Pets can be expensive. Not only is there the purchase price of the pet and the cost of food and other care items, if you own a pet or are considering pet ownership you’ll want to take into account the potential costs of both regular and unexpected vet care costs.
Trips to the vet can be expensive. In fact, we just had to make an emergency vet trip with our dog because she ate something she shouldn’t have. It “swallowed” over $600 out of my bank account.
Vet care can really take a bite out of your wallet, however you may be able to find cheap vet care alternatives if you do some research. Here are 8 ways to find cheaper vet care that might help you take care of your beloved pet for less without compromising their safety and well-being.
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How to Get Cheap Vet Care
It’s important when searching for ways to get cheap vet care that you weigh the monetary savings with safety and wisdom as well. In other words, be careful about getting your cheaper vet care from some dude in the back of a mobile van who doesn’t have a real office, an established reputation or a business card.
Some cheaper vet care options can be risky, but affordable ways to care for your pet do exist, however. Here are some options you can consider.
1. Local Veterinary School Services
Veterinary schools – just like beauty schools and auto mechanic schools – may offer cheaper prices on vet services than you’ll find at your local veterinary clinic.
Because you’re bringing your pet to veterinary students instead of to licensed vets (although the students are always supervised by a veterinary instructor) they often give discounted rates. This can save you money as you help students learn their business in a real-life environment.
One of the other benefits to bringing your pet to a veterinary college for care is that veterinary schools are often on the leading edge of implementing new technologies for pet care.
While your well-established local vet may have 30+ years of experience under his or her belt, vet schools often have access to new equipment and treatment methods first. This can mean innovative treatment for your pet at a fraction of the cost you’d pay elsewhere.
Do an Internet search for “veterinary schools near me”. This will help you find schools that may offer vet care services at a lower cost than what you’d pay at a traditional vet clinic.
2. Alternative Treatment Options
Not all vet treatment options are the same. When our dog ate some grapes recently, we were presented with two options when we went to the vet emergency room. (This is the incident that cost me $600. Yes, grapes can be deadly for dogs.)
Option number one involved letting her stay at the hospital. She would have her kidneys flushed out with an IV solution for three days and be constantly monitored by the professionals there.
Option number two involved us taking her home after vomiting was induced. She was given a dose of activated charcoal to bind any further effects from food in her digestive tract. Then we’d have to take her to our local vet for a kidney check each day for the next couple of days.
The first option would have cost me $2700. The second option was $600 after we added in the two vet trips to our local vet.
After having a lengthy discussion with the emergency room vet, we all agreed that option number one was a little drastic. (She’d only eaten two grapes. Most of that came out with the meds they gave her because we got her in right away.)
We chose to do the $600 plan and everything turned out fine.
The Importance of Asking Questions
We had a similar situation when we were working with our family physician to diagnose our son’s food intolerances. The Physician’s Assistant at the clinic ordered about a dozen tests for him. This would have cost us over $750 out of pocket.
I asked her to go over each test with us and why she thought it was necessary. It turned out that three of the tests were, as she described it “long shots, but I thought we’d check just in case”.
After I questioned her further about what his symptoms would be if he had each of those maladies, it was obvious that he didn’t have those issues. Thus, the tests really weren’t necessary. So, I declined them and saved us nearly $500.
The moral of the story is that when you’re facing a vet bill, go through the estimates you’re given with a fine-toothed comb. Determine what is necessary and what is not. Then, ask about alternative treatment options. Doing so could save you big cash in the long run.
You can do the same with regular annual vet trips as well. For instance, we forego rabies shots for our indoor cats now that they’ve had their initial rounds. The chances of them contracting rabies is next to nothing since they never leave the house.
Our vet agreed that the rabies shots weren’t necessary for them. So, we save money each year by not giving them one of the shots they really don’t need.
Doing your research and asking your vet for his or her opinion on treatments and care options can go a long way in saving you money.
3. Financial Assistance for Pet Owners
There are a few organizations that offer financial assistance to cover vet bills for pet owners. Consider contacting one of these organizations to get cheap vet care.
The AMVF (American Medical Veterinary Foundation) has a fund called the Veterinary Care Charitable Fund (VCCF). It exists to help people facing financial hardships to get more affordable vet care for their pets. Check out the AMVF website for more information.
Local Veterinary Clinics
Many local vet clinics also have some type of financial assistance program. If not, they likely have access to a list of financial assistance programs where you live. Talk to your vet for more information about financial assistance for pet owners.
4. Comparison Shop
Comparison shopping can save you big money in the world of pet ownership. When we first moved to our hobby farm five years ago, we started seeing a vet about twenty minutes away in a bigger suburb.
