Simple Tips to Make The Most Out of Your Pets Mealtime

When your pets mealtime rolls around, many pet parents follow a similar routine: scoop out the food, put the food in a bowl, place the bowl on the floor, and let Fido or Boots have at it. The entire process is usually over in a matter of minutes.

But what if feeding time was more than just a meal? Lots of pet parents use their pet’s dinner hour as an opportunity to teach or reinforce commands. Others use stuffed puzzle toys to slow down speed eaters, provide mental stimulation, zap energy, and satiate their pet’s prey drive.

So how can you make the most of your pet’s mealtime? Read on to learn some tips.

Tip #1: Turn Mealtime Into Training Time

Pets MealTime

Many pet parents think that training should only happen at a designated time, and that the only appropriate reward for a job well done is a special treat. In reality, training can happen anywhere at any time, and a hungry pet will usually respond just as well to their normal food as they will to a delicacy.

You can feed your pet their entire meal by hand while teaching or reinforcing commands like sit, stay, lie down, and heel. When your pet performs, offer them a few pieces of kibble. For safety commands that you really want to reinforce (like come and “watch me”), offer a larger handful (this is sometimes referred to as a “jackpot”).

Training your pet with their food not only reinforces important commands and stretches out feeding time (which can help with digestion), it also provides your pet with daily mental stimulation, which can improve their behavior.

RELATED STORY: Teaching Your Dog Basic Commands

Tip #2: Stuff Puzzle Toys With Your Pet’s Portion

Puzzle toys come in all shapes and sizes. Some are complex games and others look like regular toys, but have small openings where treats or food can be stuffed. You can also make your own puzzle toy at home; for example, a tennis ball with a flap cut into it.

Puzzle toys make your pet problem solve in order to reach a treat or food. Some puzzle games require a pet to move game pieces around to release a morsel. Other puzzle toys simply need to be dropped, nudged, or swatted to shake a piece of food free.

Feeding your pet their food using puzzle toys not only slows down eating and extends meal time (some pets are occupied for 20 minutes or more!), it also provides mental stimulation, a bit of exercise, and will satisfy a pet’s desire to “hunt” for their food.

If your have a large dog or large cat who eats large portions, you can buy or make several puzzle toys and divide the portion between them.

Leave a comment and let us know how you make the most of your pet’s mealtime! 


A Tale of Two Kitties — Why You Should Go to Your Annual Vet Visit

Despite the heaps of evidence proving why one should always attend their annual vet visit, many pet parents opt out, seeing them as a waste of time and money. To help reiterate the importance of taking your pet to the vet once a year, we are proud to present…



Milo is an eight-week-old tabby that was recently adopted. His new parents, Roger and Amy, made the responsible choice to take their new kitten to the vet right away to get vaccinated and neutered. They looked online for vet reviews, found a well rated, inexpensive clinic in the area, and made an appointment for later in the week.

Way to go, team!

Money Spent: $25


Nala is a seven-week-old domestic shorthair that was adopted by Shelly, a girl who just moved out of her parents’ house. Shelly decided to get a kitten to keep her company in her new apartment. She was going to make an appointment with a vet, but her new job starts on Monday, and she just didn’t have the time.

Oh, Shelly…

Money Spent: $25


Thursday is here, and it is time for Milo’s first trip to the vet. Here he has his blood tested, temperature taken, teeth checked, and vaccinations administered, running Roger and Amy a total of $130. After the appointment, Roger and Amy set up another appointment for Milo to be neutered.

Good job, gang!

Money Spent: $155


Thursday rolls around for Shelly. Little did she know that once work started up, her free time was quickly filled up with assignments and deadlines. Nala still has not been to the vet, but she seems healthy enough. She’ll just take her to the vet if something seems wrong…

Come on, Shelly!

Money Spent: $25


10 months later, it is time for Milo’s first birthday! Having already formed a great relationship with their local vet, Roger and Amy receive a letter in the mail reminding them that it is time to schedule Milo’s 1 year checkup. They promptly respond, and then blow out the candles on Milo’s tuna cake.

