Caring for your pet in a cost-of-living crisis

As financial pressures continue to affect many individuals and families, it’s important to understand the financial implications of being a pet owner.

In this article we have teamed up with the vet team from Joii to answer our questions and shed light on how to navigate the challenges of providing a loving and caring home for your furry companions while managing the increased costs of daily life.

What are your top tips for pet owners to provide the best care for their pets through a cost-of-living crisis?

As for humans, feeding our pets a good balanced diet and helping them keep to a healthy weight can help reduce their risk of some health conditions. It is always a good idea to speak to a vet or veterinary nurse about what food you are feeding your pet, and to have their body condition assessed.

If necessary, they can support you in aiding your pets weight loss safely. You can access free appointments with our Joii nurses between 8am and 10pm 7 days a week. It is also a good idea to look at the brand of food.

There is a lot of diets available, but not all are as nutritious as each other. There can also be a false economy in purchasing the cheaper supermarket brands as you often have to feed a higher quantity meaning the bag does not last as long.

Good dental health is also important as dental procedures can become very pricey. Dental problems are more common in pets as it is not necessarily the norm for people to brush their pets’ teeth.

However daily brushing can help to reduce the risk of dental disease, and therefore save money on those costly procedures. It is always best to act quickly on dental problems. The longer tartar or plaque sits on the teeth, the more damage it does, and the chances more teeth will need to be extracted.

This can therefore become more expensive. If you act as soon as your vet identifies the problem, it can mean that a more straightforward scale and polish may be the only action needed, saving you a lot of money!

Do a risk assessment of your home. Are the medications out of reach? Are there any plants in the garden that are toxic (you can use apps to identify plants)). Identify those risks and remove them before they lead to an expensive vet bill.

Keep dogs on a lead when out for a walk or use dog friendly paddocks. This can minimise the risk of road traffic accidents.

If cats are neutered, this can reduce wandering and unwanted pregnancies. It also reduces the risk of cat fights.

What preventative care can owners put in place to avoid unnecessary vet costs?

  • Good diet choice
  • Avoid sudden changes in the diet
  • Daily tooth brushing
  • Using diets that support dental health, or dental treats/ supplements
  • Use effective flea/ worm treatments recommended by vets regularly
  • For dogs with floppy ears, poodle breeds or any at risk of ear infections- use a medicated ear cleaner once weekly to clean ears and reduce the risk of an infection (Purely Pets customers can discuss this with a Joii vet/ nurse!)
  • For dogs with skin folds- use a medicated wipes to clean these folds out daily (Purely Pets customers can discuss this with a Joii vet/nurse!)
  • Keep on top of vaccinations

Has there been a rise in emergency vet visits due to the cost-of-living crisis? If yes, what is causing this?

This is difficult to determine without looking at the data. However, my personal opinion is that we are seeing more animals as an emergency because the owners have delayed seeking veterinary care until the pets’ condition has deteriorated.

In these cases, they may have been a more straightforward appointment if they were presented earlier. I believe the reason for this is financial. However, on the back of the that there is likely to be an increase in the number of emergencies that are not being seen.

These won’t be reported as they won’t have made it to the vet clinic. This obviously is a massive concern for animal welfare. However, with the current economic climate some owners are faced with the decision on whether to feed their family or pay for vet care.

What at home stimulation ideas can pet owners do to help lift their pet’s mood?

Play time is important to help increase pet mood and encourage bonding. Try things like hiding some of their food or treats around the room and getting them to search them out.

Use tangle teasers for cats (but ensure to give them a reward after). Try to rotate the toys pets have available every couple of days. Grooming is also a good idea.

This can help increase the pet-owner bond, as well as supporting coat and skin condition. Only do this if the animal is relaxed and enjoying it though.

You can use puzzle feeders/ activity feeders to increase mental stimulation by getting animals working for their food. There are some online instructions on making things like snuffle matts for dogs.

Cats should have access to scratching posts and areas where they can hide away or get up high.

How can the Joii service support pet owners during the cost-of-living crisis?

We understand that in the current economic climate there is a real concern around spending money unnecessarily. That’s why we welcome pet owners to have a discussion with one of our Joii vets if they are not sure whether their pet needs to be seen in person.

Our vets will talk the owner through their option to treat at home where possible; hopefully saving them the cost of a vet visit. We can recommend some over the counter medications and follow up appointments to ensure the pet is improving.

We are also here to discuss preventative health care in order to minimise the risk of a pet needing a vet visit. For example, our wonderful nurse team can offer free weight clinics which will support an owner through learning how to assess their pets body condition and how to safely get them to a healthy weight.

What free resources/charities can people access if they are struggling with pet ownership? E.g. pet food banks, help with care etc.

We have some brilliant advice on our Joii website.

For help with vet bills, you can try contacting the PDSA, dogs trust, RSPCA, cinnamon trust. Some of these charities also do pet food banks. You can search for their locations on their websites.

There are some local small charities that your local vet practice may be able to direct you to. We would encourage anyone to be open and honest with their vets if they are struggling.

It can be scary, but vets really do care and will help point you to the right source of help if they can.

Why is it important for me to insure my pets?

Vet bills can be high, and they are likely to continue rising due to the increase in practice running costs and the increased costs of consumables and medicines. Insurance gives you access to what is likely to be a much larger fund of money than what you would save if you were to put money aside each month.

Our pets are also unpredictable. We cannot tell them to please play safe because my car has just broken down, and the washing machine needs to be replaced. Insuring our pets takes a lot of the worry about unexpected vet bills away.

Is there a rise in people cancelling insurance policies due to the cost and what are the ramifications of this?

I cannot answer whether there has been a rise in insurance policy cancellations. However, if an owner was to do this, the immediate effect is that they obviously would not have the financial support from their insurer should their pet have an accident or become unwell.

However, it also means that in future if they would like to take out a policy again, the monthly premium may be higher because that pet is older, and any pre-existing condition may likely be excluded.

The other ramification is that the owner will not have the peace of mind that they will be able to claim on their pet insurance if their animal needs veterinary care. Therefore, they may be more reluctant to take their pet to the vet when it is necessary.

This means treatment can be delayed, leading to poor welfare for that animal. It also limits the options that an owner may have to them regarding the treatment for their pet.

They may have no choice but to seek the cheapest option, which can sadly be euthanasia.

Source: Joii

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