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Tips to Help Save on Veterinary Costs in a Crowded Household

January 14, 2014

Reality Check: We Cannot Afford Our Own House or Apartment

Ralph the American Bulldog camps out in a back bedroom of his grandparents’ house. The two bedroom, two bathroom, single story white stucco one-car garage home built in 1979 as a retirement retreat on the west coast of Florida now sits on a street of young families with children, renters, and a few elderly men who have outlived their wives. Doc Truli’s clients retired 15 years past and welcomed three cats and a chihuahua into their abode. A tight fit, the pets enjoyed each other’s company and took turns sharing the bed with mom, disabled and bedridden many days of the week.

Enter the 35-year-old son, his 25 year-old girlfriend, their 6-month old American Bulldog puppy and a bad case of post-traumatic stress disorder after two tours in Afghanistan for the son. This little family moved into the second bedroom when they could no longer swing rent on their own apartment. Doc Truli was called for a behavior consult. “Why is my chihuahua biting my son’s girlfriend?” The final diagnosis: too many people and pets, too few rules, too much anxiety and erratic behavior, a chihuahua guarding a bedridden mom and viola: the girlfriend receives a chihuahua bite when she reaches down for the harness in order to put a leash on the chi and take him for a walk.

Soon Bulldog puppy is biting disabled mom’s hand as she walks by swinging her arm for balance, and two cats have licked their bellies bald from stress grooming. Sheesh.

To top it all off- the Veterans Administration psychologist who spends 30 minutes a month with the son suggests a pet to reduce his anxiety. She obviously has not discovered he has plenty of animals, including a puppy he has not the energy nor patience to train. So enter a fifth cat into the household, who but for a vicious case of fleas, actually thrives in the simmering environment.

This is one example of a family who needs the advice of a trusted veterinarian to prioritize healthcare for the menagerie and save this family money through sound advice and creative thinking.

Creative Money-Saving Solutions for The Overcrowded Family

Litter box privacy for the cats saves on stress related vet visits

Stressed cats can fight each other, over groom, develop feline cystitis, vomit, and urinate and defecate outside their designated litter box. The stress undoubtedly contributes to disregulation of preexisting conditions like diabetes mellitus, but this Doc Truli can only suspect as there is no scientific evidence in cats.

Guidelines for Ideal Litter Box Management

  • Cats + 1 number of boxes. So 2 cats need 3 boxes. 5 cats need 6 boxes. No kidding!
  • The ideal litter pan size for a cat to express normal elimination behaviors is thought to be 1.5 x the length of the cat including the tail. So a large cat might need a pan the size of an American bathtub- almost. No kidding again.
  • Litter boxes need unscented litter. For many reasons. Like cats do not like the scents-they are incredibly strong to a cat. Also- the scents may contain carcinogenic chemicals.
  • Litter boxes must be scooped or totally cleaned out daily. Some cats prefer immediately after eliminating.
  • Litter box ingress and egress routes (pathways to get there) must not be along one path that a dominant cat could monopolize, thus intimidating the other cat or cats.

Daily leash walks for the two dogs, separate from each other

“In my opinion, dogs are happier when they get to sniff around the neighborhood,” says Doc Truli. “Even little dogs enjoy a scent outing.” The health status of the humans in this household made walking the dogs outside problematic. Sometimes not one of the humans was in a physical or mental state to help the dogs. They could have eased their work with a few tips.

Guidelines to Make Dog Walking Easier

  • Regular walks on a regular reliable schedule would help both humans and dogs be healthier
  • Slowly taking the time over several weeks to teach the chihuahua how to come out from under the bed and have his leash attached would prevent the bite that happened
  • Walking a large dog with a Gentle Leader® head collar would help prevent fragile or unsteady humans from being pulled or knocked down by a rambunctious puppy.

Rehoming a biting animal who is not receiving training he needs

As emotionally painful as rehoming your puppy could be, once you know in your heart that you do not have the time, health, money, or space for your puppy, you should contact a reputable dog rescue or your breeder, or the shelter from whence you adopted your puppy and make immediate plans for rehoming the pup. If you can keep the puppy at your one until a suitable family is found, that helps decrease the strain on limited rescue resources. It is a precious gift to your puppy to let them go to a family who can care for them, especially while they are still young, than to delay action . Your puppy can still live a full, healthy, happy life in another home. There’s no shame in that.

You may need counseling or help from friends, relatives and clergy to get through the strong emotions you may feel from this admission of a tremendous mistake. Reach out for this help. Do not burden your veterinary team if you have any other emotional help. The animal hospital staff and the veterinarian are already some of the most called upon health professionals to help people through emotional and financial stress, including euthanizing animals that have no more options because of human mistakes. (According to a UK study, veterinarians are 4x more likely than the average person commit suicide.)

Priority dental care for the worst mouths and a future plan for the better mouths

Dental care extends a pet’s healthy life by years. However, periodontal disease is often advanced by the time of detection, even in pets as young as 3 years old. A multi-pet household on a very tight budget may find professional dental care under anesthesia impossible to afford. Your trusted general practitioner should be able to rank your pets periodontal examinations by severity and give you symptoms of problems. Your veterinarian can also guide you as to the most effective plaque and tartar prevention strategies. Toothbrushing is the least expensive, most effective method to prevent dental disease.