Nice touch, guys!

Money Spent: $155


A year passes and Nala still has not been to the vet. At this point she is a fully grown female cat, and is now officially in heat. Male cats are yowling outside Shelly’s window and Nala has been spraying around the house. Also, Nala has been very low energy and has been coughing

Looks like it is finally time to head to the vet, Shelly.

Money Spent: $25


Milo goes in for his first annual checkup! Roger and Amy tell their vet that Milo has been doing great. She checks Milo’s vitals and confirms Milo’s perfect bill of health, gives him his booster shots, and Roger and Amy are out the door in record time, and with the peace of mind provided by the vet. Well worth the $50.

Way to be, Roger and Amy!

Money Spent: $205


Shelly rushes Nala over to the emergency room where they wait for an hour and a half to see the vet because they did not make an appointment. After the vet runs a series of tests on Nala, he tells Shelly that Nala has Feline Calicivirus, and will likely be prone upper respiratory infections for the rest of her life. Also, Nala has a tooth extracted — a form of treatment for the condition.

Sadly, Nala’s condition is not curable — and while it is not directly life threatening, it could have been avoided with a simple vaccination. The visit to the ER, along with the antibiotic for Nala’s URI and the tooth extraction, run shelly just over $400. And with Nala’s condition, this is likely just the first of many trips to have a respiratory infection treated.

See, Shelly?

Money Spent: $430


And that, in a nutshell, outlines the importance of maintaining proper pet health care. Pets, just like people, are a finely tuned machine. But even the best machine needs a check under the hood every once in a while. So, if you haven’t scheduled your pet for their annual yet, why not make that call now?

View more from Sam Bourne

If you are worried about the cost of veterinary care, sign up for PetPlus and start spending less.

Pricing for vet care was taken from and


Pet Hack: DIY Pet Toiletries

Your pet’s hygiene is incredibly important which means they’ll need the proper pet toiletries! If you don’t brush your pet’s teeth, they will be at risk for developing dental disease. If your dog or cat has long, narrow, or hairy ears, you should clean them to prevent ear infections. And of course, every pet needs the occasional bath to keep their coat clean, healthy, and primed for cuddling. But what’s the cost of all of these primping products?

It can be minimal if you make your pet’s toiletries at home. Not only will you save money, you’ll also know exactly what ingredients are going into your pet’s products. In addition, kids love getting their hands dirty and learning new things, so get the family together and try out some of these DIY recipes.

DIY Pet Toothpaste

This recipe is incredibly easy. Your pet will love the delicious taste, and you’ll love their fresh breath that comes from added parsley. Always consult your veterinarian to be sure that this recipe is appropriate for your pet; pets with gum disease, dental decay, or other health issues may require special treatment.


– 2 tablespoons baking soda

– 1 tablespoon low-sodium beef or chicken broth*

– 1 teaspoon fresh or dried parsley

*You can also use 1 tablespoon of water and 1 low-sodium bouillon cube


1. Mix together the baking soda, broth, and parsley until it forms a thick paste

2. Use the paste immediately to brush your dog or cat’s teeth, or place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to a week

DIY Ear Wash

This is another super easy and cheap recipe. It only requires two ingredients: vinegar and water. The vinegar reduces bacteria and the water dilutes the vinegar. Some pet parents choose to include alcohol in the mixture for its drying effect, but others omit it fearing that it will be too harsh or sting their pet’s ears. This recipe omits alcohol, but if you would like to use it, you can add a splash.


– ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar

– ⅔ cup water


1. Pour the ingredients into a small plastic bottle with a nozzle — the kind used to apply hair color. You should be able to find one at a beauty supply or craft store. Shake to mix.

2. Before cleaning your pet’s ears, check them for swelling, redness, a foul smell, pain, or discharge. If you see any of these symptoms, it may mean that your pet has an ear infection, and you should contact your veterinarian before proceeding with a wash.

