9 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Vet Care for Your Pet

Office visits for your four-legged friends can be expensive. But you don’t have to roll over. Here are some tips to take a bite out of vet bills.

One day I noticed my puppy was acting strangely. She walked a few steps, stumbled, fell over and slowly got back up, only to fall over again. I realized her tummy was extremely bloated.

I rushed her to the vet. The vet examined her for a few minutes and started to chuckle. Then my puppy let out a bellowing burp and the vet actually started to laugh.

When he asked me if I had left dog food out, I remembered the large bowl on the kitchen floor for my other dog. My puppy had 4 cups of food in her ½-cup stomach.

It wasn’t serious — although food bloat can be a very serious condition — but I wasn’t laughing when I got the bill for $100.

Between routine care and those little surprises, your pet’s medical bills can get expensive. Here are some ways to find less expensive — or even free — vet care.

1. Look for low-cost alternatives

Local animal welfare organizations, rescue groups and shelters often offer low-cost vaccinations, spaying and neutering, and other routine care.

To find animal shelters and pet rescue groups in your area, check out Petfinder.com‘s list. The ASPCA has a list of low-cost programs that can help.

2. Try a vet school

Veterinary schools are typically cheaper than vet clinics and animal hospitals. While procedures are performed by students, they are supervised by a vet.

Check out the American Veterinary Medical Association’s list of accredited veterinary colleges for a location near you.

3. Shop around

Vet prices can vary widely. For example, when I was looking for a new veterinarian in New Orleans, I called six different clinics. The base cost of a visit ranged from $35 to $75.

So, check around. Price often depends on the clinic’s location, its equipment costs and the student loan debt of the vet staff.

4. Ask your vet for help

If your pet needs an expensive medical treatment or you’re struggling to cover the cost of care, discuss the situation with your veterinarian. Many vets offer payment plans or discounts to their steady clients.

5. Find a charity

If your vet can’t help and you can’t afford an expensive and necessary medical procedure, you may be able to get help from a charity.

The Humane Society has a list of charities, some of which help with the cost of life-saving medical care for pets. Click on your state to see what’s available.

6. Look for cheaper prescriptions

If you’re buying prescription medication directly from your vet, you may be overpaying. Compare prices online at sites like:

Be careful when buying pet medications online, and deal only with reputable sites. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has some red flags that should make you suspicious about the quality of medications.

You may be able to get generic pet meds for $4 at stores like Target and Kroger. Finally, ask your vet if he or she will match the best price you find.

7. Keep an eye out for specials

Just like human-centered businesses, vets offer specials. My vet has offered a 20 percent discount for new patients and $25 off dental cleanings.

Be sure to check out veterinary websites and social media accounts for deals.

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  • I.Popoff

    Yes, but how many pets are veterans?

  • Lorilu

    Find a good veterinarian, and take your pet for regular care. That way, your animal will be up to date on all its necessary immunizations, and you’ll have a relationship with a vet. They’re a lot more likely to extend themselves if you’re a regular client.

  • Michael Smiley Gawthrop

    Not necessarily cheaper, but if you find a vet or chain (such as Banfield, Banfield has an amazing program), with a for lack of better terms, subscription based service, it can even out the expenses and make them easier to budget for. When I lived closer to a Banfield facility, I loved their wellness plans, for about $20 a month, it included all preventative care, vaccines, office visits, and decent discounts on prescriptions. I probably could have ended up spending less by just shopping around and paying preventative care out of pocket, but there is something to be said about the value of convenience and peace of mind knowing that once it is set up, everything is taken care of. Also, at least Banfield was very proactive in making sure you kept up on preventative care, they would not let you forget that your pet had a vaccine that needed to be done or that it had been a while since the last check up.

  • Nonni

    Another thing you can do that you vet probably won’t tell you-you can have your pet titered. According to Dr. Shawn, a holistic veternarian from Texas, immunizations can last for more than a year- even several years. It is worth a little research about titer tests. A titer, a very inexpensive blood test, can be done prior to giving the usual immunizations to see if the levels of immunity are still high. A friend of mine pays only $25 for a titer. Most pets who get them don’t need additional immunizations at their annual visit. However, levels will vary from pet to pet. Dr. Shawn says whether you give immunizations or have your pet titered both are not foolproof. Also, over immunization may even be harmful to your pet. Immunizations are being studied for their connection to a variety of diseases. So if your pet has been having immunizations for a few years, look into it. If your vet charges a lot for the titer he may be trying to discourage you from doing the test. I would call around to see if you can get a lower price. Immunizations are a money maker for your vet. Find a holistic vet if you need to.

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