Jul 23

Saving Money On Your Pet’s Medical Care

How To Save Money On Your Pet’s Medical Care

If you’ve taken your pet to the veterinarian lately, you must have realized that medical care for them is becoming as expensive as medical care for humans. Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine there’s almost no limit to what can be done for your pet, and with current economic conditions, the vet is one of the many places loving pet owners are looking to save.  The good news is that veterinary care can easily be a part of a healthy household budget, and there are simple ways to save.

Be An Educated Pet Owner

Start by visiting your local library or search online for a book/article on basic pet care. Familiarize yourself with the common signs of illness in your pet. For example, review this slide show about the 10 warning signs of cancer in pets.

Subtle changes in body weight or difficulties in moving or walking that are identified during an examination may indicate the need for additional testing, medications to alleviate pain, or a diet adjustment. Without an annual examination, your pet’s undetected illness can spiral out of control and might cost much more than an annual veterinary visit.

Don’t ignore signs of disease such as vomiting, weight loss or inactivity.  Pet parents sometimes attribute signs of disease to something other than disease.  Here are just a few examples: “He’s not moving around much anymore, but he is older.” Diagnosis: arthritis. “I think she’s losing weight, but I am feeding her the light food.” Diagnosis: intestinal lymphoma. “He vomits every day, but that’s normal for cats, right?” Diagnosis: chronic kidney disease. Don’t miss an opportunity to be proactive and keep your pet healthy and pain-free by quickly recognizing signs of disease.

Invest in Preventive Health Care

Preventive care is the best way to keep your pet happy and healthy, and it saves you money!

An annual visit to your pet’s veterinarian is worth its weight in gold, and it simply costs less to prevent disease than to treat it  During a routine physical examination, your veterinarian can assess your pet’s risk of contracting a contagious disease, such as parvovirus or Lyme disease, and administer vaccinations or parasite preventatives to protect your pet. Consider, for example, that a monthly heartworm preventive may cost $10 to $15, depending on the size of your pet. But if your dog contracts heartworm disease, the cost to treat it may be $400 to $1,000 or more.   Since heartworm disease can be fatal, and realizing that there’s no approved treatment for cats, $15 a month can be a very smart and healthy bargain.

Vaccinations, parasite control, dental cleaning, sound nutrition and other preventive care can help save you money in the long run. Subtle changes in body weight and other issues identified during an examination may indicate the need for additional testing, medications to alleviate pain, or a diet adjustment. Without an annual examination, your pet’s undetected illness can spiral out of control and might cost much more than an annual veterinary visit.

The bottom line is that regular checkups can help your veterinarian identify and treat health problems earlier, when they can be more affordable and easier to treat.

Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle / Keep Your Pet Lean & Trim

Nutrition and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your pet is where it all starts. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 44 percent of all U.S. dogs and 57 percent of all U.S. cats were overweight or obese. That’s roughly 80 million dogs and cats at increased risk for diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and various forms of cancer. Diseases equal a high cost to you and your pet. Avoid these high medical expenses by keeping your pets on a healthy diet or rewarding them with low-calorie treats. Avoid the unhealthy table foods. Please see my article Foods That Are Harmful To Your Pets for more information.

Helping your pet maintain a healthy, optimal weight and giving them plenty of exercise are some of the best ways to avoid extra medical expenses. Studies show it could even help your dog or cat live almost two years longer than heavier pets. And what could be better than spending less money on medical care and having more healthy years with your buddy?

Create A Safe But Enriched Environment For Your Pet        

Some of the most common reasons for pet admissions to veterinary emergency service facilities come from hazards in the home. In one month alone, emergency and critical care veterinarians may treat pets for ingestion of human foods toxic to pets, such as xylitol and chocolate, rat poison intoxication, and consumption of human prescription and recreational drugs. Falls from open windows without screens commonly result in feline ER visits and hospitalization for shock and broken bones. In addition to pet-proofing your home, protect your pet by creating activities to keep your pet busy during the day using feeding toys, a cat tree, or mechanized toys. There are many ways to create an enriched backyard for your dog. Some of these ideas can be adapted for indoor cats as well.

Reevaluate Annual Vaccinations

Veterinary medicine is moving away from the one-size-fits-all annual vaccination model to a customized approach based on your pet’s age, health status, and risk of disease exposure. And that means your pet may need less frequent vaccinations.

Most core (basic) vaccinations, or those recommended for all pets, are licensed to be effective for three years or more. So, after the initial series of vaccines and the one-year booster, a healthy pet may not need an annual vaccination, depending on state or local laws and your vet’s recommendation. However, based on your pet’s risk of disease exposure, your veterinarian may suggest non-core vaccinations which may need to be given more frequently. Consider talking to your vet about how to protect your pet from disease while minimizing vaccination frequency.