3. If your pet’s ears look healthy, squeeze the solution onto a cotton ball or soft cloth, then wipe down the inside of your pet’s ears. Be sure to do this gently, as an abrasive touch can irritate the skin and cause infection.

DIY Pet Shampoo

Inexpensive + easy + natural = yes, please! Homemade pet shampoo is the perfect solution for pet parents who want to keep their pal smelling and looking fresh without emptying their wallets. Just be sure to follow the instructions closely; choosing the wrong ingredients or having the wrong balance of ingredients can irritate or harm your pet’s skin.


– 2 cups apple cider vinegar

– 2 cups natural, organic dish soap with a 7-8 pH (avoid soaps with strong scents or artificial additives)

– 4 cups water

– 4 oz vegetable glycerin


1. Mix the apple cider vinegar and dish soap in a large bowl

2. Mix in the water

3. Add the vegetable glycerin

4. Pour the mixture into a clean, empty bottle. You can use an old shampoo or dish soap bottle from around the house, or purchase one from a beauty supply or craft store.

5. Shake well to mix (and shake before every use)


Ready to give the DIY thing a shot? Leave us a comment and let us know which recipes you try!


Got the Pet Healthcare Blues? This Pet Parent Did

Jazz and Blues are big dogs, and their owner, Emily McVeigh, has an equally big heart. Since rescuing the dogs in 2009 and 2011 respectively, Emily estimates that she has spent over $15,000 on the dogs’ health care, not including the $1,000 she spends monthly on prescription foods and medications.

And because Emily does not have pet health insurance or a membership plan like PetPlus, these are all out of pocket costs.

“When I adopted Jazz I was not aware of pet insurance,” Emily says. “By the time I became aware of it, she had already bloated and had too much health history to really make it cost effective.” Jazz has been plagued with a number of health issues from a young age, starting with a diagnosis of hip dysplasia at 11 months, followed by bloat at 12 months. Despite having two procedures to prevent future bloat, she has suffered many more episodes. Jazz also has Cushing’s disease, chronic pancreatitis, food allergies, and irritable bowel syndrome. And last summer, she tore her ACL and a tumor was discovered on her abdomen.

From left: Jazz, Emily, her Yorki mix Preston, and Blues

From left: Jazz, Emily, her Yorki mix Preston, and Blues

“Jazz’s health status is a daily struggle,” Emily says. “She is my heart and soul. I hate to see her so ill. Jazz has also taken a significant toll on my finances. That brings a whole different level of stress. Not knowing what the next round of testing will bring, what new medications she will be needing.” But there’s more. The same summer that Jazz tore her ACL and a tumor was discovered, Emily’s other Great Dane, Blues, was diagnosed with cancer. “My world stopped spinning when I found out Blues had cancer,” Emily says. “I was actually notified on my birthday. Blues was my travel buddy, we went everywhere in town [together]. We volunteered together, trained together, at the house he was velcroed to my side. The thought of him no longer being there was almost more than I could handle.”

Coping With the Unexpected Costs of Pet Illness

Emily picked up extra shifts at work and asked family for help so that she could pay for both Jazz and Blues’ treatments simultaneously. Jazz needed surgery, and Blues needed both surgery and radiation to have a chance at survival. “Trying to get funds together for that treatment when we only had a 30-day treatment window — from day of surgery to starting radiation for treatment to work — was horrific stress,” Emily says. Today, Emily is happy to report that Blues is cancer free and only suffers from seasonal allergies. All of Jazz’s illnesses and treatments, however, are still a lot to handle without insurance. “Knowing we are in a chronic state so that costs will never go down only up is hard,” Emily says. “With Blues it was a one time hit; it hurt but it was over as quickly as it came. Jazz’s financial strain is here to stay, so I just constantly look at alternative income sources [and] cost saving measures.”

