The American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) National Pet Owner’s Survey reported that 65 percent of today’s American households own a pet, and that’s great news. After all, animals are often a source of comfort and support in a person’s life. They are more than just possessions, they’re family members. Thus, pet parents (me included!) go crazy for their beloved fur babies and seek high-quality goods and care to ensure a happy and healthy life, no matter the price.
Unfortunately, pet-care costs are growing and can become a big financial burden on owners who don’t plan ahead or budget carefully. In fact, last year, American pet lovers spent over $28 billion on vet care and medical supplies alone, as reported by the APPA. That startling figure doesn’t even cover basic pet costs like food and toys. So what’s a budget-strapped pet owner to do when his or her four-legged friend needs care?
As the proud and overly-obsessed mom of a goofy, snuggly Goldendoodle, I know that no amount of money would stop me from giving my “best friend” the best care available. At the same time, I’ve learned that there are options when it comes to check ups and specialty treatments. From annual exams to vaccinations and other health expenses, find out how to save without sacrificing your dog or cat’s health and safety with these seven tips.
Look for affordable clinics
When you pet needs a basic check-up, vaccination or emergency care, there are options. Call a local animal shelter or nearby Veterinarian school to inquire about any available low-cost clinics. Some may offer free services to pet owners in need, or sliding scale prices. Search for a nearby accredited veterinary school at the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website. Otherwise, pop by Petco’s popular and cheap Vetco clinic, which provides 70 percent savings on vaccinations and microchip implantation and more. Since operating hours are limited and they don’t take appointments, you should expect a wait. However, the small inconvenience of standing in line is often worth the savings. Check out their price list here.
Research low-cost spay and neuter programs
The average fee to neuter a cat ranges from $50 to $100 while the same procedure for a dog costs as much as $300. Meanwhile, fees for spaying are even higher, ranging anywhere from $100 to $200. On top of these costs, you may be looking at additional fees like pre-anesthesia blood work and pain medication. Before you head to a local veterinary office, look for free or low-cost programs in your community. You can find a comprehensive database of affordable options in your area by using this locator tool on the ASPCA website. Also, mark your calendar for the annual World Spay Day held every February as many organizations host free spay and neuter programs in an effort to raise awareness about the lifesaving power of this procedure.
Seek prescriptions from other outlets
You’re often paying a premium for filling prescriptions at your vet with markups on drugs exceeding 100 percent in some cases, as reported by Consumer Reports. Ask for a written prescription and purchase the medication from stores like Costco, Target or online at 1800PetMeds.com. If the price for the animal-only medication is outrageous, inquire about a less expensive human-drug alternative. Ultimately, comparing prices among local drugstores and online pharmacies will help you uncover cheaper options. When ordering online, verify that the site belongs to Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (Vet-VIPPS) run by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. This ensures the online pharmacy is properly licensed and complies with federal and state regulations.
Read more: $4 generic meds for pets
Decide if insurance is right for you
There is a big debate between consumer advocates and insurance companies when it comes to covering a pet. While most people won’t get back what they pay in premiums, those who do are happy with the investment. Since you can’t predict when an emergency or serious illness will strike, it all depends on what type of risk you’re willing to take. Insurance ensures the best medical care for your pet no matter your current financial position. If you’re thinking about insuring your pet, compare rates and plans in your area at PetInsuranceQuotes.com which lists coverage details, customer reviews and expert ratings.
Read more: Is pet insurance worth the price?
Set up a pet-emergency fund
As an alternative to a pet insurance plan, setting aside money in an emergency fund is crucial for those unexpected care expenses. Not to mention, this fund will come in handy if there’s ever a change in your current financial situation to ensure you can continue caring for your dog or cat to the best of your ability and avoid desperate situations in which you may charge thousands of dollars on a high-interest credit card or worse, leave your pet to suffer. Aim to put away enough cash to cover at least one year of medical expenses—around $600 for cats and $800 for dogs— and then keep growing that fund with extra cushion for potential issues in the future.
Seek financial assistance
If you can’t come up with the money to cover a necessary surgery and life-saving treatment for your pet, inquire about financial assistance. Several nonprofit organizations have been established to support pet owners with limited incomes. For example, the Brown Dog Foundation is a public charity that provides funding to families who can’t afford veterinary care. Get more information online at the Humane Society’s website for a list of other national organizations that provide financial support to pet owners in need.