Use Nutritional Supplements

Yes, they work for dogs too!  Nutritional support in addition to a healthy lifestyle is one of the most important elements of human and pet healthcare. Vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids help to promote your pet’s immune system and keep them as healthy as they can be. Strong immune systems equal minimal infections. Save money and keep your pet healthy.

Use A Premium Pet Food

Some of the most common reasons for vet visits include vomiting and diarrhea, due largely in part to poor diet and food. Poor-quality pet food can cause these messy and unpleasant conditions for you and your pet and can place unnecessary vet bills on your plate. Although the natural, organic, and more nutritional foods may cost a bit more than pet foods sold at the grocery store, you will still save money. You will be keeping your pet healthy, extending his years with you, and avoiding costly vet visits.  Check these sites for reviews on the best dog and cat foods for the current year.  For cats, visit Best Cat Food Reviews of 2017, and for dogs, Best Dog Food. You should also talk to your veterinarian about the best diet for your pet’s individual needs.

Feeding your pet high-quality, nutritional food is essential to their health and life expectancy

Ask About Preventive Care Packages

Many veterinarians “bundle” basic preventives such as vaccinations, parasite control, and dental care and offer them at a discount in exchange for your continued business. Ask your vet if they offer these packages.

In most cases, you can spread out the payments over the course of the year, so it’s less painful than one or two big bills a year. You might even be able to save more if you can pay for the entire package up front.

Shop Around for Prescriptions and Parasite Control

If you don’t take advantage of preventive care packages, you can still ask your veterinarian for a written prescription and price shop for medications. Pets are often prescribed human medications, so you may find better deals and even low-cost generics at pharmacies in big-box stores.

Should you choose the online pet pharmacy route, do your research to make sure it’s a reputable, licensed business. It’s best to avoid foreign online pharmacies because they could carry medications that are counterfeit or not approved by the FDA. Many veterinarians are also willing to match online prices, which may save you shipping costs, as well.

Consider Pet Health Insurance

No matter how careful you are, torn cruciate ligaments (in the joints), slipped spinal discs and intestinal foreign bodies can happen. Surgeries to repair these common conditions can be among the most expensive veterinary procedures. Pet health insurance can help defray the costs so you don’t have to make a difficult decision based on your finances.  This proactive solution to avoiding your favorite pet’s unexpected medical conditions can end up saving you thousands of dollars in vet/surgical bills. There are many new major medical coverage plans with low annual premiums available that are cost effective.

Start a Pet Health Savings Account (HSA)

Emergency funds are critical for unexpected expenses like a blown tire, broken dishwasher… or even your pup’s parvovirus.  It would be prudent to set aside extra funds for the health care for your pet, taking your pet’s age, breed and health history into account.

While it’s not tax-deductible like a human HSA, a pet health savings account does enable you to have ready money for hefty pet medical expenses. In the best-case scenario, you may put $5,000 to $10,000 aside, and if your pet never requires major medical care, you can keep that money (unlike money you put in a health insurance policy).

 Still, it’s a good idea to have pet health insurance while you’re saving up, so you’re not caught short should a major surgery or illness occur.

Get It In Writing

When possible, ask for written estimates before any veterinary services are performed. That way, you can discuss each line item to make sure you’re comfortable with it, and you’ll find that there’s less chance of surprise when the final bill comes.

Have A Candid Discussion About Finances With Your Vet

This is not a reflection on how much you love your pet or putting a value on him, but rather a responsible way to approach health care expenses. Often, there’s more than one way to diagnose or treat a condition, so your veterinarian can work with you to find an answer that fits your budget. I did this when my Betsy was diagnosed with kidney failure, and it worked out very well.  The vet was aware of my financial situation and was able to offer several treatment option paths during her illness.  She lived a very good quality of life for almost three years!

Learn At-Home Pet Maintenance

Do-it-yourself nail trimming, tooth brushing and yes, anal gland expression (emptying) can save you a lot over the course of a year. Please see my articles on nail and claw trimming, Trimming Your Cat’s Claws and Trimming Your Dog’s Nails. Your veterinarian will be happy to show you how to do the other procedures.

Don’t Wait Until The Weekend

Emergency veterinary clinics can be significantly more expensive than regular veterinary practices. If you suspect your pet may be getting ill, schedule an appointment with your regular veterinarian during the week rather than waiting until the evening or weekend when only the higher-priced clinics are open.


For many of us, pets are beloved members of the family whose sweet meows and wagging tails provide years of laughter and lasting joy. But, as every pet parent knows, it can be surprisingly expensive to care for your furry companion.  With some common sense, the right information, and preventive care, you will be able to enjoy many years with your fur baby and save money, as well!