There are times, Emily says, when there is no spending outside of basic necessities. She has also made some significant life changes to pay for the dogs’ health care. “I switched full time jobs to one that had better pay and more flexibility so that I could get the dogs to the vet more efficiently,” Emily says. “I started working weekends to earn extra money, did odd jobs, more competitive shopping — anything to ease the burden.” Emily has also looked for ways to save on the dogs’ medications. “We call local pharmacies for [the] lowest price and take advantage of discount programs. I also use manufacturer coupon/rebates, [and] buy in bulk from warehouse stores for non prescriptions to save money.” While none of it is easy, it is all worth it for Emily, who keeps two blogs about her dogs — and “The dogs are such an important part of my life,” she says. “First and foremost they are my family and I treat them as such.”

Lessons Learned

When asked if she had any advice for other pet parents about how to pay for their pet’s health care, Emily said: “Get pet insurance; [a] savings account does not prepare you for catastrophic events, especially if you were to have more than one, which can and does happen. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a pet due to financial hardship.” Here at PetPlus, we were so moved by Emily’s story that we decided to offer her a free year of PetPlus coverage. “That is absolutely amazing!” she said. We think so too and are honored to be help! We’ll look forward to checking back in with Emily after she’s had a chance to take advantage of all the benefits offered by PetPlus. For now, check out a video of Jazz and Blues playing in the snow below, and head over to Emily’s blogs to keep up with the whole gang.

Have a story you’d like to share or know a pet-family deserving of a free trial of PetPlus? Contact the Pet Savvy editors at content [at] petplus {dot} com or leave a note in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you. 


6 Smart Tips to Help Your Pet Lose Weight

We know that change can often be a bitter pill to swallow, but the silver lining? All of these adjustments are fairly simple, and if you are able to successfully implement them, you might end up dropping some pant sizes as well.

Here are 6 simple pet weight loss tips to get started.

1. Talk to your vet about finding the right low-cal food

Many of your run of the mill dog foods contain tons of fillers, and a dearth of nutrients, meaning a change in diet can often be a big first step in losing weight. However, when it comes to diet, there is not one catch all answer to every problem. Pets come in such a wide array of shapes and sizes that finding the right food for them is a matter of understanding their specific needs. Contact your vet to find out what food suits your dog best.

RELATED STORY: Your Dog Food Questions Answered

2. Serve up the pet chow with a measuring cup

Arguably the simplest weight loss change you could ever make, rather than using a scoop or a plastic cup to dish out your pet’s dinner, use a measuring cup to help monitor the exact amount you feed them per meal. Overfeeding is one of the leading causes of obesity in pets. Check the label on the side of the bag and make sure to dole out the recommended serving size and no more.

3. Veggies > treats

Next time you are tempted to give your pet a biscuit, why not give them a baby carrot instead? Or how about a little broccoli? Even an apple is a good substitute for those high carb, high calorie treats. Just make sure you know what veggies are safe for dogs and cats before giving them anything from the crisper drawer.

4. 20 extra minutes of daily play time

If your pet is overweight, chances are it is more than just a dietary problem. So however long you normally play with your pet, add an extra 20 minutes to that time every day. Play a little fetch or some tug of war — anything to get your pet moving and burning up some of those extra calories.

5. Add a couple blocks to your walk

Another simple and effective way to help your dog burn off some of their extra weight is to make their daily walk a few feet longer. Depending on how big your dog is, adding as little as one extra block to their daily walk can end up making a big difference.

6. Weekly weigh-ins

If you really want to help your pet lose weight, it helps to be able to track your progress. With a weekly weight in, you are better able to understand what is working for them, where you need to step it up, and how far you have come.

What Do You Think?

Got any pet weight loss tips of your own? Share them with us in the comments section! We would love to hear from you.


How My Puppy’s First Vet Visit Nearly Cost Me $1,000


I adopted my first dog back in October. Lexi, a 12-month-old mixed breed, is a loving, licking doofus. She’s my new sidekick and constant companion.

Yet, even though I work in the pet industry, puppy ownership has already thrown me some curveballs, especially Lexi’s First Vet Visit.

Earlier this week, I took Lexi to get spayed at the vet. At the front desk, I was told the price would be $340. When I actually met with my vet, though, she strongly recommended I upgrade to the $740 spay package with “more reliable medication and anesthesia.” She was quite insistent about the upgrade and pushed hard.

