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How to Save Money on a Senior Pet's Care - by guest blogger Nick Burton

by Dr. Kimberly Hunt on 03/01/19

Now that your pet is getting older, his care is starting to put a serious strain on your budget. It's true that caring for senior pets can be expensive — just like humans, health problems become more common after pets reach the senior years. However, there are some key ways you can save money on a senior pet's care.

Watch Your Pet's Diet

Overfeeding your pet increases the costs of pet care and makes your pet more likely to develop expensive health conditions. As American Veterinarian explains, pet obesity is associated with health issues like arthritis, kidney disease, and cancer.

Maintaining your pet's weight through a balanced diet, portion control, and regular exercise is the best thing you can do for his health. Some senior pets benefit from low-calorie food to help with weight maintenance, but many pets do just fine on their usual food. If you think your pet would benefit from a diet change, talk to your veterinarian.

Help Your Pet Around the House

As people age, we change things around the house to make daily life easier. We install grab bars, use mobility aids, and crank up the heat to keep our aging bodies warm,

Aging pets benefit from similar changes. A mobility harness helps aging dogs stand up and walk around, heated beds keep dogs and cats warm as their ability to thermoregulate declines, and a high-quality orthopedic mattress keeps stiff joints and achy backs at bay. Many owners worry about the cost of upgrading their pet's gear, but a small investment makes a big difference in a senior pet's quality of life. If you're on a budget, look to big-box stores like Walmart, which tend to be more affordable, and search for Walmart coupon codes that you can use online for extra savings.

Groom at Home

You pet was a fastidious groomer in his younger years, but now that your dog or cat is getting older, he has a harder time keeping his coat clean and tangle-free. When pets can no longer groom themselves, owners need to take over. Neglecting grooming leads to matting, skin problems, and overgrown nails that affect your pet's gait. Grooming sessions are also an opportunity to check for abnormalities on your pet's skin. Older pets sometimes develop tumors that can be felt under the skin. While some tumors are benign, others are cancerous. If you notice a new lump on your pet, contact your vet for a closer look.

Paying for professional grooming adds a lot to the cost of pet care, but your pet doesn't need to be perfectly-coiffed to be well-groomed. You can brush your pet's fur, trim his nails, and clean his ears at home with minimal trouble as long as you have the right tools. Petfinder explains how to groom your cat and AKC covers the process for dogs.

Commit to Your Veterinarian

Veterinary care for senior pets focuses on monitoring your pet's health and looking for changes that might indicate a growing health problem. But if you see a new vet every time your pet needs a check-up, your vet won't know your pet's history. That leads to more money spent on tests and screenings that could be avoided with a vet who knows your pet well.

There's nothing wrong with shopping around to find an affordable veterinary practice, but once you find a vet you like, stick with them. Plus, a vet you've built a relationship with is more likely to work with you if your pet needs an expensive procedure that you can't afford to pay for up-front.

Sometimes seeing a different veterinarian is unavoidable. Your pet may need specialty care like chiropractic that isn't offered at your primary vet or need emergency veterinary care while away from home. If your pet is seen at another office, be sure to share the records with your primary veterinarian.

Caring for a senior pet can be costly, but it shouldn't break the bank. Unfortunately, many budget-conscious pet owners take the wrong approach to their senior pet's care. Skipping wellness vet visits, vet-hopping, and ignoring signs of health problems might save a little money in the short-term, but it costs more in the long run. When you make your pet’s health a priority, you save money and give your senior pet a better life.

-Nick Burton and his wife had 15 years with Willie, their lab/terrier mix, before he crossed the rainbow bridge.  The grief they experienced with Willie's passing has inspired them to help others navigate the long, hard road of caring for an elderly pet.  Nick's website is:

How do you know your pet needs chiropractic care?

by Dr. Kimberly Hunt on 04/10/17

A dog (Bronx) was brought into my office with low back pain, worse when getting up from laying down.  The history of this 8 year old boxer mix included 2 major falls, several years back.  One fall was from a second story window. The other was from a moving vehicle.  After each incident, the dog recovered quickly, without medical intervention, and appeared to be fine.  Fast forward several years, and those same injuries are rearing their ugly heads as Bronx cries out in pain.

To both their benefit, and their detriment, animals are amazingly resilient.   Or at least they appear to be.  The truth is, animals hide their injuries through a process called "compensation".  This means they shift weight and walk or sit differently to avoid pain.  It's a built-in survival mechanism since showing pain or weakness can prove fatal in the wild.  Unfortunately, animals can compensate for only so long before their body breaks down.  Eventually, Bronx was no longer able to compensate and started showing symptoms including difficulty getting up from a seated or laying position, and severe pain with certain movements.  His x-rays showed spinal spondylosis at multiple levels (essentially severe arthritis of the spine) and narrowing of the intervertebral foramen which compressed and irritated his spinal nerves (ie: pinched nerves). 

Fortunately, with several chiropractic treatments over a couple months, plus home rehab stretches, Bronx made a full recovery.  He is now on wellness care with chiropractic visits 3 or 4 times per year to help him maintain his optimal health.  

Here's the unfortunate part of this story....Bronx had to become severely painful and physically compromised before his owners knew he needed help.  So how do we avoid this? 

1.  Have your pets checked by a certified animal chiropractor at least 2x per year when they are young, and up to 4x per year for older pets, and those pets doing a sport (exp:  agility dog, frisbee dog) or physical job (exp:  cattle dog, hunting dog).  The chiropractor can find, and fix, structural issues before they become debilitating.

2.  When you see an injury occur, even if your pet seems fine, schedule a chiropractic exam.

3.  If you see any of the following signs or symptoms, get your pet into the chiropractor immediately.  Remember, by the time you see symptoms, your pet has likely been compensating for awhile.

*Hesitation to do normal activities such as climbing, jumping up, jumping down, laying down, etc.

*Limping.  Limb weakness or inability to walk.

*Difficulty with certain movements such as turning head, lifting head, walking, trotting, running, climbing stairs, jumping, changing positions, getting up from a seated or lying position, slipping on slick floors, squatting, lifting leg, etc.

*Heavy and unusual panting, whining, or crying with certain movements or when being picked up.

*Change in behavior -  grumpy, no desire to play, doesn't want to cuddle, pulls away when you try to touch certain parts of the body.

*Signs of compensation - head held low and/or to one side, shifting weight from back legs to front legs, or from one side to the other, refusing to bear weight on a limb, laying only on one side of the body, arching back up, sitting crooked, etc. 

If you have specific questions about this topic, you are welcome to email them: Please allow up to 24 hours for a response.

Disclaimer:  This blog, and any information provided by Dr. Hunt via website or email correspondence, is not an attempt to diagnose or treat animals.  All information and/or comments are based solely on the experience, education, insight and opinion of Dr. Hunt.  You should always consult at licensed veterinarian on matters of animal health.