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As Consumers Put a Leash on Spending, Experts Caution Against Being 'Penny Wise and Pound Foolish' with Their Pets

DULUTH, Ga., Nov. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- With economic pressures on the rise, consumers are looking for ways to tighten their belts while maintaining the best level of care they can for their pets. In the midst of the downturn, veterinarians around the country have observed a decline in visits and spending for recommended procedures.

Pet health and quality of life don't have to become economic casualties. Through a not-for-profit pet health resource - The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health - Merck and Merial, leading global pharmaceutical and animal health companies, are teaming up to educate pet owners about the power of preventive measures as the cornerstone of a sound financial strategy for pet care. The book is an easy-to-read version of the manual veterinarians have been using for years, and it might be one of the most thoughtful and practical gifts you can give to the pet lover in your life this holiday season.

"We have known for a long time that early detection of ailments and proactive health maintenance can extend a pet's life by years, but it can also help your pocketbook as well," said Scott Line, DVM, associate editor, The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health. "In the long run, it is dramatically cheaper to prevent health problems than it is to treat them, and consumers need to keep this in mind when seeking ways to reduce costs in their pet care budget."

Cut Costs Without Cutting Out What's Important: Top Tips From Dr. Line

Note: The following tips do not replace consultation with a licensed veterinary practitioner.

1. Be a Grooming DIYer: Grooming is an important part of maintaining your pet's health and condition, but it is a skill anyone can perform with practice. An added incentive for taking an active role in your pet's grooming is that you can identify problems early (e.g., bumps, lumps, changes in coat quality, etc.) that a groomer may not think to tell you about. Doing the grooming yourself can save as much as $400 to $1,000 per year, but to avoid a costly mistake be sure to use products, such as shampoos, that are designed for pets and not people.

2. Bulk Up: Resist the urge to buy pet food, heartworm and other preventatives in smaller quantities to cut immediate costs at the cash register. The reality is, as long as you're mindful of expiration dates, buying in bulk is generally cheaper.

3. Don't Wait to Vaccinate or Medicate: Making sure your pet is current on all recommended vaccinations will save you a bundle in the long run because you'll help ward off preventable diseases. Vaccinations such as one that prevents rabies, for example, are particularly critical and may save your animal's life. Similarly, routine medications such as heartworm preventives should be given every month. Skipping doses can be expensive, as treating heartworm costs as much as $800 - $1,000. In addition, treating the disease is risky and can be painful for your pet.

4. Spay and Save: For the average pet owner, spaying or neutering is a must. If you have a limited income, you may be able to save by taking advantage of low-cost clinics for these services. Keep in mind that spaying or neutering your pet can prevent the immediate expense of new pets in your family and the societal expense of unwanted pets being turned in to shelters. It also reduces the occurrence of some common diseases, such as breast cancer in pets.

5. An Ounce of Prevention: Prevent an unplanned, emergency vet visit this holiday by doing your part around the house. Many items that are a routine part of holiday celebrations could be toxic or harmful to your pet. Examples include:

-- Mistletoe and even poinsettia, while beautiful, are highly toxic to dogs and cats

-- Chocolate and macadamia nuts are toxic as well, and yeast-based bread dough can actually be fatal to your pet as it causes intestinal bloat

-- Tinsel, if swallowed by a curious kitten or puppy, might cause intestinal blockage

Consult The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health for more in-depth guidance.

6. Brush Up: Proper dental care is an often-neglected component of the pet health regimen. Regular use of an inexpensive toothbrush and toothpaste designed for pets can delay or avoid a professional cleaning costing several hundred dollars. You also can purchase pet food designed to help eliminate tartar.

Best-Selling Resource Helps Owners Navigate Pet Health Decisions

The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health will guide owners in taking a sensible, preventive approach to their pets' health. This trusted resource is based on The Merck Veterinary Manual, the best-selling reference used by veterinarians for more than 50 years. Authored by more than 200 veterinary experts and written in simple, layman's terms, The Manual for Pet Health is the most comprehensive guide to health care for all common pets. It provides accurate and trustworthy information about animal health and lets owners communicate more effectively with their veterinarian.

The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health can be purchased online at for $15 and wherever books are sold.

About Dr. Scott Line

Scott Line, DVM, PhD, DACVB earned his veterinary degree at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. He then completed a residency at the University of California, Davis, where he also earned a doctoral degree in animal behavior. In addition, he is a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. He has held a variety of research, clinical, and teaching positions during his 25-year career as a veterinarian. He works for Merial Limited, where he is the associate editor of the Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health. He lives in Decatur, GA with his dog Gromit and his cats Ben and Jerry.

A Tradition of Educational Publishing

The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health joins Merck's comprehensive list of medical, veterinary and scientific manuals published as a not-for-profit service to physicians, scientists and consumers. In addition to the Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck also publishes the best-selling Merck Manual, first published in 1899, The Merck Index (a one-volume encyclopedia of chemicals), The Merck Manual of Medical Information-Home Edition, now in its second edition (2003), as well as The Merck Manual of Health & Aging. All of the manuals have strict editorial independence and do not include marketing information or promote pharmaceutical medicines.

About Merial

Merial is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health, well-being and performance of a wide range of animals. Merial employs approximately 5,000 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide. Merial Limited is a joint venture between Merck & Co., Inc. and sanofi-aventis. For more information, please see

About Merck

Merck & Co., Inc. is a global research-driven pharmaceutical company dedicated to putting patients first. Established in 1891, Merck currently discovers, develops, manufactures and markets vaccines and medicines to address unmet medical needs. The Company devotes extensive efforts to increase access to medicines through far-reaching programs that not only donate Merck medicines but help deliver them to the people who need them. Merck also publishes unbiased health information as a not-for-profit service. For more information, visit

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