Top 10 Ways to save Money at Your Veterinarian's Office

The 10 Best Ways to Save Money at the Vets Office.“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”- Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin's wise words are as true today as when they first uttered two centuries ago. This axiom brings us to our first savings tip:

1. Don't skimp on regular vaccinations, especially for puppies and kittens.

Here's why: Puppies and kittens need vaccines every 3-4 weeks until they are at least 16 weeks old.  It protects them from potentially deadly diseases such as parvo, distemper, and panleukopenia.  A few hundred dollars spent on proper vaccinations could save you thousands of dollars on hospitalization for treatment of these deadly diseases, and there is no guarantee that your pet will survive.

Bonus tip: A quick word on “Feed store” or mail-order vaccines: Vaccines are delicate and need to be protected from light and kept at a constant cool temperature to be effective. Vaccines that has been improperly handled can't provide the protection your pet deserves.  So saving a few bucks on an ineffective vaccine is still throwing your money away. The information you receive at your well-puppy and well-kitten visit is invaluable to helping your pet get the proper start in life. You take your infant to the pediatrician, why wouldn't you take your puppy or kitten to their doctor?


2. Use your heartworm prevention year round.

Here's why: Mosquitos transmit heartworms. Once heartworms infect your dog, the heartworm larvae grow into adult heartworms, which look like strands of spaghetti inside the heart.  Over time, they can block the proper flow of blood through the heart and can lead to heart failure, organ failure, and death. Treatment for heartworms is outrageously expensive, but prevention is cheap.  The damage that heartworms bring to the heart, lungs, and other organs in the body is devastating.

In addition to preventing heartworms, preventatives such as Heartgard and Sentinel also prevent intestinal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, and in Sentinel's case, whipworms.  Intestinal parasites are common, and dogs get them all of the time.  Intestinal parasites can cause vomiting and diarrhea which can lead to hundreds of dollars spent treating your pet for vomiting and diarrhea.  Also, hookworms and roundworms are zoonotic, meaning that they are potentially transmittable to people.  Hookworms cause a terrible itchy rash in people and roundworms are the leading cause of blindness in children. Our pets sleep in our beds and lick our kids, so it makes sense to prevent intestinal parasites before they cause problems.


3) Use your flea and tick prevention year round as well.

Besides being gross, fleas and ticks transmit disease.  Mycoplasma Hemofelis (a blood parasite that infects cats and can cause high fevers and anemia), Lyme Disease, Ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are some of the diseases that they'll give your dog.  Infection with any of these diseases can cause your pet to become very ill and potentially lead to death.  Using year-round monthly flea and tick prevention is much smarter and cheaper than treating these diseases. Fleas also cause our pets to itch and scratch which can cause secondary bacterial and yeast skin infections. I see dogs and cats with fleas every month of the year, and their owners spend hundreds of dollars treating the fleas, the itching, and the secondary skin infections. Save yourself and your pet a vet visit and use monthly flea and tick prevention.


4) Your Vet may offer additional savings.

No one said flea and tick prevention would be inexpensive. And by all means, if you are going to use something every month of your pet’s life, you want to find the most cost-effective option. Preventatives such as Frontline and Advantage are safe, effective, and can be found easily with a quick Google search on dozens of websites.

That being said, don’t discount the vet office as one of the most cost-effective places to purchase them. Very often the manufacturer will offer deals available only through your veterinarian.

For instance, suppose you find Frontline on the internet for $80 for six month's supply. (That’s $13.30 per month). Your veterinarian may sell the same size package of Frontline for $88.  HOWEVER they also have a promotion of buy six months, get two months free from the manufacturer.  That translates into $11 per month, which saves almost $40 per year.  Do your internet pricing homework, but don’t forget to call your veterinarian to see what promotions they have available.


5) If you are going to spend money on flea and tick prevention, stick with brands that are safe and effective such as Frontline and Advantage. Avoid Hartz, Zodiac, and other “grocery store” brands. They are packaged to look like Frontline and Advantage, but their active ingredient is very different. They are the old pyrethrin and pyrethroid flea sprays that didn’t work well and were toxic 30-40 years ago.  Cats are especially sensitive to pyrethrins and pyrethroids. Even ones that say they are safe for cats are not safe for ALL cats. The pyrethrins can “short circuit” a cat’s neurological system, leading to tremors, seizures, and death. Why waste your money on something that doesn’t work and has the potential to make your pet ill, necessitating a visit to the vet office?


My first 5 points all spoke about PREVENTION. Preventing your pet from becoming ill will save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars throughout your pet’s lifetime, not to mention keeping your pet healthy and happy for longer. My next five tips will be about how to actually SAVE money should your pet become ill and need to visit the veterinarian. So here it is, tip number 6-

6) If your pet is sick for a day maybe even two, do not wait 4-5 days to take your pet to the veterinarian.

