You feel the familiar ache of worry in the pit of your stomach.
Something isn’t right with Fido. He’s lethargic and not acting like himself.
Is it something major? Fido is a part of the family. You can’t bear to see him hurting.
In your heart of hearts you know it’s time to take him to the vet.
But how much will it cost?
While it’s true that veterinary care can be expensive, there are several ways you can save money at the vet.
A sick pet doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank.
Before your pet has a health emergency, check out these ways anyone can save money at the vet.
1. Use Community Resources
Every cat or dog should be spayed or neutered and vaccinated. Many communities offer low cost clinics and vouchers to help you pay for these important services.
To find out when and where these services exist, check with your veterinarian or watch the pet section of your community’s craigslist page. Often clinic times and locations will be posted there.
2. Practice Preventive Medicine
It can be tempting to skimp on things like quality pet food and monthly heartworm prevention medication to save money, but don’t do it.
Taking care of your pet’s health at home can prevent big expenses at the veterinarian’s office. For instance, low quality dry food can lead to urinary problems in cats…and urinary problems can mean costly surgery.
Spending a little more on monthly prevention can pay off in the form of fewer big bills as a pet ages. It will also pay off in a happier pet.
3. Educate Yourself
We all know to take our kids to the doctor when their fevers get too high or they get dehydrated. But do you know the signs of illness in your pet?
Animals are fairly adept at hiding pain and illness, so it’s important to be aware when a problem arises.
Recently I noticed my cat going to the litterbox more frequently than is normal for him. He didn’t have any other symptoms, but I knew he might be headed for a urinary blockage.
We took him to the vet and treated him before he was completely blocked and avoided an expensive surgery. Had I not known that frequent trips to the litterbox are a sign of trouble, we might have faced an expensive vet bill or worse.
If you own a pet, know the signs of illness.
4. Compare Veterinary Offices
Not all veterinary offices are the same, so shop around before choosing a vet.
Ask your friends, family, and Facebook connections to recommend a good, low cost vet. We have a vet in our community that regularly charges 25% less than all other vets without sacrificing quality of care.
Good, low-cost veterinarians are very popular, so if there’s one in your community, it shouldn’t take long to find him.
5. Discuss Finances First
When your pet needs to go to the vet, make sure you discuss finances up front. When your veterinarian knows that your finances are tight, he can tailor his treatment to your budget.
In the example of my sick cat, my vet opted to try a supplement before proceeding to more costly x-rays to definitively diagnose the problem.
The supplement worked, and we avoided an extra $100 charge for the x-rays. But if I hadn’t mentioned my concerns about money up front, the vet might not have presented me with the option of trying supplements before moving on to the x-rays.
6. Ask Questions
Make sure you know exactly why the veterinarian is recommending a course of treatment and ask about alternatives.
When my vet presented the option of taking x-rays on my cat, I asked him what the follow up to the x-rays would be if they showed stones in my cat’s bladder.
When the vet said surgery, I knew we had decisions to make. Ask what about the possible outcomes of any testing. If a vet suggests a test that will only lead to a procedure you can’t pay for, perhaps it’s best to skip the test. And your vet may be able to recommend a different course of action. You don’t know unless you ask.
7. Shop Around for Pet Meds
You don’t have to purchase all medication from your veterinarian. Medication is frequently marked way up at the vet’s office.
Many pet medications are available on Amazon and at your local farm supply store for less. That supplement my vet recommended for our cat? It was $25 at the veterinarian’s office and $16 on Amazon for a month’s supply. Nine dollars a month adds up to a lot over the course of a year!
8. Set a Dollar Limit for Treatment
Before you get a pet, make a commitment to its vet care. Decide how much you are willing to spend on veterinary care before you consider options like giving your pet away or putting it to sleep.
I don’t like to think about it either, but my kids have to come before my pets, and if the cost of veterinary care is too much for our budget, I can no longer afford my pet.
By making a dollar amount commitment before bringing my pet home, those treatment decisions are more concrete…not easier, but more clear. Any treatment above a certain dollar amount just isn’t going to happen.
9. Consider Pet Health Insurance
I know some of you bristled at my last suggestion, and I understand. Our pets are like family, and it’s hard to put a dollar amount on treatment.
If you’re a person who will do anything to save the life of your pet no matter what the cost, consider purchasing pet health insurance, especially as your pet ages.
The monthly cost of insurance may well be worth it if your pet needs extensive surgery or expensive monthly treatments.
10. Explore Financial Assistance
It’s a long shot, but if you are faced with pet treatment you can’t afford, look into organizations that may help you pay the bills.
Assistance programs are available for many different conditions. You may be able to get some financial aid for a medical emergency. It doesn’t hurt to try.
It’s always scary when your pet gets sick, especially when you don’t know what is wrong or how much treatment will cost.
But when you take preventive measures with your pet’s health and explore your financial options before an emergency arises, you can minimize the financial impact of your pet’s illness.
Imagine the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have done everything in your power to provide for your pet’s health.
That peace of mind is possible.
Explore your veterinary options today, before your pet gets sick. When Fido does come down with the doggie flu, you will have a plan in place to deal with his illness.
You will be able to focus on making your pet comfortable, rather than worrying about your finances. And when your pet is sick, that’s what’s important, isn’t it?
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