If you have young pets, bring up the tooth brushing conversation with your veterinarian. “How do I brush my pet’s teeth?” You may need to invest $25 or so into a technician appointment, but once you have learned for one pet, you can practice on all of them and save a ton of money!

Flea Control, Flea Control Flea Control

Let’s be perfectly honest, shall we? The picture of a two-bedroom house or apartment with 3 adult humans, 5 cats and 2 dogs sounds crowded, right? There’s emotional stress, right? In this case, someone was a hoarder, too. It makes sense that holding onto the belongings became a control issue in a physical and emotional life with little outside control. Fleas love this scenario. They hide under boxes and clothing and excess furniture and books and magazines. This family spent oodles of their limited money on flea killing sprays and bombs and yet still fleas thrived in their house. The pets were covered with fleas and suffered dermatitis, itchiness, infections, tooth problems from fur stuck between teeth, and vomiting hairballs. If you are hanging onto stuff, you must move it to clean the fleas out. Period. You will spend money you do not have and your pets will suffer untold horrors because you have too much clutter.

“I hope clutter bugs reading this take the hint, because I can smell on their pets’ fur when the house is dank and the air is stale. Bringing up a private lifestyle of clutter or even hoarding is more awkward for me than telling an obese person that their pet needs to lose weight,” says Doc Truli.

Ask your veterinarian for a comprehensive flea eradication plan, rather than just relying on expensive veterinary products. All of those products state on the packaging that you must also treat the home and yard environment or you will enjoy only limited flea control success. Insist on a written, thorough flea plan you can follow and then save up, look for good prices, and plan ahead for success.

Thank you for reading!

All VirtuaVet content is original, written by Doc Truli, and copyrighted 2014 with all rights reserved. Please see the “terms of use” for for more information.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lisa permalink
    August 9, 2014 7:25 pm

    Hi, I just want to mention that a cheap way to deal with fleas that’s very effective is with food grade diatomaceous earth, it needs to be food grade, not the stuff that’s used in pool filters. You can put it on the animals, it is non toxic and in the carpets, furniture and in all the cracks in the floors. It dehydrates the fleas. And to deal with the eggs you need to use a product that contains Insect Growth Regulator that will prevent the flea eggs from hatching. You will have to spray it on the floors and wait for it to dry before letting the animals back in the room as it is toxic while wet but not once it dries. With those two that will be the end of the fleas because you need to stop the cycle of new fleas hatching. And keep on vacuuming. Hope that helps

  2. January 17, 2014 7:45 pm

    I’m going through an awful flea Armageddon right now myself. I have 2 dogs and 2 cats. The cats are strictly indoor only, but somehow managed to become infested with fleas. I have tried bathing them, picking fleas off one by one, apple cider vinegar spritzes and Capstar. I vacuum daily, and have even used home remedies where I have salted and baking soda’d my carpet. I washed all my bedding several times as well. NONE of this helped. It’s gotten to the point where if I walk from one side of my upstairs area to the other and then look down, I will have at least 4 of the nasty suckers attached to my legs. I’m currently saving up to try getting an exterminator in here, but I’m worried that won’t work either and I will be out a lot of money for nothing. I don’t even know where the cats got the fleas to begin with. They are segregated from the dogs, and I can go near my dogs without getting fleas on me. It’s only the cats. I’m at my wits end.

    • January 18, 2014 2:14 pm

      Dear kitty-doggy mommy with fleas,
      1) an exterminator who further works regularly with fleas and pets will be a great help.
      a) be careful and try not to hire a company that just wants your ongoing contract. They have business incentive to maybe not solve your problem so you keep needing them.
      2) capstar kills the fleas for a day. It works, but you sound like u have an environmental problem.
      3) keep vacuuming. Throw the bag or canister contents out so fleas cannot crawl out of the trash.
      4) do not underestimate the jumping power. Door cracks are a perfect swap point between cats and dogs
      5) it takes time, too. Flea eggs and cocoons persist in the environment. You need professional on-site help with a 3-6 month plan.
      6) declutter? (If it applies to you)

      Does that help at all?

      -Doc Truli

      • January 18, 2014 8:22 pm

        1) I knew about the exterminator, and ongoing contract thing, but thank you for reminding me because that’s not something I want to forget.

        2) With the vacuum, I have the canister variety with no bag, but I empty it each time and take the trash outside. Is that enough?
        a) I read somewhere that putting a flea collar inside the canister helps, but I don’t see how because the fleas and eggs vacuumed up wouldn’t be in there long enough for it to kill anything, would they?
        b) Also does salting the carpet actually do anything or am I wasting salt?

        3) It’s an upstairs/downstairs kind of separation, but I understand what you mean about the jumping power. I’ve witnessed it on my own body. Yikes.

        4) I vacuum once a day, should I be doing it more than that?

        5) I do have a few boxes on the floor that I never unpacked when I moved in almost 2 years ago, lol.. they had knick knacks in them that I was in no hurry to see again…should I move those boxes to the garage?

        6) If I take the cats to a vet, do they do flea dip/bathing and treatment there? Or just suggest products? I was wondering because I will need someplace for the cats to be when the exterminator comes and then for the few hours after he de-bugs.

        Anything helps. It’s just nice to talk to someone who understands my frustrations. Thank you.

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