Ways To Save On Vet Costs (6 Experts Share Their Tips)

helloBARK! staff
By helloBARK! staff
Updated on October 16, 2020
Expert Content

It isn’t cheap owning a pet.

You may have saved to buy your kitten or puppy, or perhaps you rescued a cat or dog from your local shelter.

Either way, you’ll have to prepare for regular vet costs that come with owning a pet.

Some expenses can’t be avoided such as vaccinations, neutering or spaying, but pet owners can take other steps to limit the amount of trips to their vet.

For instance, by following a good and regular hygeine routine, such as cleaning your dog’s ears and teeth, you could save money in the long run.

We spoke to six experts, ranging from money-saving experts to vets, to hear some of their tips on how to save on vet costs.

Belgian Malinois at the vet (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Belgian Malinois at the vet (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Splurge On Quality Food To Reduce Health Issues

Andrea Woroch, Money-Saving expert and Founder of Andreaworoch.com

Here are a few unexpected ways to save on vet costs.

Splurge on quality food to reduce health issues and vet care costs. Quality food is a recipe for health in both humans and dogs, which is why I recommend dog owners splurge on the good stuff.

Even the pricey food goes on sale once in a while, which is when my husband and I stock up.

Pet stores like Petco regularly run sales on various brands so just keep your eye out for those deals and stock up when the price drops. Don’t forget to sign up for loyalty programs these pet stores to earn points, coupons and money off future orders. The more you spend on food, the less you will spend at the vet!

Buy meds online: If your dog becomes ill or has an infection, your vet will likely recommend prescriptions. Unless it’s an emergency however, it’s best to refuse the prescription purchase from your vet’s office and shop around to find significant savings especially when you shop online. Plus, ask for generic options and look for coupons. For instance, CouponFollow.com offers a 25% off coupon code at PetCareRX.

Save on boarding costs: Your local vet likely offers pet boarding, but costs can be tremendous and they’re not always the most comfortable accommodations for your fur baby. This is why I recommend searching for affordable pet sitters near you through Rover.com to help you save on this added expense and who can also give your dog more personalized and comfortable care.

Pug is checked over by vet (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Pug is checked over by vet (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Veterinary Care Can Be Difficult To Afford

Sarah Reidenbach, Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine and CEO of Ruthless Kindness

Nobody wants to see their animals suffer, yet veterinary care can be difficult to afford. Costs have increased because veterinary care has become more advanced, with board certified specialists. Veterinarians are also dealing with their own financial challenges such as facility rental, lab prices, drug prices, student loans, corporate buyout of their practices, and modest salaries. None of this justifies exorbitant pricing, and I would say that most veterinary practices are not charging excessively.

However, some that I have been involved with are unethically charging, in my opinion. Here’s what pet owners can do to make sure they are not overpaying:

Shop around for the right veterinarian. Check reviews. Ask around. Go for a meet and greet with your pet. You should feel that the veterinarian puts your pet’s well-being first and foremost. You should feel that they are willing to listen to your concerns about your pet and your budget. Vets are extremely busy and usually don’t have more than 20 minutes per appointment, but you should still have a positive working relationship with your veterinarian. You will also need an emergency/after hours clinic, so read reviews and decide where you would go in an emergency as well. Make sure that their prices are fair.

Shop around if you are investing in a large procedure. If you trust your veterinarian, you can probably trust their recommendation and skip this step. However, sometimes the cost of a surgery or procedure can vary from practice to practice. Is it a procedure that necessitates a board certified specialist (much more expensive) or can a qualified general practitioner perform the procedure? Don’t compromise on your pet’s care, but look into your options to make sure you are only paying what you need to. Ask your veterinarian about the options, call other vet practices for a cost estimate, and call your local veterinary university hospital if you have one for a price estimate as well.

Pet insurance is a very smart investment for people who want help covering veterinary costs, especially sudden large costs. Here are two unbiased websites that can help navigate pet insurance: www.petinsurancereview.com. There is also a more affordable program called Eusoh: www.eusoh.com. I personally got a high deductible pet insurance plan so I pay less per month, and only use insurance for expensive procedures. There are many different plans for different needs.

Look for nonprofit or other low-cost options. There are low cost vaccine clinics and low cost spay neuter programs in many communities. I’ve worked in both of these, and they provide great, essential services. Spay neuter clinic surgeons are typically extremely skilled and can have your animal in and out of surgery quickly and with minimal trauma. If you can afford to get these services from your veterinarian, it’s recommended so that your pet has continuity of care, and your vet gets to lay eyes on your pet. However, if affording it is a challenge, these are great options. You may also have a low-cost clinic nearby that provides additional services.

See if you can get your prescriptions filled at Costco.

If your pet is dealing with an expensive condition, check with your local veterinary university to see if there are any studies for which your pet may qualify. My dog had bone cancer and qualified for a chemotherapy study which covered a lot of her treatment costs.

