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.


8 Steps to Getting Rid of Fleas

Getting Rid of Fleas and Protecting Your Pet

A flea infestation is an awful situation. Fleas not only cause problems for your pet like itching, hair loss, sores, and increased risk of infection and parasites, these pests are also known for setting up shop in and around your home and starting a cycle of reproduction that can be difficult to control.

This is why it is always better to protect your pet from fleas with a monthly preventative or flea collar before they strike. However, if you do find that your pet has picked up fleas, you should begin the process of removal right away. Follow these steps for getting rid of fleas and making sure that they won’t be coming back.

Flea Removal in 8 Steps

Step 1: Getting Rid of Fleas on Your Pet

Start by getting rid of fleas on your pet’s body with a flea bath or flea treatment pill. Use a flea comb instead if your pet has already taken their monthly preventive pill or spot-on treatment.

Step 2: Protect Your Pet From Fleas

After removing the fleas from your pet, give them an oral preventative, spot-on treatment, or flea collar. Be sure to consult your veterinarian before combining any treatments.

Step 3: Clean Your Pet’s Bedding

If your pet has fleas, chances are that their bedding does, too. Wash your pet’s bedding and blankets on the hottest wash and dry cycles. Bedding sprays and powders can also be used.

Step 4: Continue Prevention

Keep your pet protected throughout the year with a monthly preventative or flea collar.

Once you’ve treated your pet, it’s time to treat your yard. The fleas that hopped onto your pet may have come from your yard in the first place, or they may be living there now after hitching a ride from elsewhere.

Step 5: Mow the Lawn

Fleas like hanging out in damp and shady environments. When you mow your lawn, sunlight is able to reach the soil, which results in a less-than-ideal habitat for fleas.

Step 6: Clear the Clutter

Fleas are expert sneaks. They like to hide out in areas where they won’t be seen — like piles of leaves, rocks, and wood. Clear the clutter from your yard and fleas will have fewer place to take cover.

Step 7: Spray the Yard

Applying flea spray to your yard and garden helps to kill fleas and prevent future infestations. Be sure to remove toys belonging to your pets or children before spraying the yard, and keep people and animals away from the yard after spraying for as long as the product recommends. The amount of time that the spray will work as a flea preventative will vary depending on the product. Check the label and re-spray as needed.

Step 8: Water the Yard

Use a hose to wet down areas of the yard where fleas are likely to have laid their eggs. Water around garden beds and trees until slightly flooded to kill flea eggs and flea larvae.

Getting rid of fleas can be an unpleasant and time-consuming ordeal. To avoid it, protect your pet before they pick up fleas!


Little Shelter – A Small Group Making Big Waves

The old adage goes: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” Sometimes, the same saying can apply to organizations. Little Shelter, though small, has been helping pets who have been neglected, abused or abandoned by their previous owners.

Little Shelter, based out of Huntington, New York, has worked to find homes for animals in need for almost 90 years. But don’t let the name fool you – the staff members have big hearts when it comes to taking care of dogs, cats and other pets.

Who they are

During the time when Rin-Tin-Tin became one of the most famous movie dogs in history, Little Shelter founder Anna Hunninghouse wanted to open a haven for homeless and abandoned animals that kept them safe and warm until a permanent home could be found. During April 1927, she opened the doors to Little Shelter for the first time.

Since then, the organization has grown due to effective community outreach and reaching milestones that other shelters have tried to meet. While many staff members and volunteers have come and gone, Little Shelter’s mission remains the same: To serve as a refuge for neglected pets by providing food, veterinary care, and shelter until loving homes can be found.

Today, Little Shelter is one of Long Island’s oldest no-kill shelters and is dedicated to saving all animals whose lives are in jeopardy.

What they do

The organization partners with local affiliates to rescue pets from kill facilities in the Long Island area. Little Shelter also helps sick pets recover from their illnesses or injuries, and ensures that unsocialized animals are slowly introduced to others prior to adoption. They also implemented a 100 percent spay/neuter program to end pet overpopulation and get all dogs and cats into permanent dwellings.


Like many animal welfare organizations, Little Shelter is largely supported by donations and fundraisers from local events. For example, it has partnered with Watermill Caterers, located in nearby Smithtown, for an annual Masquerade Ball and Charity Event. Donors can enjoy cocktails, lavish dinners, open bars, live auctions, and entertainment. There are even prizes awarded for Best Costume. All of the proceeds benefit Little Shelter.

The organization continues its charitable work every year, and has recently received its sixth nomination for Best Animal Rescue and Best Animal Shelter from the Best of Long Island Press 2015.



Get to know about the cat parasite called Toxo here

Image Credits: Pixabay

Toxo or Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease which can infect almost all warm-blooded animals. However, the parasite is only able to complete its life cycle in a cat’s body. An immature form of the parasite, responsible for this disease, Toxoplasma gondii houses itself in the muscle and organ tissues of infected animals, from where it spreads to other animals. For e.g.: A cat may contract the parasite from an infected mouse.

The immature form of Toxo, then, matures inside the cat’s intestines and is excreted in its feces. Any animal who then happens to consume this fecal matter becomes infected with Toxoplasmosis.

Humans are just as vulnerable to this disease as are other animals. For this reason, it is essential to learn how to mitigate the risks of developing Toxoplasmosis. Infected cats carry the contagion for at least three weeks. Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted from feces if these feces is a minimum of 24 hours old. Contaminated raw or undercooked beef/pork/lamb consumption can also lead to the development of this condition.

In our article, we will be focusing on how to detect and treat this parasitic disease in our felines.


Kittens and cats with reduced immune function are most at risk of contracting Toxoplasmosis. You can tell that your cat may be suffering from a T.gondii infection, if it displays lethargy, is feverish or displays a lack of appetite. If the parasite attacks your cat’s lungs, they may experience difficult breathing as it could cause pneumonia. If it develops in the liver, your cat may begin to show symptoms of jaundice. Other symptoms to watch out for are – blindness, loss of bladder/anal control, increased sensitivity to touch, impaired coordination, seizures, ear twitching, difficulty in chewing and swallowing food and so on.

How do you diagnose Toxoplasmosis in a cat?

A vet looks into a cat’s history, signs of illness, and lab test results before diagnosing it with Toxoplasmosis. Measuring two separate antibodies to T.gondii is helpful in diagnosing the disease. High levels of the antibody IgM indicate active infection in the cat. On the other hand, if the antibody IgG is present in a good amount, it means that your cat has previously been infected by Toxo and has now become immune to it. If the cat shows no T.gondii antibody content, the cat is then, susceptible to developing the condition in the future.

How is Toxoplasmosis treated?

The antibiotic, clindamycin, is useful in treating cats with Toxoplasmosis. Treatment should begin immediately after the cat has been diagnosed, and carry on till the last signs of the disease have disappeared. Corticosteroids may also be administered in conjunction with clindamycin if the vet suspects damage to the eyes or Central Nervous System.