10 Ways to Save at the Vet’s Office

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The following post comes from Len Penzo at partner site LenPenzo.com.

A while back, we took my Rhodesian ridgeback to the veterinarian for what I call a pet “lube, oil, and filter.” To put it another way, we had Major placed under a general anesthetic so the vet could clean his teeth and work on repairing a couple of malfunctioning anal glands. I know.

Then, adding insult to injury, Major got neutered too.

Poor pup.

Ironically, when I got the final vet bill, I felt like it was me who had been given the full lube, oil, and filter treatment – the cost of the medication and services came to $653.

Yikes!

Yes, Major’s breath is once again fresh and clean and he’s also stopped licking unmentionable places. Still, even though Major is the best dog ever, $653 is a lot of money!

I shouldn’t really be so amazed – $13 billion was spent on vet care in 2010 alone.

In case you’re wondering, the American Pet Products Association notes that vet fees for dogs and cats are essentially the same. According to their most recent survey, dog owners spent on average $248 annually on routine vet visits, as opposed to only $219 for cat owners. Surgical procedures, however, cost slightly less for dogs – $407 versus $425 for cats.

Whether you own a dog or a cat, here are a few tips to help you keep the cost of their medical services manageable…

1. Spay or neuter your pet

Pet experts say that “fixing” your pet helps prevent breast, uterine, and testicular cancer and the corresponding future vet bills that would come with it.

2. Maintain good dental hygiene

Major’s breeder recommended regular vet dental cleanings every four years. That’s because, like humans, teeth full of tartar can lead to gum disease, which, believe it or not, can adversely affect your pet’s health in other ways. My vet normally charges a little more than $150 as a standalone procedure, before discounts. To me, the price was well worth it; immediately after the procedure, Major’s breath was odor-free and his teeth were sparkling white.

3. Take advantage of vet specials

Yep. Veterinarians run specials. Our vet was giving a 25 percent discount to anybody who booked a dental cleaning during the month of February. Many vet hospitals also offer package deals for very young and very old animals.

4. Pamper those paws!

It’s no secret that dogs and cats like to lick their paws. Experts recommend washing your pet’s paws after walks to prevent ingestion of potential carcinogens that they might pick up.

5. Shop around

Believe it or not, my experience has found that vet charges for identical services can vary by as much as 300 percent.

6. Give your pets plenty of exercise

Like us humans, pets that get regular exercise are naturally leaner, which helps them avoid orthopedic problems and other obesity-related disorders.

7. Control food intake

Pets that are allowed to graze all day long are fatter, on average, than pets that aren’t. So don’t leave their food out all day long.

8. Use low-cost clinics

You can save money by spaying, neutering, and vaccinating your pets at veterinary schools.

9. Use the Internet

You can also save money by ordering medications online rather than buying them at a veterinarian office. There are many low-cost sites including DiscountPetMedicines.com and 1-800-PetMeds.

10. Take advantage of free samples

It never hurts to ask your vet if she has any free samples of prescribed medicines.

Ask about alternatives. If your veterinarian suggests an expensive treatment, don’t be afraid to ask about less costly methods that could also be effective.

By the way, unless you want to insure against catastrophic conditions that would require expensive care, pet insurance is not a financially sound option. In fact, Consumer Reports recommends that because of substantial deductibles and exclusions in pet policies, pet owners might be better off putting what they pay in monthly premiums into a savings account.

And why not? By simply following these tips you’ll not only keep your pet healthier longer, you’ll also minimize their annual vet costs.

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