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I don’t know about you, but I sure think this year went by quickly. It’s now time to get matters in order for your pet in 2017.

Here is a simple check list that every pet owner needs to do on the first of the year:

1. Take a photo of your pet. Your pet’s looks change with age just like us and if your pet goes missing, you will need a current picture.

2. Check your pet’s microchip registration and update any new phone numbers or addresses. (If your pet doesn’t have a chip, get one ASAP. They are inexpensive, safe and are the best form of identification.)

3. Consolidate your pet’s medical information into one folder. Include a list of any medicines your pet takes.

4. Use technology to your advantage. You can scan and save your pet’s medical records onto your phone. There are iPhone and Android apps you can download to file pet records, or you can just use a note-taking app like Evernote. You can even email medical records and pet photos to your smart phone.

5. Program your veterinarian’s information into your phone’s address book. Include the after hours emergency clinic your veterinarian recommends.

6. Program the address of your vet and the emergency after hours clinic into your car’s GPS.

7. Put these things in your trunk: A spare leash, a plastic or steel bowl, some bottled water, a few cans of pet food and a blanket.

Done! That was easy.

Another important item to do for your pet on the first of the year is to make a budget. Emergencies can easily cost $2,000 to $3,000 and payment is usually due at the time services are rendered, so you’ll need to plan wisely. Put a set amount of money away each month for emergency care. Easier said than done, but there are a few different strategies that may help you. Here are some tips on how to manage the cost of your pet’s health care.

Consider pet health insurance. Just like other forms of insurance, it’s important to get the right policy for your needs. There are several companies that now offer pet health insurance. The least expensive may not be the best for your situation, so always read the fine print.

Most companies will require you to pay for services at the time they are rendered and then submit a form for review after your pet has received care. Reimbursement for care comes after the insurance company reviews the case and many times this may take a few weeks to a few months. If you are considering health insurance for your pet, it is important to get it early before any emergencies or health conditions arise. Most companies will request medical records from the previous 12 to 24 months and will not cover preexisting conditions.

If you don’t like the idea of pet insurance, you should save a set amount every month. The amount should be at least the amount it takes to fill up your car’s gas tank one time. This strategy can pay off if you have a healthy pet. If you don’t have to use the money for emergencies, you’ve saved up a nice little nest egg for the future. However, you could be caught off guard if an emergency comes up before you’ve had a chance to build up some savings.

A better idea for most people is a combination of both insurance plus a small monthly savings. Look at the cost of the different insurance plans. Most insurance companies offer decent inexpensive plans starting under $50 per month and would cover emergencies but not routine care.

In addition to the insurance, put away the same amount of money into a savings account for your pet. For example, $50 goes to insurance and $50 goes to savings. This way you are covered immediately should an emergency happen right away and you still are building a nest egg for the future.

I hope everybody is having a wonderful holiday season. I am looking forward to a great new year and wish everyone and their pets the same.

Dr Greg Perrault owns and operates Cats & Dogs Animal Hospital in Long Beach.

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