Unfortunately, I simply can’t afford that. I went with the less expensive package. It was hard to turn down the advice of a professional I respect and worse, I feared it meant my dog was somehow not “worth” the expense, or that I was being judged for making this tough decision.

My point isn’t that vets are bad somehow. In fact, I believe a great vet is essential to any pet’s health. But maybe there’s a problem with the system. Who wants to choose between saving money, and doing what’s best for their pet’s health? Not this guy.

Luckily for pet parents, a new normal is on its way. Pet insurance is working well for many Americans to manage these costs, but what about a program that doesn’t charge more for older pets or pets with pre-existing conditions? PetPlus is that, and so much more.

I’ll talk more about it below.

The Battle Over Pet Medications

While at Lexi’s vet visit, I also asked for a prescription for heartworm medication, and for the post-operation pain medication. Unfortunately my vet’s office was not cooperative in handing over the prescription, suggesting it was unsafe to get them elsewhere. Again, a great vet is great ally in any pet’s health, but there’s a problem here.

The truth is that the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) runs an accreditation program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites), and according to the FDA, all Vet-VIPPS accredited online pharmacies:

• are appropriately licensed in the states from which they ship drugs

• have successfully completed a 19-point review and online survey

• undergo yearly VIPPS review and re-accreditation

• undergo NABP on-site surveys every three years

Many veterinarians have gotten used to making a sizable chunk of their income from pet medication sales. The status quo has been that vets sell the medications they write the prescriptions for, which, not surprisingly, has kept market competition from allowing pet owners to get the best price.

So I opted to get Lexi’s medications through my company’s membership plan, PetPlus, and paid $70 instead of the $170 I would have paid at the vet’s office. (Note: That price difference does NOT represent an employee discount. That’s the price anyone can get on PetPlus with a PetPlus membership, starting at $3/month.)

A Scary Turn

I got a call later that day saying that the spay went well, but that the vet found a lump on my dog’s belly, which needed to be checked out at the lab. That would cost another $140. I had the choice to refuse, but in case it was something bad, I decided to get the test.

Luckily for Lexi and me, the biopsy showed that the lump was a benign tumor that should take care of itself in a few months’ time. I’m certainly glad I got the test done, but it was a good chuck of change all the same.

Of course I was fiercely worried about my dog’s health, but also on my mind was the amount of money I paid. I also knew that my veterinary expenses could potentially skyrocket if the results of the biopsy showed something bad. And I know I’m not the first pet parent to feel these conflicting fears!

As I worry over these costs, I think about ways that I can save money here and there on my dog to try to balance them out. I didn’t think having a 1-year-old puppy would be filled with lab tests, biopsies, and medical costs, but that’s just the roll of the dice with a pet.

So What Can a Pet Parent Do?

I admit that maybe I’m a bit biased in that I work for PetPlus, but I prefer to call it more informed. I would only ever try to make the best choices for Lexi and myself.

In my opinion, since you never know what’s coming down the pipeline in terms of your pet’s healthcare, options like buying medications online or signing up for PetPlus are really worth it. It was worth it for me.

James and Lexi

James is the Assistant Merchandiser for PetPlus. He was born and raised (and still resides) in New Jersey, and enjoys sports, camping, Oreos, and visiting his family in Cape Cod, MA.

Lexi is an adorable puppy.


Emergency Pet Supplies: Disaster Preparedness for Pet Parents

Chances are that you keep some emergency supplies around the house in case of a disaster — maybe a first aid kit, important phone numbers, non-perishable food items, and some bottles of water. But did you ever think about what your pet might need?

For most owners, pets end up becoming members of the family, and just like any other family member, you want them to be safe during an emergency. Here is a useful list of supplies to have on hand for your pet in case you need to take shelter at home or leave to get help.

