Costly Mistakes Made By Pet Owners: Part 107.04.17
Having and looking after a pet can be an expensive exercise. Between prescribed foods, medical check-ups and the chew toys (including having to reupholster your furniture) the costs quickly rack up. So we asked our vet to share some of the more common mistakes she’s seen pet owners make, to help you save a dime or two.
1) Cheap food
A lot of budget food brands usually contain higher grains, cheaper ingredients and poorer nutritional compositions. This often translates to having to feed larger portion sizes than with a premium brand, which ends up negating the ‘cost benefit’ of buying the cheaper product, as you need more of it.
Poorer nutritional composition means you’re also likely to need more trips to the vet, or medication when your animal is older. We’d recommend you chat to you vet or vet nurse which foods they think are most appropriate according to your animal’s age, size, breed and medical needs.
2) Wet food
Although this may look like ‘meat’, it is actually often made of the same ingredients as dry food, but processed with more water meaning it ends up costing you more. A pet on a wet diet is also more likely to develop dental problems and need regular costly scale and polish procedures.
3) Skipping trips to the vet
Regular trips to the vet will help make sure your animal is getting the preventative health care (such as vaccinations and parasite control) they need. They should have a full clinical exam at least once a year.
This saves many pet owners money in the long run because if your animal were to suffer with Leptospira / Parvo / Hepatitis, or any one of the diseases that vaccinations are meant to prevent, a single hospital stay for your pet will easily cost you more than a lifetime of annual vaccinations. And most insurance providers won’t cover your pet if it suffers with a disease that is preventable through vaccination.
4) The good doctor’s advice
Clients don’t always retain all the information told to them by their vets – which is understandable; so don’t be scared to ask more questions. Following your vet’s advice is not just in your animal’s best interests but will usually save you money at a later stage.
As vets we often see examples of pet owners ignoring our advice, such as an owner bringing in a pet with mammary tumours that would likely not have occurred had the client followed the advice of spaying their dog earlier on.
Contrary to popular practice, your pet shouldn’t receive his or her ‘regular bath’, no matter how often that may be. The exception to this is if your vet has recommended medical bathing as part of a treatment plan.
The reason for this is that there’s a thin layer of oil on your animal’s skin, which acts to keep it moist and is a barrier against environmental pollutants. Bathing your animal strips this oil off and makes it more susceptible to skin allergies and dry skin, and conditioner does not replace this oil barrier.
If your pet loves to get dirty try cleaning it with lukewarm water without using soap or shampoo. In the extreme case that your dog has just rolled in fox faeces or the contents of this week’s dustbin, then you have our full support (as well as our sympathies) to give them a good shampooing.
6) Looking after teeth
Tartar accumulation causes painful gingivitis, which affects your pet’s quality of life. Bacteria also enter their blood stream and lodge in the kidneys and heart valves, which over a prolonged period will cause kidney and heart disease. At best this is expensive to treat, and at worst will result in a premature death.
Neglected dental disease is also a much more expensive procedure to fix and will likely result in the loss of several teeth. A timely scale and polish is a quick procedure with a quick recovery time and will save you money (and heartbreak) in the long-term. It’s a win-win, plus you won’t have to put up with that dog breath as much.
Click here for further advice on how to look after your pet’s teeth.
7) Table scraps
Treats can be very expensive and there is no particular reason to feed them to your pet. Even training can be carried out using a few kibbles of their normal dog food. Pet treats and scraps are often not nutritionally balanced and are usually given in addition to their food allowance rather than as a substitution - so your pet is likely to get overweight. Table scraps also teach unattractive begging behaviour.
8) Fussy pets
As a vet, I often hear the words “my dog won’t eat dog food”. My usual response to this is that no healthy dog has ever starved itself to death. What’s likely happened is that your pet has learnt that if they don’t show enthusiasm for their food, you may panic and give them something tastier, meaning you’ve rewarded your dog for turning down dog food.
I once had an extreme case of a dog that had only eaten hand-fed chicken its entire life. Not only did it have rotten teeth but it also ended up with a pathological jaw fracture because chicken has very little calcium in it. On the X-rays all of the dog’s bones were thin and brittle - a ticking time bomb waiting to break. It ended up being a very expensive ‘diet’ because repairing that dog’s jaw was a long and difficult process.
As a rule of thumb, if you’re feeding your animal more than it needs then you are likely spending more money on food than you need to. Most importantly though, overweight animals have shorter lifespans and are susceptible to diabetes, joint disease and an entire host of medical problems that are going to cost you money to manage later.
Obesity is the most common disease identified in vet practices and it is completely avoidable. So as difficult as it can be when your cute doggy is giving you ‘the stare’, try to avoid spoiling them too much when it comes to food.
10) Pet discipline
Undisciplined animals are more likely to injure themselves and people around them, meaning more trips to the vet (and potentially the doctor too). They often need to be sedated before medical procedures, which will cost you more.
These animals often destroy furniture, electrical equipment, doors and even walls, and they’re far more likely to eat things they shouldn’t and need an emergency trip to the vet.
Try to put firm, fair and consistent boundaries in place for your pets - including rescue pets. It may seem difficult at first but just because they’ve had a rough start in life doesn’t mean they should be allowed to be naughty or snappy without being disciplined. If you’re in any doubt though, contact a dog behaviourist who can guide you.
When it comes to looking after your pet we’re not saying you need to be ‘Cruella de Vil’, but you also shouldn’t be a pushover every time you get ‘the puppy eyes’. Find a vet you trust, keep your pet on a balanced diet, and we’re sure you’ll save a few quid – which you can rather use on spoiling your pet with a Lulu & Robbie coat ;) Browse our adorable coat range here.