Follow access to care developments. The profession is aware that access to veterinary care is an issue, and we’re working on it. Contact your local humane society or SPCA to see if any low cost programs exist in your community. Check if AlignCare is coming to your community. AlignCare is out of University of Tennessee and is a program working on pet equity.

Most importantly, talk to your vet before they perform procedures and care. Let them know what your financial concerns are. Ask if there is anything optional that doesn’t need to be included. Most veterinarians are taught to use the gold standard, which means to provide the absolute best care for your pet. But sometimes the gold standard isn’t necessary. In many scenarios, veterinarians can work with you to provide incremental care, which means only the care that is necessary. But remember that vets aren’t there to gouge you, they are there to care for animals, so if they say something is essential, it probably is.

Labrador puppy at clinic (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Labrador puppy at clinic (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Make Sure To Have An Emergency Fund

Eduardo Litonjua, Founder of Passive Income Tree

There are a few ways to save on vet costs, including:

• Issuing pet insurance – You never know what could happen. Yes, your pet might be small when you got it, but older animals require greater care. Insurance is a good idea as prevention since you might not be able to cover their sudden illnesses later on. What’s more, you can even get a discount for multiple pets which can prove to be an excellent money-saving tactic.

• Make a fund – Some people save for kid’s college costs; some make funds for their pets. Plenty of things can happen with your pet that could potentially set you back. Make sure to have an emergency fund for these times by saving some money every month.

Golden Retriever at the vet (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Golden Retriever at the vet (Photo: Adobe Stock)

An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure

Angel Flores, Doctor of Veternarian Medicine and Contributor to Pets.University

Keeping your pets healthy is a priority because you want them to live as long as possible. However, pet care costs can be expensive, and if you are dealing with additional expenses such as prescriptions for chronic conditions, it can become a burden to your budget.

Fortunately, there are several things pet owners can do to proactively keep pets healthy and save money on pet care costs. One of such is investing in preventative pet health care.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is just as applicable to pets as it is to their human caregivers.

One of the most important things a pet parent can do to ensure the ongoing health of any animal is to bring them in for regular checkups, as directed by your vet, whether they are experiencing health issues or not.

It is during such wellness checkups that veterinarians can screen for a variety of health conditions. They provide insight on diseases, age-related concerns, dental health, nutritional considerations and so much more. Plus, you’re able to provide your pet with important vaccinations. Regular checkups help vets identify problems sooner rather than later, and this could translate to more affordable health care costs to pet parents in the long run.

Samoyed at the vet (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Samoyed at the vet (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Learn How To Do Regular Hygiene

Dr Rebecca Krull, Doctor of Veternarian Medicine

Have regular annual or bi-annual veterinary appointments as recommended by the AVMA. Pets age quickly, much faster than humans do, and thus in a short period of time health status can change. Having regular exams make it easier to catch something and manage it before it becomes problematic and thus more expensive.

Do the recommended annual dental prophylaxis. Dental disease is a leading cause for high costs in veterinary care. When issues are ignored they just compound and then make what was once a simple, affordable procedure, much more complicated and thus more expensive.

Pets cost money. Prepare for it. Get pet insurance or open up a savings account that is only used for pet health. Consider using other help in payment such as Care Credit. Be prepared for emergencies.

Heed your veterinarians advice on preventative care. It is much easier and thus much less expensive to handle prevention than treating disease.

Learn how to do regular hygiene like cleaning ears, nail trims and simple grooming.

Feed high quality foods and follow nutrition advice from your veterinarian.

Spay and neuter your pet to avoid other health issues later in life.

Dog owner hugs her Golden Retriever puppy (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Dog owner hugs her Golden Retriever puppy (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Don’t Neglect Preventive Care

Dr. Jennifer Coates, Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine and Advisor to Pet Life Today

As a responsible pet parent, you can’t avoid all veterinary costs (you shouldn’t even try!). However, avoiding unnecessary veterinary costs is often good for your pet and for your bottom line.

Don’t neglect preventive care! While it might be tempting to cut back on parasite preventatives, vaccinations, or dental care, the costs associated with treating the health problems that can result will almost always be much higher than what you save, to say nothing of the avoidable suffering that your pet experiences.

Talk to your veterinarian. Depending on your pet’s lifestyle, some vaccines or other forms of preventive care may not be necessary or can be given less frequently.

If your pet gets sick or injured, be honest if finances are tight and ask your veterinarian for several alternatives for care. It’s possible that a less expensive option may be available that doesn’t substantially worsen your pet’s prognosis.

Keep your cat indoors. Cats with unsupervised access to the outdoors are at much higher risk of infectious disease and traumatic injury than are those that remain inside.

Spay and neuter your pets to avoid expensive unplanned pregnancies and the diseases that occur with increased frequency in intact pets.

Adopt an adult to avoid paying for veterinary expenses that typically only pertain to the young, like spay/neuter surgeries and puppy and kitten vaccination series.

To ensure that you can always provide your pets with the veterinary care they need, either routinely set aside money in a special pet care savings account or purchase a pet health insurance policy from a reputable company.