Emergency Pet Supplies

  • 1 week supply of food

    • You may not be able to make your way to the store to purchase pet food during an emergency. A 1 week supply of pet food stored in an airtight, waterproof container will give you peace of mind and your pet something to eat if disaster strikes.

  • 3 day supply of water

    • Many disasters can disrupt water systems and make drinking water unavailable or unsafe to drink. While stocking up on water for you and your family, think about your pet, too.

  • Pet first aid kit

    • You never know what kind of injuries could result from a disaster. Additionally, your pet could suffer an unrelated injury while you are hunkering down at home or taking refuge in a safe haven. A first aid kit that includes supplies especially for pets will prepare you to handle minor injuries at home or on the road.

  • Any medications your pet is taking

    • Many pets take regular medications such as insulin, anti-inflammatories, and flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives. If your pet is taking any medications regularly, ask your veterinarian about getting additional doses that you can put in a waterproof container and add to their emergency kit.

  • Medical records

    • Your pet’s medical records will be important to have on hand if you need to leave the house during an emergency. Put a copy of your pet’s records in a waterproof bag or container and add it to their emergency kit.

  • Microchip number

    • If your pet is microchipped, keep a copy of the microchip number in their kit. Unfortunately, some pets can get lost in the chaos of an emergency, and having your pet’s microchip number will make it easier to find them.

  • Collars & ID tags

    • For their safety, pets should always wear a collar with a rabies tag and identification tag. Keep backup collars and ID tags in your pet’s emergency kit.

  • Leashes

    • Avoid getting separated from your pet during an emergency by keeping them on a leash. Extra leashes put in your emergency kit may come in handy should something happen to your old standby.

  • Recent photos

    • Keep recent photos of you and your pet together in their kit. Include on the photos information such as breed, species, color, age, sex, and any distinguishing features. If your pet becomes lost during an emergency, these photos can establish your ownership and allow others to help you find your pet.

  • Emergency sticker for your door

    • Should you need to flee your home without your pet, an emergency sticker placed on a door or window will let rescue workers know that a pet is inside. Most of these stickers allow you to write in how many pets are inside, your veterinarian’s name, and their phone number. If you are able to take your pet with you when you leave, write EVACUATED across the sticker.

  • Litter and tray for cats

    • Having extra litter and an additional tray packed up and ready to go will allow you to leave the house more quickly with your cat in case of an emergency.

  • Poop bags and cleaners for dogs

    • As with the bathroom supplies for cats, a readily available supply of poop bags and cleaners for your dog will be one less thing to worry about if disaster strikes.

  • Pet carriers

    • It may be safer for your pet to travel in a carrier should you need to flee your home. Even if your pet doesn’t usually travel in a carrier, having one on hand is a smart idea.

  • Blankets and Toys

    • Blankets, toys, and any other items that bring your pet comfort can help reduce stress during an emergency. Keep a few extra of your pet’s favorite things in their emergency kit.

Don’t put off getting your pet’s emergency supplies together, and visit for more information on preparing your pet for disaster.


Pet Med Legislation: The Battle For Transparency

Pet Med Legislation is coming that might make your pet meds more expensive! 

Do you always get your pet medications from your veterinarian? Most people don’t even know that there are other options.

Drawn to the $7.6 billion-a-year pet medication market, more competition is quickly stirring up the old standby formula of getting a prescription from the vet and buying the medication right there.

Big box stores, pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, and online pet stores not only sell pet medications, they often have more competitive prices. Consumer Reports has found that vet markups on prescription medications are often 100% or more, sometimes hitting as much as 1,000%.

This host of new options for buying pet medications, and a battle over national legislation, are poised to allow pet parents to find the best deals for themselves.

Karen Sable, a Munhall, PA pet parent to a 12-year-old cat, picked up her cat’s antibiotics from the local grocery store, where a Giant Eagle pharmacy carried the antibiotic for no charge.

At Target, customers can apply pet medications to a promotion offering 5% off a day’s purchases. carries hundreds of pet medications, and is Vet-VIPPS certified, meaning the site is recommended by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP)–an organization that makes sure online pharmacies meet state and federal licensing requirements.

