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How to Manage Pet Expenses

Make sure taking care of Fido doesn't break the bank

Ask your vet about discounts and generics

We've gotten used to talking with our own doctors about things like generic medications and whether they can shave a bit off the bill. It's time to have the same sort of conversations with our vets, says Halligan. "Many vets and pet hospitals will offer discounts on certain procedures," she notes. "For example, there are often deals on dental specials in the month of February. Some also offer packages for cats or senior pets." And be careful that your vet isn't loading your pet up with unneccesary vaccines. Talk to your vet about what vaccines are necessary for your particular pet — rather than all dogs or all cats. Indoor cats, for example, may not need as many as those that live in and outdoors. "I vaccinate according to life cycle," Halligan says. "That's one way to save money on your vet bill." If you live anywhere near one of the country's 30 schools of veterinary medicine, taking your pet for treatment there can be significantly less expensive.

Take the first morning appointment

If your pet is scheduled for an in-office procedure, schedule it for first thing in the morning, Halligan says. That reduces the likelihood that your pet will have to spend the night, which saves on boarding expenses.

Prevent unneeded expenses

From washing your pet once in a while to brushing its hair/fur/teeth to keep them from getting matted and unclean, there's a lot an owner can do to keep a pet healthy, happy and, yes, fairly cheap to care for. One preventive measure that's abandoned all too often: a leash. Use one. "I'd say 60 percent to 70 percent of emergency room visits could have been prevented if owners used leashes more often," says Halligan. "I used to work in emergency, so I've seen it all."

Jean Chatzky, best-selling author, journalist and money editor at NBC's Today, is AARP's financial ambassador. With reporting by Kelly Hultgren.

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