Pets come with costs that must be counted
By Lisa Kaylor| Staff Writer
Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pet owners who have sustained a few hits to the pocketbook sometimes come to view the family pet as a financial burden.

They need to cut expenses in the household budget, and they look at how they can safely scale down costs for dog food and routine veterinarian care such as vaccines, heartworm prevention, flea and tick control, checkups (which can include blood screenings for older dogs) and dental care.

"It's a lot of similarities with people's health and animals' health," said Dr. Tom Proctor, of North Augusta Animal Hospital.

Costs can add up, but there are ways to ease the financial strain of caring for pets without jeopardizing their health, Proctor and other area veterinarians said.

For instance, pets don't necessarily need top-of-the line pet food. The veterinarian might be able to suggest cheaper alternatives, including home-prepared food.

Be price aware, but Dr. Steven Knittel, of Paradise Animal Hospital, also cautions against buying the cheapest pet food on the shelf because it is usually loaded with nutritionally empty fillers.

"A bag of food may cost less, but the animal may eat more of it to satisfy its needs. You may not be coming out ahead as much as you think you are," he said.

Keeping vaccinations and medical regimens up-to-date might seem expensive now, but pet experts agree that doing so will save hundreds of dollars later.

For example, heartworm pills might cost $6 a month, but if the dog gets heartworms, treatment could cost $600, said Raynette Mayer, the president of the board of directors for the CSRA Humane Society.

Veterinarians say heartworm medication is one of the first things pet owners cut back on, and doing so is dangerous for the dog.

"If you don't keep them on that, it's pretty much assured they're going to have heartworms," Proctor said.

Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes, which are prevalent in this area. They infect the heart and can spread to the lungs. By the time the animal displays symptoms such as swollen bellies and legs, it's too late to treat them, she said.

Don't skimp on flea and tick control, either. Most people view fleas and ticks as nuisances, but left untreated, fleas can suck enough blood to kill a puppy or a kitten, or transmit a tapeworm.

Lisa Williams, the owner of CSRA Life Savers in North Augusta, said in her experience, flea collars, dips and powders don't last as long and end up costing more than drops that are now available. Drops are typically good for a month.

Williams is not a veterinarian, but she hires veterinarians to work part time in her discount clinic to provide low-cost spaying, neutering and vaccinations.

She said if pet owners aren't really hurting financially, they should keep up with vet care.

"I always say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," she said.

Mayer also suggests that keeping pets indoors will save on emergency vet bills.

Animals that spend significant amounts of time outside run the risk of coming in contact with pesticides, being hit by cars or coming in contact with infected animals.

If pet owners reach a point where they just can't continue to care for their pet, there are few options available.

If food is needed, owners can call the Golden Harvest Food Bank. Sometimes pet food is donated, Mayer said.

You can also check animal shelters. Sometimes they receive more donated pet food than they can use and may be willing to donate some of the excess to someone in need.

But if the situation has reached such a critical point, keeping the animal might not be an option.

Williams advised calling a rescue group to see whether they have room for another pet.

But have a Plan B. The CSRA Humane Society is currently sheltering 250 animals, which is significantly more than the ideal maximum of 180, Mayer said.

She recommends listing the pet on petfinder.com to place it for adoption, posting fliers around the neighborhood or at work, or searching the Internet for organizations that can take the pet.

Reach Lisa Kaylor at (706) 828-3904 or lisa.kaylor@augustachronicle.com.

COST OF PET CARE
ItemSmall DogLarge DogCat
Food$55$235$115
Recurring medical$210$260$160
Litter$0$0$165
Toys/treats$40$75$25
License$15$15$0
Miscellaneous$35$65$30
Total$355$650$495
Spay/neuter$190$220$145
Collar/leash$25$35$10
Litter box $0$0$25
Scratching post$0$0$15
Total$215$255$195
Source: aspca.org

AREA SHELTERS

CSRA HUMANE SOCIETY

Address: 425 Wood St.

Phone: (706) 261-7387

Web site: www.csrahumanesociety.org

COLUMBIA COUNTY HUMANE SOCIETY

Phone: (706) 860-5020

Web site: www.columbiacountyhumane society.org

HAPPY TAILS RESCUE INC.

Phone: (706) 955-0438

E-mail: csrahappytails@gmail.org

Web site: sites.google.com/site/gahappytails

HEARTSONG ANIMAL RESCUE

Address: 220 Millbrook Road

Phone: (706) 855-1241

Web site: www.heartsonganimalrescue.com

AUGUSTA ANIMAL RESCUE FRIENDS

E-mail: volunteers@aarf.net

Web site: aarf.net

SAVE THE ANIMALS RESCUE SOCIETY

Phone: (706) 592-4158

E-mail: savetheanimalsrescue@comcast.net

Web site: www.starsrescue.org

AIKEN COUNTY SPCA

Address: 401 Wire Road, Aiken

Phone: (803) 648-6863

Web site: aikenspca.org

ALL GOD'S CREATURES PET RESCUE AND ADOPTION

Phone: (803) 279-1613

E-mail: dholcomb@agcpetrescue.org

Web site: agcpetrescue.org

AUGUSTA ANIMAL SERVICES

Address: 4164 Mack Lane

Phone: (706) 790-6836

Web site: www.augustaga.gov

The following Web sites offer financial assistance to help low-income and senior pet owners care for their pets:

- In Memory of Magic, IMOM.org

- Cats in Crisis, catsincrisis.org

- Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance Program, www.fveap.org

- United Animal Nations, (also lists national organizations offering assistance for specific needs), www.uan.org

- Help A Pet, www.help-a-pet.org

- AAHA Helping Pets Fund, www.aahahelpingpets.org

- The Pet Fund, www.thepetfund.com

From the Sunday, January 24, 2010 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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