Not all veterinarians are pleased by this new competition. Deb Otlano, a West Mifflin, PA pet parent, who breeds Doberman Pinschers, says that she does feel push-back when asking a vet for a prescription so she can purchase the medications elsewhere.

Changing the Status Quo

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that this changing pet medication landscape reflects “the willingness of cost-conscious pet-owners to step out on their vets.”

The status quo has long been that veterinarians both prescribe the medication and sell the medication to the pet parent. In fact, some pet medication manufacturers only sell their medications through vets. Elanco has said this is its policy in order to preserve the integrity of pet owner-vet relationship.

The battle for transparency in pet medications began in 2011, when Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, introduced a bill that would require vets to provide written prescriptions that clients could fill wherever they wanted. That bill faced strong opposition from The American Veterinary Medical Association, and the bill died.

Just last month, Mr. Matheson reintroduced the legislation, along with Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. The Fairness to Pet Owners Act, if passed, will mean that pet parents will automatically receive a copy of their pet’s prescriptions without having to ask for it, signing a waiver from the vet, or paying a fee.

What Do You Think?

Where do you buy your pet’s medications? Do you always shop for the best price?


10 Questions To Ask Your Vet About Your Senior Dog at Your Next Visit

Senior dogs have special needs, and asking the right questions at their annual vet visit will ensure that all bases are being covered. Since geriatric dogs are at a higher risk for disease, you’ll want to not only ask about their current health, but also about what you can do to prevent and identify future problems. Here are the top 10 questions you should be prepared to ask the vet about your senior dog.

1. “Is my dog a healthy weight?”

This question should really be asked at any vet visit, regardless of your dog’s age. Of course, with an older dog comes higher health risks, so be aware of any significant weight gain or weight loss, as it could be symptomatic of hypothyroidism, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, congestive heart failure, bladder stones, or diabetes. A healthy weight is also important for a senior dog’s joint, bone, and cardiovascular health.

2. “Is my dog’s food OK?”

Many owners of geriatric dogs pick out their dog food by selecting a bag labeled “senior,” and calling it a day. While many foods formulated for senior dogs will be perfectly fine for yours, others might not meet their specific nutritional needs. Bring a bag of your dog’s food with you to the vet and they will let you know if you can keep feeding it to your dog or if you need to make a switch.

3. “Is our exercise appropriate?”

Exercise can help keep senior dogs from developing arthritis, congestive heart failure, and obesity. However, your dog’s exercise routine will likely change as they get older, and they may not be able to be as active as they were once. Ask your veterinarian to recommend an exercise routine that is appropriate for your dog.

4. “Do the hips look OK?”

Because dogs evolved to hide their pain as a survival mechanism, there may not be any signs if your senior dog is suffering from arthritis or hip dysplasia. Osteoarthritis in the knees can ultimately result in hip problems, as can crepitus, which is a buildup of air where it should not normally be. Your veterinarian will give your dog a once over to assess their bone health and provide tips on how to detect joint pain even if your dog is trying to hide it.

5. “Could supplements benefit my dog?”

Supplements can work wonders on a number of health conditions that plague senior pets. For example, the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin can help relieve joint discomfort and slow the progression of arthritis. After your vet has examined your dog, ask if they would recommend any supplements.

6. “Is my dog’s urine OK?”

This everyday act can say a lot about your dog’s health. Dogs who begin urinating more or less may be suffering from a condition such as kidney disease, cancer, or diabetes, and many age-related diseases such as hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, bladder stones, urinary tract infection, and cystitis can all have an affect on how your dog urinates. Talking to your vet about your dog’s peeing habits can help in determining if an urinalysis or other testing is needed.

7. “Does my dog have tumors?”

Cancer is not uncommon in senior dogs. In fact, fifty percent of all dogs over the age of ten will have cancer at least once. The initial symptoms of cancer can be difficult to spot, but asking your vet to check for tumors at each visit will help in early detection, which can greatly benefit your dog’s chances of survival. Watch how your vet examines your dog for tumors so that you can do it at home between visits. Many lumps and bumps felt on senior dogs will end up being benign cysts, but it is better to be safe and contact your vet for final diagnosis.

