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  • Nikki

Are expensive vet bills the only option?

Its frightening how much modern day veterinary care costs. On our dog walk this morning I met a lady with a beautiful German Shepherd, an older dog, who was walking a little bit slowly, a little bit cautiously, and she informed me that he had some back issues.

She herself had spent her entire working life as a nurse, until she was given the diagnosis of MS and is now on a disability pension and unable to work. This week she went to visit the vet as she thought her dog was in pain.


The vet wanted to do some investigations, naturally, and she advised me that they charged an exorbitant amount for an x-ray, on top of the $90 consultation fee, and when she asked for a script for medication so that she could buy the generic product cheaper at her local pharmacy rather than directly from the vet, the vet asked her to come back the next day to pick it up, the front desk staff then proceeded to charge her $22.00 for the script itself! The vet has since advised that they would like to do 3 MRIs on this dogs back, at a total cost of $10,000!!! Suffice to say there's no way this woman can afford, nor will be getting these tests for her dog.

Stories like this, and I hear them frequently, make me both angry and sad. Angry that there are vets who are basically extorting pet owners who would never dream of not treating their beloved family members when they are experiencing pain, illness or injury, and so sad that pet owners who genuinely want to help their animals are forced to make very difficult decisions with often little to no other options presented to them than the expensive drugs or surgery from the vet. Especially when there are SO MANY OTHER OPTIONS! Worse still (for me as a naturopath) is that it never ceases to amaze me how many people don't think of supplementation for their animals the way that they 'might' think about supplementation for themselves in these cases.


If you have sore joints, and can't afford surgery or expensive medication or ongoing consultations and testing or even treatment, many people these days will head down to their local health food store, or their pharmacy, and ask someone about a more natural or cost effective option. Anything that might help ease their pain. In my career as a naturopath I've spoken with many people who have been taking (for example) fish oils long term to help with inflammation and joint pain, and with varying degrees of relief. I've met other people who take glucosamine or chondroitin long term to help with joint issues, others take much more extensive vitamins, but these are just two examples of really simple things that you can buy, easily, in chemists and supermarkets and health food stores, and there is quite a large body of research to support their use.

So why don't we think to try the same things with our animals. These same things also work on animals. There are simple things we can do to support the joint health of our pets. Low impact movement such a swimming is a brilliant way to increase mobility, to keep joints fluid and moving, but without the impact of running or walking. Humans are recommended and make use of the same therapy and with great results.



Supplements such as fish oils, glucosamine and chondroitin have the same effect on the joint capsule of animals as they do on humans. They are anti-inflammatory, they can help increase synovial fluid and joint mobility and used over the long term can help to reduce and prevent further degeneration of joints.

There is also herbal medicine, which includes fabulous anti-inflammatories, many of which naturopaths and herbalists use for varying levels of pain from very acute to very chronic with remarkable results. Joint Juice is a wonderful example of herbal medicine working in unison to help reduce pain and inflammation whilst also promoting healing.

There are also homeopathic remedies. One of the beautiful things about homeopathy and animals is that it doesn't matter if your animal 'believes' it will work or not, there is no placebo effect with animals. Something will either work or it wont. Easy.

Homeopathics are also very cheap comparatively, and if you have a good compounding pharmacy, naturopath, dispensary, even health food store they are relatively easy to come by. I would however recommend seeking advice on which potencies to use depending on the level and chronicity of the pain.

All of these things are much more cost effective than $10,000 worth of MRIs, which lets face it may help to diagnose an issue but they are not going to contribute to any of the treatment, the latter of which is definitely a greater priority for this woman. This will again be at an additional cost. 

Please understand that I am not advising that you ditch your vet in place of vague information that you read online, that said however, there really are some wonderful resources available that you can try discussing with your vet, or another suitable animal health provider if you feel your concerns are not being listened to, taken into consideration, or you are not being provided with any other suitable options with regards to your budget or lifestyle. There are also some truly incredible holisitic veterinarians these days, that work with both standard and alternative options, having completed additional training in areas of health that standard veterinary training and care is woefully lacking. There are also animal physiotherapists, osteopaths, massage therapists, nutritionists and naturopaths who can offer many alternatives to the standard drug or surgical interventions. Over the long term these interventions can literally save you thousands of dollars whilst vastly increasing the quality of life for your pets. If you would like further information, recommendations for animal practitioners in your area, or if you would like to get in touch for a consultation please reach out and get in touch.


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