By BRIAN J. LOWNEY
CONTRIBUTING WRITER | SOUTH COAST TODAY
February 02, 2014
Owning a pet requires a serious commitment that should continue for the life of the animal.
Companion animals are enjoying longer lives thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, improved nutrition and better-educated owners. Cats and dogs now can live well into their teens, while some avian species may long outlive their owners.
When an individual acquires an animal, whether it’s a newborn or an older cat or dog, the owner should be prepared to provide lifetime veterinary care, which sadly isn’t a top priority for some families who struggle in a poor economy to pay rent and utility bills and put food on the table.
While veterinary care can be costly, practitioners argue — and rightfully so, that preventive medicine, including annual checkups, is less costly than emergency care to treat an undetected medical condition that is allowed to exacerbate.
In addition to routine veterinary visits, pets require regular vaccinations to keep them healthy and protect the animals from potentially life-threatening diseases.
In an effort to keep clients’ costs down while still providing quality care, Dr. Rachel Francis, owner of Marion Animal Hospital in Marion, recently implemented a “Vaccines for Life” program that will provide certain essential vaccinations for the lifetime of an enrolled cat or dog, all for a one-time enrollment fee plus the cost of an annual comprehensive exam.
“This is a movement in my profession,” Francis begins, noting that she began researching the trend about two years ago online, comparing the results of about 10 similar veterinary practices that have introduced the program in different parts of the country.
During difficult economic times, the Tufts University trained veterinarian says some people have postponed routine veterinary care, while others budget for preventative care to ensure that their pets remain healthy. The new program helps both groups, potentially saving an owner up to several hundred dollars depending on the longevity and overall health of the animal.
Francis says that financially struggling owners, and many folks living on a fixed income, often opt to have their pets vaccinated at “shot clinics” that provide nothing more than inoculations.
She adds that these clinics, not to be confused with health department-sponsored rabies clinics, do not include comprehensive “nose to tail checkups” that allow veterinarians to carefully examine pets in search of warning signs indicative of future and often serious medical problems.
“That is the thing that I see missing,” Francis continues, adding that without a physical exam, a major illness can go undetected and eventually lead to more costly veterinary treatment.
The practitioner added that a major concern to many veterinarians is the quality and efficacy of the vaccines used by shot clinics, which because of budget restraints, often purchase less costly medications.
“I pay a premium for my vaccines, and select them based on safety and efficacy,” Francis notes, adding that she has treated cases in which pets suffered allergic reactions to injections provided at shot clinics. She questions the benefit of less costly medications if the end result will be an expensive visit to an emergency clinic or veterinary clinic, plus the stress to the animal and owner.
For a one-time fee of $99, the Vaccines for Life program provides Rabies, Canine Distemper, Leptospirosis and Bordatella (kennel cough) vaccines for dogs, while cats are vaccinated against Rabies and Feline Distemper.
Additional vaccinations, such as Lyme, FIV, and Canine Influenza, are offered at a 50 percent cost reduction.
“Not all pets are due for every vaccine every year,” Francis emphasizes. “The veterinarian determines which vaccines your pet needs. We evaluate your pet’s vaccine needs on a case-by-case basis.”
According to Francis, all pets enrolled in the program must undergo an annual wellness exam, at a cost of an additional $50. She recommends that elderly pets be examined every six months.
“The program is going well,” Francis notes, adding that she hopes other veterinary practices around the country will adopt the program to help owners keep their cats and dogs safe and healthy.
To learn more about the program, its terms and conditions, call (800) 279-6724; or visit the web site: www.marionanimalhospital.com
Read full article at: South Coast Today