8. “Are my dog’s teeth and ears OK?”

A dog’s dental health can have a huge impact on their overall wellness, and periodontal disease is the number one condition affecting senior dogs. Talk to your veterinarian about what you can do to keep your dog’s teeth and gums clean, or how you can treat an already infected mouth.

Ear infections are the second most common health problem treated by vets. Most veterinarians will check your dog’s ears as part of the physical examination, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. When your vet checks your dog’s ears for infection they will also be checking their hearing, which can get worse with age.

9. “Is blood work needed?”

Many veterinarians recommend that senior dogs get blood tests every 6 to 12 months. These tests allow your vet to examine your dog’s blood chemistry, blood count, and thyroid condition. Regular blood testing can also help to identify kidney disease, liver disease, and diabetes before they become severe. As with many other things, prevention is often the best treatment.

10. “What vaccinations does my dog need?”

Most dogs will receive vaccinations when they are puppies and then continue getting boosters for the rest of their lives to keep the vaccines effective. Of course, not all vaccinations are appropriate for all dogs, so ask your veterinarian which are right for your senior.


What are the Average Vet Visit Costs?

Every pet parent should take their pet to the veterinarian once a year for a check-up. The annual vet visit is essential to maintaining your pet’s overall health — it is not only an opportunity for your vet to catch any problems during an examination, it is also when your pet will receive their vaccination boosters and undergo important health tests. You might be avoiding these routine visits because of the cost, but the fact of the matter is that regular maintenance of your pet’s health can save you money in the long run. So just how much does a vet visit cost? Let’s crunch the numbers.

Standard Vet Visit Costs Include:

There are standard services and costs built in to every annual visit to the veterinarian, and pet parents should budget accordingly.

Office Call: The office call cost includes the appointment and the examination performed by your veterinarian. This cost can vary depending on your geographic location and the veterinarian, or clinic, that you visit. The average cost of the office call is $45-$55.

Vaccine Boosters: Vaccine boosters are the shots that are given to keep vaccines effective after the initial dose. Some vaccinations require boosters while others do not, but most pets end up needing 2-4 boosters per year. Booster shots generally range between $18-$25.

Fecal Exam: A fecal exam is conducted to check for gastrointestinal parasites, and it generally costs $25-$45.

Heartworm Test: This important test checks for heartworm disease, which is an often fatal condition caused by parasitic worms. The average cost of blood testing for this disease is $45-$50.

Extra Vet Visit Costs

Some cats and dogs may require additional services at the annual vet visit, and these can vary depending on your pet’s age and medical condition.

Dental Cleaning: Many pets undergo a dental cleaning during their annual check-up. Your veterinarian will usually recommend it if they see signs of gingivitis or if you mention that you have noticed bleeding during teeth brushing. The cost will vary between dogs and cats, but the procedure typically costs $70-$400.

Allergy Testing: Dogs and cats suffering from allergies will often exhibit symptoms such as licking, itching, and sneezing. If you or your veterinarian suspect that your pet has developed allergies, testing may be ordered. Allergy testing is performed with either a blood test or an intradermal skin test. The average cost of a blood test is $200-$300, and an intradermal skin test usually costs $195-$250.

Geriatric Screening: Pets who are older — usually 7 years and up — must undergo geriatric screening. This thorough exam typically includes blood work and chemistry, urinalysis, x-rays, and other testing. Geriatric screening generally costs $85-$110.

Surgery and Other Treatments: Certain medical conditions and injuries may require surgery or other treatments. Depending on your pet’s specific health issue, a bill north of a thousand dollars could be expected.

Your pet relies on you to keep them healthy, and there is no excuse for not visiting the veterinarian once a year. If you are finding it difficult to pay for your pet’s health care, you may want consider purchasing pet insurance or signing up for a pet health care savings plan such as PetPlus.