After some poor experiences, we checked out a vet in a small town about ten minutes away in the other direction.
This made me nervous at first. The suburbia vet had a big, new, fancy office, a large staff and all of the bells and whistles. For some reason this atmosphere gave me a feeling of security about the level of care they would provide.
However, it turns out that a nice office and a large staff gives relatively little indication of a vet clinic staff’s skill level. Trying the small town vet with the plain office and only two part-time assistants felt risky to me. But, it turns out I was totally wrong in my assumptions.
This vet is great at what he does. Plus, he charges about half the cost of the suburbia vet clinic.
We’ve been at this vet for over four years now and haven’t had one negative experience. The best part is, we’re saving a ton of money on vet bills.
5. Low-Cost Pet Prescription Companies
There are companies that offer pet prescriptions at a lower cost than what your vet might offer them for. While there is something to be said for spending your money locally, a low-cost prescription medicine company may be necessary for some pet owners, especially if they’re facing financial hardships.
Just do an Internet search for the medicine you need for your pet. You’ll see results for lower cost medicines. We save roughly 30% on annual dewormer and tick and flea meds (the name brand stuff) for our pets by shopping online.
6. Ask Your Vet
Veterinarians are the first stop marketing target for places that offer free and cheap vet care. They are approached for everything from free or low-cost spaying and neutering, to free prescription medicine samples, free food samples new and innovative care techniques and more.
If you’re looking for ways to cut down on vet costs, talk with your vet about the various avenues he or she might be aware of. Your vet might have access to affordable pet insurance, or pet insurance specials, or they might be aware of a community or charitable program that could help you.
Talk to your vet about your specific concerns regarding the cost of your pet. See if he or she can lead you to any charities, companies, or in-house programs that can help you cut down on costs while still providing the great care your pet deserves.
7. Take Advantage of Specials
Many veterinarian clinics have certain times of the year when they offer specials on routine pet care or preventative maintenance care.
In fact, we just got a letter from our vet stating that if we schedule annual check ups during their Spring Routine Care Days we’ll get half off of the regular price. You can be sure we’ll be taking advantage of that deal!
Call your vet to ask about discounted days or specials they might run throughout the year. These can help pet owners save money on routine care or preventative maintenance costs.
If your vet doesn’t run specials, check around with other vet clinics in your area to see if they run specials. Many vet clinics understand that pet owners want to be cost-efficient in caring for their pets. They can help by running special deals during certain times of the year.
8. Keep Up on Preventative Care
Just like with humans, preventative care goes a long way in helping pet owners cut down on vet care costs. Here are some of the preventative care tasks to help your pets stay healthy and potentially avoid unnecessary vet care bills.
Feed Your Pets the Diet Your Vet Recommends
It’s easy to want to cuddle with your cat or dog and have them share in your evening snack time while you chill in front of the TV. However, chips and other human snacks and foods aren’t usually great for your furry family member.
Try to avoid feeding your pets people food. Stick with the type of designated pet food your vet recommends. Feeding pets the wrong types of food can lead to obesity, toxic poisoning in some instances, and other problems that can usher in unnecessary vet care expenses.
Work to Help Your Pet Stay Active
Dogs, cats and other pets need to stay active just like people do. Being active will work their cardiovascular system and help their bloodstreams stay cleaner.
If you have a dog, walk him or her and play with them on a regular basis. This will help them (and you) get regular exercise. Cats and other pets can be a little more difficult to keep active, however playing with them with toys of their liking will help.
For our cats, we use the toys on a string to get them interested in active play time.
Brush Their Teeth
Cats and dogs especially can benefit from having their teeth brushed at home on a regular basis. It’s best to start this habit when your pets are young so they get used to it. But, even if they’re out of the baby stage, you may be able to convince them to let you brush their teeth if you combine teeth brushing with cuddle time.
Pet stores and vet clinics usually sell special toothbrushes and toothpastes made especially for your pet to help them enjoy tooth brushing time more.
Spend Time with Them
Your pets love, love, love to spend time with you, whether it be in active play or exercise, or just cuddling on your favorite chair.
Pets are shown to help people reduce stress in their lives by reducing blood pressure, combatting loneliness, making us laugh, fulfilling our need for touch and by helping us stay more active.
Interaction with your pet will give them the same benefits. Pets love being with their people and spending quality time with them. The happiness your pet gets from spending time with you can help them be healthier as well.
As you can see, cheap vet care is available. Nothing beats staying on top of routine care to help not need a vet as often.
With a little research you can find ways to spend less on pet care. How do you save money on vet bills? Tell us in the comments below.