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Pets 101

How To Save Money On Your Pet

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Before You Buy A Pet

Think about the costs of maintaining a particular type of pet.

  • Generally, veterinary bills for dogs are larger over their lifetimes than the cost for cats. 
  • Purebreds generally have more weaknesses than mixed breeds which can also lead to higher veterinary bills.

Once A Pet Is Yours

Keep up-to-date on preventive care such as heartworm, flea and tick prevention. Keep a dog's ears and teeth clean.  Watch what your pet eats.

Tell your veterinarian you want approval of all expenses BEFORE they are incurred. Once a pet is in their custody, some veterinarians proceed to treat what they find, or order additional tests, without consulting the owner. Also ask for alternatives.  If the cost is expensive, shop around.  Veternarians charge a wide range of prices.

Save money when purchasing medications. For example; 

  • Ask your veterinarian for samples. Just like your regular doctor, you can save money on drugs if you get free samples.
  • Instead of purchasing prescription drugs from your vet, ask for a prescription and buy medications for less or ask your vet to match the lowest price you find. Some veternarians markup drugs by more than 100 percent. A tip: to be sure your pet is covered while saving money, get a few day supply from your veterinarian and purchase the remainder elsewhere.
    • Check with the pharmacy where you purchase your drugs to find out if it fill prescriptions for a pet. If so, what is your cost?
    • Check chain drug stores. 
    • Big box stores generally allow customers to enroll pets as family members in the prescription savings club.
    • Check the prices from reputable online sellers such as offsite link or offsite link Reputable online pharmacies ask for a prescription, have a pharmacist available to answer questions, have a physical business address and phone number, and are licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the business is located. You can find licensed pet pharmacies at offsite link 
  • If you need a prescription, your veterinarian can fax or email it to the online pharmacy. Even if the veterinarian charges for the prescription, you may still save money. 
  • An easy place to compare drug prices is offsite link

When purchasing pet food: 

  • Don't pay a premium for "premium" food. Look for food that is labeled "complete and balanced", "total nutrition" or "100 percent nutritious". They should all meet the minimum standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officiails. If you have a question, ask your veterinarian. (To check scientific ratings of various pet foods, see: offsite link. Click on Pet Food.)
  • The big-box stores may be less expensive. A Consumer Reports study in 2011 found that prices at Target and Walmart were about 20 percent less than pet stores.
  • Compare prices before buying on line. Prices online are often more expensive for pet food than local stores. For instance, check out: 

Comparison shop for veterinary care at a time when there is no emergency. Consumer Reports suggests calling at least two or three nearby vets and asking what their physical-exam fee is. The exam fees are generally the cornerstone of every vet bill. Veterinarians often set their other fees as a percentage or multiple of that charge. 

Consider getting a second opinion about the need for expensive procedures or tests. You can also do your own research about expensive procedures or tests in such resources as The Merck Veterinary Manual which is available online at offsite link.

If there is an emergency, generally the emergency vet stablisizes the animal, then schedules a later treatment.  

  • When possible, ask the emergency vet whether your pet can be treated the next day by your pet's regular (probably less expensive) vet. 
  • If you get a written diagnosis and cost estimate of the treatment plan from the emergency vet, you can use it to comparison shop.

Think twice before getting pet insurance. See: Pet Insurance

To find find free or discounted programs for vaccines, spaying and neutering, ID micro-chip implants, food and other supplies.Type the word "afford" in the search box at offsite link 

If you cannot afford medical treatment for your pet: 

  • The American Animal Hospital has a fund that works with selected veterinarians to provide financial help for emergency and other treatments. See: offsite link
  • Contact local pet organizations or a club for your pet''s breed.

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