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 half-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

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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 spay/neuter programs that can help.

2. Try a vet school

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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