problems and illnesses such as Diabetes and heart disease.
Spay and neuter your dogs, not only for the obvious benefit of preventing puppies, but also for healthier dogs. Spaying and neutering eliminates the chance of getting reproductive organ cancers. Neutered males are less likely to run away and get hit by cars and less likely to be aggressive with other dogs. If you can't afford the cost of spay or neuter surgery at a private veterinary hospital, most communities have low cost spay and neuter clinics or programs that offer subsidized services with cooperating veterinarians. Call your local Humane Society, SPCA, or animal shelter to ask about reduced cost spaying and neutering. The ASPCA also has a Free and Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Database to find low cost providers in your area.
Shop around for the best deal in veterinary care. If you're looking for a new vet, call several vets in your area and compare their charges for preventative care such as routine exams, immunizations, heartworm prevention, and dental cleanings.
Clinics providing reduced price immunizations against rabies and other canine infectious diseases are sometimes held at animal shelters, veterinary offices and pet supply centers.
If your dog needs a long term prescription medication, instead of buying it from your veterinarian, you may be able to save money by asking your vet to write a prescription so you can buy the medication from an online pet pharmacy. Compare prices at several online pet pharmacies. Lately I've been able to save the most on prescription medications for my dogs by buying them online at Drs. Foster & Smith.
An ounce of prevention...
Don't skip annual vet checkups. Good preventative care is essential. Potential health problems are easier to treat if detected early.
Unless your dog is in a securely fenced area outdoors, always keep the dog on a leash.
Brush your dog’s teeth regularly, using a special toothpaste made for dogs. Even if you can't brush every day, brushing a few days a week can extend the time between expensive dental cleanings by your veterinarian.
Though the cost of once a month heartworm preventatives may seem high, it's really quite a bargain compared to the cost of treating a dog with heartworm infection. Treatment for heartworm disease is painful, risky and expensive. Dogs of any age and any breed are at risk and any dog that is unprotected can contract the disease. It can be fatal.
Use flea and tick preventatives. The cost of flea and tick protection might also sound a bit high, but again, it's far less expensive than dealing with complications to your dog's health. Besides intense itching and discomfort, flea bites can cause serious medical problems from bacterial skin infections to severe anemia. Fleas on pets can also lead to a serious home infestation. Tick bites can cause Lyme disease, a devastating bacterial disease which can cause permanent, painful disability in both humans and dogs.
You can save $$ on flea and tick control, ear care products, vitamins, joint care supplements, and other non-prescription maintenance items at online pet supply stores and pharmacies. Check the specials and compare prices at Drs. Foster and Smith and 1-800-PetMeds for low prices with free shipping included on most orders.
For pet owners who are unable to afford veterinary care for their sick or injured pet, some financial help may be available. Click Here for a list of organizations that provide financial assistance for low income pet owners or pet owners who can prove financial hardship.
Plan ahead when possible and consider purchasing health insurance for your dog. To keep pet insurance premiums affordable, most plans don't cover vaccines and routine check-ups, but depending on the level of coverage you choose, emergency care for injuries, surgery, major illnesses and expensive tests may be covered. There are a variety of pet insurance programs. Here's a link to one of them.
For suggestions on stretching your pet care dollars... how to find bargains on pet care supplies, how to lower the cost of feeding your dog, and how to save on grooming expenses, see Cutting Dog Care Expenses.