The UK is launching a review into veterinary services after concerns have been raised that pet owners are paying too much in vet bills.
The review comes as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says vet fees have risen faster than other services during the cost of living crisis.
Independent vet practices are also on the decline, says the CMA, dropping from 89 per cent in 2013 to just 45 per cent in 2021. This increase in larger corporations is impacting owners' choices and limiting the competitive prices local vets can offer.
While a standard vet consultation costs around £60 on average, emergency, out-of-hours visits can cost £200 – and additional costs, such as MRI scans or treatments, can quickly reach the thousands.
To help keep pets in better health and avoid unnecessary, costly vet visits, pet experts at TrustedHousesitters have joined forces with veterinary surgeon, Pete Wedderburn, BVM&S CertVR MRCVS, to reveal five things all pet owners should do to keep costs down.
Brush teeth daily, or invest in dental chews
A study into dog’s teeth showed that 85% of dogs over four years old have periodontal disease, which results in infections and inflammation of the gums. Keeping dogs' teeth clean and plaque-free at home dramatically reduces the risk of costly dental issues later down the line. However, the cost of professional dog teeth cleaning in the UK can be as much as £500, before any extractions or additional dental work. Pete recommends keeping on top of your pet's teeth health at home with regular brushing to eliminate costly vet visits.
Daily toothbrushing is the gold standard but dental chews can be a reasonable alternative for those who are unable to manage to get their pet to open their mouth and sit still.
Weigh your pet regularly
As well as a lack of exercise, overfeeding can cause weight issues in dogs. Signs your dog is overweight include:
A lack of energy and reluctance to go on walks
A non-visible spine, waistline, or ribs
Dog obesity can result in arthritis, heart disease and diabetes – the latter of which averages over £1,000 a year per dog in pet insurance claims. Pete recommends:
Feed to avoid weight issues and get into a routine of weighing your pet once a month (all vets have walk-on scales). Put simply: if they gain weight, feed them a little less.
If you love to treat your dog, make sure you’re checking the ingredients and make a healthier swap if necessary. Many dogs are partial to some crunchy fruit and veg, which contributes to a varied diet and can also keep teeth clean, too!
If left untreated, pet parasites, such as fleas and worms, can cause serious health problems for your dog. Flea infestations can lead to skin infections, allergic dermatitis and anaemia, while in rare cases, worms can be fatal. If you're concerned about worms, signs to look out for include worms, eggs, or blood in your dogs' faeces, bloated bellies, dull fur, or dragging their bottoms across the ground. If you notice any of these symptoms, always speak to a vet.
It's vital to keep on top of your pet's parasite prevention to avoid costly emergency visits. Pete explains:
The motto these days regarding parasite prevention is "individualisation", so talk to your vet about your pet's real needs in terms of parasite control. Different lifestyles need different approaches.
If you suspect that your pet has fleas, it’s good practice to ensure that you treat any soft furnishings and carpets in your home with a good-quality flea spray. This will help to stop any fleas from returning, reducing the need for costly flea baths and ointments.
Ensure you're sticking to annual check-ups
To ensure you're always on top of your pooch's health, you should visit the vet once a year. While this annual check-up comes with a fee, it helps you tackle any health problems early on and focus on prevention rather than cure – saving you potentially thousands of pounds should more significant health issues arise. Pete says:
Annual checks by your vet are a must. Invest in a once-yearly visit, where you can discuss every aspect of your pet's care on one occasion. Ask your vet for a list of recommendations on preventing ill health, and then stick to them.
Some veterinary practices have member clubs or monthly subscriptions, which include one or two check-ups a year, vaccinations and other perks, including nail clipping and anti-parasite medication. Speak to your vet to see if this is an option for you, to keep costs down.
Ensure proper exercise
A lack of exercise can cause issues and destructive behaviour in dogs – especially higher energy breeds who require the mental and physical stimulation that walks provide. A lack of exercise can also lead to stiff joints, pain, weight gain and muscle loss, which can progress into more severe health issues over time.
Pete says: "Proper exercise is a must. All dogs should have half an hour, twice daily, going for a walk of some type. This keeps them fit and healthy, both physically and mentally."
Getting out and about with your pet is also great for human mental and physical health, so take the opportunity to explore new places if you’re able to. Both you and your furry companion will reap the rewards in the long run.