How to Save Money on Vet Bills: 10 Smart Tips
As the cost of living rises, some pet owners are struggling to keep up with the cost of their pets. Inflation is affecting everything, from the cost of pet food to routine veterinary care, so many owners are looking for ways to cut back on expenses.
Pets can be expensive, but there are ways you can save money on vet bills to relieve some of the burden without sacrificing care.
The 10 Tips to Save Money on Vet Bills
1. Keep Up With Parasite Prevention
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” isn’t just a catchy phrase. When it comes to pet care, it’s a rule to live by. There are many parasites that can affect your pet, from fleas to ticks to heartworm, and the diseases they can cause are much more expensive to treat than preventing them.
For example, heartworm preventatives cost about $6 to $18 per month, depending on the size of your dog, but treating it can cost up to over $1,500 with no guarantees.
2. Get Essential Vaccinations
Routine vaccinations are part of responsible pet ownership. Rabies vaccinations are required by law in every state for both dogs and cats, but some routine vaccinations are optional. Speak with your vet about your budget and what disease risks are common in your area to make good decisions about what vaccines are essential.
In addition, some vaccines, like distemper and parvo, last longer than one year after the first series is complete. Speak with your vet about the vaccine schedule to see if it’s cost-effective.
No matter what, don’t skip essential vaccines because of your circumstances. Vaccines are inexpensive compared to the diseases they prevent, and it’s not worth taking the risk to avoid them.
3. Schedule Routine Exams
Both cats and dogs should have routine exams twice a year. While this may seem like an extra expense, it’s an important step in catching problems early when they’re less expensive to treat. Early diagnoses also come with better outcomes overall.
4. Keep Your Pet’s Weight Under Control
According to studies, up to 63% of cats and 59.3% of dogs are overweight or obese. Carrying excess weight puts your pet at risk for many serious diseases, including diabetes, arthritis, and some cancers. Studies also show that overweight or obese pets have shorter lifespans than their lean counterparts.
Keeping your pet’s weight under control will not only help you avoid expensive bills for obesity-related diseases in the future, but it will help you save on exorbitant pet food costs.
5. Discuss Payment Plans
Some vet clinics offer payment plans to help owners cover their pets’ routine expenses. Though this is not always an option, it’s worth asking to see if you can split your pet’s annual exam and vaccines into smaller and more manageable monthly payments over time.
6. Consider Pet Insurance
Pet insurance is a good option for many pets. For a low monthly premium, you can ensure that your pet has coverage for major out-of-pocket expenses. It’s important to shop around and evaluate your plan options, however, since some insurance providers exclude preexisting conditions and congenital disorders.
You should also compare different premiums vs. the coverage you need. Some providers offer coverage for accident and illness only, while others offer additional coverage for chronic conditions, preventative care, and more. You may be able to adjust your deductible and out-of-pocket expenses according to your budget.
7. Price Shop for Prescriptions
Just like with human healthcare, some pet prescriptions can break the bank. Insulin, for example, can be pricey for animals. But with medications that are also used for humans, such as Prozac, Trazodone, H2 blockers (acid reducers), and some antibiotics, you can get a lower price at a big box human pharmacy like Costco.
Online pet pharmacies may also offer savings over your vet’s office. While you must do your due diligence to avoid scam sites that may have dangerous knockoffs, online pharmacies with major pet supply brands may offer discounts on routine preventatives, prescription diets, and other pet medications.
8. Contact Online Vets Before the Emergency Clinic
Some pet emergencies are clearly emergencies, such as if your cat was hit by a car or your dog ate a toxic substance. But in some cases, you may not know if a situation warrants a visit to the emergency clinic—and the high bill for after-hours services.
Fortunately, there are many companies that provide online vet consultations to help you triage your pet, such as JustAnswer and Airvet. You can also find groups on Facebook that offer volunteer vet services to help owners determine if their pet requires emergency care before rushing to a clinic.
9. Do Some Comparison Shopping
Vets don’t price gouge, but the prices can vary from clinic to clinic for many reasons. Generally, larger corporate hospitals, university animal hospitals, and urban vet clinics charge higher prices than smaller practices, so it’s worth shopping around a bit. It may not make a big difference with routine care, but if you’re looking at a big estimate for surgery or another treatment, you may find lower prices from equally capable vets.
10. Be Transparent With Your Vet
No one likes to talk about their financial situation, but it may be necessary in this case. If your vet understands that you’re working with limited funds, it can help them approach your pet’s care with more cost-effective options for diagnosis and treatment.
What NOT to Do
Times are tough, but one way you shouldn’t save on vet care is by waiting until something goes wrong to schedule an appointment. It may seem counterintuitive to put out money while your pet is healthy, but preventative care can make all the difference in your pet’s health and prevent more serious—and expensive—conditions.
Likewise, resist the urge to handle your pet’s veterinary care on your own. Some medications are the same for pets and people, but the wrong ones can cause serious harm or death. For example, no human anti-inflammatory pain medications are safe for dogs or cats. In fact, these medications can be toxic to cats, even in low doses.
If you have doubts about whether a situation requires veterinary care, call your vet or the local emergency clinic for advice. If it’s something that can be handled at home, they will direct you in providing home care.
Part of responsible pet ownership is preparing for a pet’s expenses, but no one can predict the future. Circumstances change, prices rise, and emergencies happen, which may leave you with added financial pressure and a need to cut back on expenses. Hopefully these tips give you some ideas to pay for your pet’s veterinary expenses to keep it healthy and happy.
Featured Image Credit: v-svirido, Shutterstock