6 Tips to Save on Pet Medical Expenses

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Pets are like members of the family. But unlike other family members, they probably don't have health insurance. Here are some ways you can protect your furry friends from the high cost of health care.

People love their pets like family – dogs are man’s best friend, and well, pretty much anything cute and furry is a woman’s BFF. So it’s not surprising to hear a survey report that 91 percent of pet owners in the U.S. and Europe would give up their vacations to pay for a pet’s surgery.

That’s from Grey Healthcare Group. But this, from The New York Times, is surprising: Only about 3 percent of Americans have pet insurance. As we reported just last week, that can mean more than $1,500 in out-of-pocket expenses on things like torn ligaments and medical care resulting from eating what they shouldn’t.

Pet care is a growing industry – there are the traditional offerings, like vet visits and grooming. And then there are things like pet bakeries and pet resorts. It’s getting a little crazy, and doggone expensive. But pet health is more important than pet luxury. Check out the video below where Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson explains policies for pets, and read on for more ways to save on pet expenses.

Dr. Anvita Bawa, the vet featured in the video above, also says insurance is a good idea for high-maintenance animals. “Especially bulldogs, rottweilers, and Dobermans,” says Bawa. Policies can be as cheap as $15 a month, although there are still deductibles and co-pays.

But as Stacy mentioned, many pet policies won’t cover preventative care, older animals, or breed-specific genetic conditions – read the fine print and find out if your critters will get coverage worth the price. Here are some other ways to save, insured or not:

  1. Check out the local animal shelter. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has local listings for animal shelters. These places may offer discounted services and cheaper (sometimes even free) vaccinations. Plus, they work for animals, not for profit – so they may be a good source for recommendations and referrals as well. 
  2. Comparison shop. Just like doctors who treat two-legged patients, vets don’t all charge the same rates. Visit HealthyPet.com for local listings of vets accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association. Then call them up and get some quotes. 
  3. Find cheaper prescriptions. Compare the prices your vet charges with online and local stores, including warehouse stores. Ask your friends and animal shelter workers what they use. There are plenty of places to find pet medications online: Just do a search for “Pet Medications.” 
  4. Pet sitters. Sometimes you need someone to watch your animals while you’re out of town. Last year, we wrote about sitter scam artists who robbed houses: The same story explains how to find a trustworthy pet sitter. If your family and friends can’t do it, try PetSitters.org or Pet Sitters International, where you should be able to find a good local sitter for $15-$35 a day.
  5. Take good care of your pets. This sounds straightforward, but it’s easy to miss if you have a busy lifestyle. Make sure your pets are getting a proper diet – some animals have very specific needs. (This doesn’t mean generic pet food is bad, as long as it has the right ingredients.) Make sure they get enough exercise, and that you follow all your vet’s recommendations. Don’t skimp on preventative care like vaccines. Spend enough time and money to save yourself heartache and debt later.
  6. Prioritize your pet budget. Many people treat their pets like kids, and it’s natural to want to spoil them. If you have the money, that’s OK. But remember that health is more important than luxury, and animals don’t need a lot of expensive toys or high-priced food.  Unlike kids, they have no sense of how much money you spent. Your time and affection are worth more than what’s in your wallet.

There’s no alternative to professional care for your pet, but if you really can’t afford it, check out our story The Vet or the Net? How to Save On Your Pet’s Health.

Stacy Johnson

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