Trying to save a gravely ill patient will require a longer hospital stay and cost more than treating only a mildly ill patient that could potentially be treated as an outpatient. For instance, your dog Fido has a little bit of vomiting and diarrhea, taking him to the vet office early on may end up with subcutaneous fluids, some injectable medications for the vomiting and diarrhea and oral medications to go home with- a cost of about $300.  Conversely, if Fido goes 4-5 days with vomiting, diarrhea, and not eating, he can get very dehydrated, requiring IV fluids and hospitalization which could cost upwards of $600-800, maybe more depending on the seriousness of his condition.


7) Most human medications and pet medications are the same medication and many medications that your veterinarian may prescribe can be found at a human pharmacy.

Walmart has a list of low-cost ($4-8) drugs- many different kinds of antibiotics, anxiety medications, eye medications, heart medications. And steroids are on this list- that can be prescribed for pets with the same savings. Likewise, some grocery store pharmacies, such as Martin’s and Publix, have free antibiotics. Familiarize yourself with the medications on these low cost or free lists. Your veterinarian is the authority on which medications are most appropriate for your pet’s condition, but asking for a written prescription can save you money.


8) Keep your pet slim and prevent pet obesity. Doing this can save you money in so many ways!

Barring certain endocrine diseases such as hypothyroidism in dogs, if your pet is fat then it is all your fault! Your pet’s weight is entirely under your control. You feed your pet. Overfeeding your pet wastes money- dog food is expensive- so don’t overfeed. Ask your veterinarian how much your pet should eat. The AVERAGE PER DAY is 1 cup (an 8 oz measuring cup) per 20# of how much your pet SHOULD weigh (Differences occur in individual metabolism, activity level, and caloric density of the diet fed) One tip I tell clients is to measure out how much food you want your pet to eat, pour that amount into a baggie and take that baggie to the nearest pet store. Pour the food into different bowls until you find one that only holds that amount of food and no more. After that, just fill the bowl once a day. This way my husband or children can feed the dogs, and they are never overfed. In addition to saving money on dog food, by keeping your pet lean, you will save money on medications. Most medications, heartworm prevention, and flea/tick control are dosed based on weight. A heavier pet requires higher doses of medications from antibiotics to NSAIDS to heartworm and flea/ tick preventatives, and the less a pet weighs, the cheaper the medications will be.  Lean pets have fewer breathing problems, especially your brachycephalic breeds such as pugs, French bulldogs, English bulldogs, and Boston terriers. Slim pets have fewer problems with arthritis.  Thin pets also have fewer back problems, and lean cats are less likely to have diabetes.  A pet in its proper body weight range may be in a lower weight category for HWP and FT control.  That alone can save a ton of money.  Lean pets live longer with a better quality of life and are less likely to overheat or have heatstroke during the summer.


9) If your veterinarian recommends a special diet to keep your pet healthy and prevent disease, you should feed it that diet!

Prescription diets may be expensive, but the diseases they prevent (there’s that word again) are much more expensive to treat. For instance, if your cat has FLUTD/ FIC and your veterinarian has recommended he eat a special diet to prevent serious conditions such as urinary obstruction, you should feed it. Spending the extra money to prevent recurrence of FIC or urethral blockage is cheap compared to the upwards of $800 to treat a blocked cat.

I cannot tell you how many blocked cats I have treated whose owners got tired of feeding the special diet. After years of feeding the diet with no urinary issues, they switch to the cheaper grocery store brand and within months they are in my office (or more likely at the emergency clinic in the middle of the night) with a blocked cat. The same scenario holds true for prevention of bladder stones- your pet should not need multiple cystotomies in its lifetime. Making your pet go through multiple surgeries because you decided not to feed the recommended diet isn’t fair to your pet.


10)  While I do not subscribe to natural remedies, there are a few that do work. Among those that do is glucosamine chondroitin supplements for joint support. Whether due to injury, poor joint conformation or normal wear and tear, our pets develop arthritis as they age. That is not to say that every lameness is due to arthritis. There are a myriad of causes of lameness in our pets- from cervical disease to Lyme disease, to tears of the ACL ligament which are best managed surgically. If your pet is limping, then your pet is in pain, and you should take him to your veterinarian for an exam to find out why and implement the recommended treatment. That being said, if your pet is diagnosed with arthritis, try starting them on a joint support formula with glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and omega fatty acids. These are all good things for joints. The key is to buy your product from a reputable company, give the supplement daily, and wait at least 1-2 months before deciding if it works. Starting your pet on a joint support formula for arthritis earlier vs. later may keep you from having to spend several hundred dollars on expensive NSAIDs such as carprofen or deracoxib.  Also, don't forget the bloodwork needed to monitor kidney and liver values while on these medications.



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