Cutting Pet Care Costs
Lower the vet bill without risking your pet's health.
American pet owners spent an estimated $12.2 billion on veterinary bills in 2009, according to the American Pet Products Association. Nevertheless, some veterinarians have seen a severe downturn in income from non-medical procedures and services, such as boarding. To cut expenses, many are cutting their employees' hours. But, unfortunately, they're not cutting their fees.
"Veterinarians are definitely seeing the impact of the recession on their business," remarks Karen E. Felsted, Chief Executive Officer of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues.
"The average practice is not seeing the growth it has in the past, and some practices have seen dramatic declines in their revenue," Felsted said. "Pet owners are simply bringing their pets to the veterinarian less frequently."
Although some practices have lowered fees, Felsted pointed out, this trend is the exception and not the rule. As a result, many pet owners are put in the position of having to be selective about what care to cut, and what to keep.
Cutting down a pet's health expenses without compromising the pet's health is possible, veterinarians say. Pet owners can forgo some procedures and even discard inoculations from their pet's protocol without risking their animal's lives.
But the process of choosing which ones to keep, and which ones to drop, depends a lot on the pet's habits. Here are some factors to consider in seeking more affordable care options.
Cost cutting can begin with evaluating your pet's annual inoculations. Not all inoculations need to be administered yearly, as many vaccines stay in the bloodstream longer than was previously thought.
"People who have been getting vaccines for their pets every year, probably could slide on some of them," says Dr. Bernadine Cruz, a veterinarian at the Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Hills, CA.
If there is any doubt how much of last year's inoculation is still potent in the pet's bloodstream, the vet can conduct what's called a titer. Talk to your vet about whether the fee for a specific titer is less than the potential savings from skipping the inoculation.
In evaluating which vaccines to drop and which to keep, a pet's location and lifestyle are also important factors to consider.
"An out-and-about pet needs more vaccines more than a couch-potato kitty or dog who takes it easy," Dr. Cruz said. An indoor cat may simply not require a leukemia vaccine booster. A pooch romping through a deer-tick ridden field in Connecticut needs a vaccine for Lyme disease; but a city dog strolling a Southern California sidewalk may not.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners issues protocols of what vaccines are needed at each life stage. Though the AAFP "highly recommends" the FeLV vaccination for all kittens, booster inoculation is recommended only in cats considered to be at risk of exposure.
But there are some procedures pet owners just can't stint on.
"Hard times are not an excuse to skip your pet's annual shots," said Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, ASPCA's Executive Vice President, National Programs and Science Advisor, "but it does make sense to talk to your vet about personalizing your pet's vaccine protocol. Some vaccines are optional, while others are essential in preventing serious diseases."
But skipping on the pet's annual exam altogether is not an option. "It's much more expensive -- and risky -- to treat illnesses than to protect against them," Zawistowski said.
Every individual pet has different health care needs, so be sure to talk your veterinarian about the best protocol that will work for your pet.
How do you handle the high costs of veterinary care? Tell us your ideas for saving money below!
2 years ago
I also order most of my three dog's supplies online. One of my dogs takes six prescription meds plus a few supplements. Needless to say it's quite expensive (particularly so since I'm currently unemployed).
I save money by entering the med or supplement name in a search engine (google or others) to find who's offering the current lowest price- prices can vary widely and often change so it pays to search each time you purchase. When doing so make sure to consider whether the retail site charges shipping and sales tax.
I then use a search engine to check whether the retail site has any coupon codes, google for example: "petcarerx.com coupon" and it will show coupon sites that may list current discount codes. Sometimes I just go to retailmenot.com and enter the retailer's domain if in a rush because it tends to be updated more frequently than many coupon sites.
One other suggestion is to sign up on Ebates.com because many retail sites have an agreement with them to offer customers varying percentages of "cash back" (example: entirelypets.com gives 4% back, petcarerx.com is currently 12% cash back)- it adds up! But you must first go to ebates and enter the retailer's site from there to get the cash back applied to your purchase.
Shop around for veterinarians as their prices for services vary, and call your local Humane Society or shelter and ask if they offer low cost care or can recommend where to go. If your pet needs care you can't afford ask your vet if you can work out payments or apply for Care Credit (I think it's called that) which is a credit line for pet care. Or inquire about (or google) any local groups or rescues that may offer emergency pet funds.
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