Keeping veterinary costs down means taking steps to build your dog or cat’s health and help prevent illness.

Caring for your dog or cat can get expensive. Once an animal becomes ill, especially if he’s treated in a conventional manner with a lot of tests and drugs, you end up spending a lot of money. Even if you use holistic modalities, treatment for an existing illness can be costly. Many insurance companies are now covering a variety of holistic approaches, which certainly helps, so look for these companies. But the best way to save money on vet bills is to help prevent him from getting ill in the first place.

This article covers three strategies you can follow to proactively build your dog or cat’s health, and avoid costly vet bills.

1. Build his health

Feed the best diet

An ideal diet for building health is a variety of raw meats with raw bones, pureed raw and cooked vegetables, and a few supplements (e.g. calcium is critical if no bones are included – see page 80 for more information on supplementing with calcium). Healthy dogs can eat some grains, preferably the higher protein ones. When buying local you can dramatically lower your cost by getting “leftovers” from the farmer. Even if you can only feed several meals a week this way, you will save money and build health.

If you aren’t able to home-prepare a raw diet for your dog or cat, you can buy complete, high quality frozen, or freeze-dried or dehydrated raw diets that you re-hydrate. If you’re opting for canned food or kibble, be sure to buy the highest quality, most natural diet you can. Supplement with fresh food as often as possible. Regardless of the type of diet, make it a practice to rotate protein sources.

Supplements may be needed depending on your individual animal, and may include antioxidants, essential fatty acids, probiotics and/or digestive enzymes – because every dog and cat is different, though, it’s best to work directly with a holistic or integrative vet when supplementing your pet’s diet.

Avoid toxins

Use the fewest chemicals on and around your dog or cat. Each animal is an individual and will respond differently to flea and tick preventatives, for example. (Healthy animals do not get flea infestations.) There are many natural alternatives to these chemicals that are very inexpensive – using a flea comb, bathing your pet with herbal shampoo, and vacuuming daily are just three things you can do that will help immensely.

Some dogs and cats are also very sensitive to chemicals used in the yard or the house, as well as in vaccines. Vaccines also affect the immune system, so vaccinate minimally. Switch to natural household cleaners, and avoid using pesticides and fertilizers in your yard.

Learn home healing methods

There are many safe healing modalities you can learn to use at home, with the correct training. Used regularly, they can help prevent as well as treat many illnesses, soothe symptoms while you decide if veterinary care is needed, and prevent negative reactions to stress.

These modalities are 100% safe. Many, once learned, will be free healing tools for the rest of your life. Each one builds the immune system when used regularly and can treat minor problems to prevent expensive veterinary treatment. Each animal may prefer one to another.

  1. Reiki – Take a class to become a channel for this universal life force healing energy (attunements from a Reiki Master are necessary in order to be able to do Reiki yourself). Used at many hospitals for pain and healing.
  2. Flower essences – These gentle remedies made from wildflowers are an easy and inexpensive way to treat emotional and some physical issues.
  3. Pressure point therapy/acupressure – Gentle pressure on acupuncture points and meridians can resolve many symptoms.
  4. Healing Touch for Animals – This modality helps you balance your pet’s chakras for improved well-being.
  5. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) – “Tapping” specific points on your animal’s body can resolve emotional issues.
  6. Massage – Can increase circulation, ease pain, and ease stress and anxiety.
  7. Tellington TTouch – A powerful way to heal using circular touches, ear pulls and more. Great for training, behavior and even physical problems.
  8. Healing magnets – They’re easy to use and studies have shown they decrease inflammation.
  9. Sound and light therapies – Sound can heal at deep levels. Different colors, meanwhile, can either stimulate or soothe.

While the below approaches are also natural, they can cause harm if not used properly, so again, training (as well as purchasing high quality products) is vital:

  1. Essential oil therapy – Oils from plants are distilled to concentrate their healing properties. They’re very strong, so should always be used diluted in a carrier oil. Buy only pure, high quality oils.
  2. Herbal therapy – Herbs are powerful healers that need high quality sourcing and some study to maximize their effectiveness and safety.
  3. Homeopathy – Deeply healing, very inexpensive, and super easy to administer. First aid homeopathic remedies (Arnica, Hypericum, Apis and more) can be safely given to your pet, but for deeper healing purposes, more study is critical.

 2. Keep tabs on his well-being

Train your dog or cat to let you give him a simple physical exam on a weekly basis. Look in his eyes, ears and mouth (all the way back), feel his body for lumps or bumps, and take his temperature. Look for the early warning signs of ill health such as odor, red gums, wax in the ears, dull coat or dry skin.

Keep a health journal and record other issues you notice, such as vomiting, hairballs, diarrhea, eating stool, discharge from the eyes or nose, etc. This will not only help you keep track of what’s going on with your pet; it also provides a useful record for when you do need to take him to the vet.

The most important measure of health is vitality. A dog can have only three legs and be completely vital. Another animal with itchy feet can be depressed, lethargic, grumpy, etc. When your dog or cat gets sick with any condition, the first question is:  “How is his vitality?” If your cat is vomiting, yet eating and playful, you can use some of the home healing methods mentioned above, and keep an eye on him for a day or two. If he has diarrhea, but is eating, active, playful and affectionate, you can try any of the above treatments and also wait to see if he improves. Note all this in your journal.

Do understand that if your dog or cat doesn’t improve in a couple of days, or is suffering and/or getting worse, you need to get him to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Home care is not a substitute for professional veterinary care and regular checkups, especially with an integrative veterinarian. However, by using the above healing approaches when you notice early warning signs or symptoms of mild illness (along with building his health through diet, minimal toxin exposure, etc.), major and expensive problems are much less likely to occur.

3. Work with an integrative or holistic vet 

By carefully selecting a holistic or integrative veterinarian, and other practitioners, you will have a team committed to building your dog or cat’s health rather than merely resolving symptoms. For example, they will not assume that lifetime treatment is needed for low thyroid, diabetes, and other conditions. Acupuncture or homeopathy may be offered instead of expensive surgery for ACLs, disc problems and more.

Again, saving money on vet bills doesn’t mean not going the vet at all. It’s important to take your animal in for regular “tune-ups”, as well as when you notice early warning signs of illness, or when he doesn’t respond to home care. But by taking these steps to maintain and build your dog or cat’s health, you help prevent him from getting seriously ill, and thereby lessen the risk of expensive health problems.