Vet bills are shocking. If you are a pet owner, you know that going to the vet can be expensive.
It is important to look over the itemized receipt before handing them your card. Not only because you need to know what you are paying for, but to also watch out for a few accidental or unnecessary charges.
As someone who used to work in a vet’s office for years and a long time pet owner, here are some things to watch for on your next vet bill so you can save money.
Vet Bills – How to handle the Office Visit
Most veterinary practices will charge a base fee for seeing the vet that averages between $50 and $75 for the appointment. If you are scheduling an exam, this is reasonable.
However, if you dog simply needs a blood draw or a quick vaccine see if they can just take them in the back as a Tech Appointment. Some veterinary clinics will charge only a “Vaccine Exam” which is less. If your pet does not actually need to see the doctor, ask when you call to make the appointment if this is an option.
Cone of Shame and Other Items
Often when your pet has surgery they will send him or her home with a plastic e-collar and even bandage materials. These items are guaranteed to be on your bill. If you have a e-collar at home or bandage supplies kindly ask to have them to be removed from your bill before leaving the office.
As a side note often farm stores will sell animal bandage items and even e-collars for a cheaper price. We had to buy a special e-collar for our Sphynx that had padding since he does not have hair and it saved us money on our vet bill.
Vet Bills and Food
Occasionally vets will want to change your pets food to a brand that is sold in house. While this is medically necessary in some cases, generally for a healthy pet you do not need to buy pet food in-house.
The food at the vets office is expensive and even if you want to feed it to your pet, you can find a better deal online most of the time.
Ask your vet for food recommendations if needed, and then go out and do some shopping-online or in a store before buying at the Vet. Companies like Chewy will even deliver the food regularly to your door.
Hospitalization or Boarding Fees
Keeping your pet overnight at a veterinary or emergency veterinary clinic is one of the more costly items on the bill. If you can avoid dropping off for the night, do so. If you ask, many vets will agree to let you bring your pet home overnight and back the next day for a re-check.
Watch out for any kind of boarding fees. If you drop your pet off for the day they have every right to change a boarding fee. However, if you drop off for a few hours you should not be required to pay a boarding fee.
Vet Bills – Vaccinations
If you have a good vet, they will not be insisting on vaccines every single year. Protocols always change and some vaccinations do need to be given yearly– like Bordatella. However, if your vet suggests Rabies or DHPP vaccine every year it is overkill.
Do your own research. Decide if your indoor cat who never sees the outside needs to have all the vaccines every year. Often times, indoor cat owner will do every other year or every three years to boost immunity.
Research what diseases are prevalent in your region. Lyme disease vaccine is not needed in some areas and can be avoided. Talk to your vet openly about this, and stay on the same page.
Bottom line – vaccinate your pets (especially the babies); but do your research before giving them the same vaccines yearly. Often they only need a booster every 2 to 3 years.
Pet prescriptions can be costly. Especially if your pet is on a regular medication, the vet bills can add up.
Ask your vet if your pets medication are fillable outside of the vet. Many pet medications are the same as human medications and can be called into Costco or your local pharmacy at a much cheaper price.
Like I said, never give your pet medication not recommended by the vet. Ask them if they will call it in or if there is a more affordable option.
In addition to this, check you pet pharmacy at home before taking in new medication. When our dog Henry went in for his surgery a few weeks later, I was able to use the same medication we had at home.
Check what you have at home. Bring it in to the vet for a new script to be written and save money on your vet bills.
Ask for Cost Estimates
When your pet is in need of dental work or surgery be sure to ask for an itemized cost estimate. Not over the phone, but have the vet pull one up on the computer. Having a print out that lists the cost in detail will be more accurate than a ball park the vet bills may initially give you. This way you can plan for the procedure and know the high and low end for cost.
Above All, Be Preventative
Vaccines are a preventative care. So is feeding your animals a healthy food. Do not pick the cheapest bag the the grocery store. Make sure it is good quality.
Give your animals love, attention, daily exercise, and grooming. We had many animals come in with terrible skin conditions or sores simply because the owners did not groom them well enough. All of this is preventative care will make your vet visits less frequent, saving you money on your vet bills.
Be Frank about your Finances
Do not be afraid to ask how much the blood test is. It does not make you a bad pet owner because you want to tally up the cost. This is not saying ‘no’ to a life saving procedure, it is simply making sure you are also keeping track of the cost.
Talk to the vet openly about your finances. Vets are people too, and talking to them about your money situation is an important part of your vet visit. Discuss treatment options and cost. If there is not a cure, you may have multiple treatment options and cost should be figured into long term treatment plans.
If you have trouble paying vet bills, often vets offer plans for payment like Care Credit or monthly payment terms.