Outrageous Vet Bills
Pet Healthcare for Less
Can't Afford the Vet
I just got hit with vet bills for both my two cats this past month totaling close to $500! One had a urinary tract infection and the other an older cat an infected mouth. I have heard of using local vet schools but do they save, and does an actual vet or do the students work on the animal? It seems that I work so hard at my frugal lifestyle but this is one of the few areas that I don't have much control over.
A Word From the Pros
My husband is currently a veterinary student and until recently, when our first child was born, I was also a staff member at the college of veterinary medicine. At these hospitals, students do see patients only during their last year of education and are always accompanied by a professor of veterinary medicine, who is board-certified in various specialties. Unfortunately the prices at a veterinary teaching hospital will not be much better as this person has paid, and in some cases, may be much higher. At our veterinary teaching hospital, some fees and charges are increased as much as 400% over cost.
What this person should do is shop around for a veterinarian who charges fees within her budget. It is always appropriate to ask for a fee schedule up-front. Remember, the exclusively small- animal doctor with the big fancy building may charge more than the small-town mixed practice veterinarian, but they have the same education, training, and skills. And in my experience, veterinary medical doctors are more financially ethical than many human medical doctors. Be honest about your ability to pay. Many times the vet will work with you to cut corners, as long as the end result is a healthy animal. And be proactive about preventative care and nutrition. Any money, no matter how little, spent on your animal when it is not sick will save twice that much when or if it ever is.
Also, remember that these veterinarians have the same amount of schooling as your family doctor, costing the same amount of tuition, and you are paying for those years of intense training and education that are at work on your animal. But, in the end, you should be able to keep your little furry, feathered, or scaly friends happy and healthy without breaking your budget.
Possible Solution Is Pet Insurance
One way to curb the cost of large vet bills is to possibly think about investing in Pet Insurance. For as little as $15 - $20 in premiums per month you can get a large chunk of you vet bill back when you pet is sick or has to have a major procedure done. For a little extra a month you can also have routine care items covered such as heartworm preventatives, yearly exams, rabies shots and other routine items you have to pay out every year for anyway. In addition most pet insurance programs pay a good portion of the cost to have your pet spayed or neutered. You don't have to use any special approved vets. You file your own claims by submitting a copy of the invoice from your own vet and they pay directly to you. If you sign up when your pet is a puppy or you have multiple pets you can also usually get a lower premiums. The cost is higher if your pet is older and sometimes they won't cover some preexisting conditions.
I use Veterinary Pet Insurance - www.petinsurance.com/ but there are many others available.
Words of Experience
I had the same problem with two of my cats. They seemed to get frequent urinary tract infections and the bills were often sky-high. When my wife and I got two new kittens, we decided that they would have premium foods-Iams, Science Diet, etc. from the pet stores. They have never had a urinary tract infection and the one that is still living is 15 years old.
Now, we don't even buy the foods from the pet store. Our 70-year-old vet is very particular about what foods to choose for pets and now we only buy the prescription diet from the vet. Cieran (the cat) also takes vitamins and herbals supplements to control his enlarged liver and to strengthen his heart (heart murmur) and kidneys (due to aging).
It sounds like a lot and it does run into some money, but he is very healthy and happy, especially considering his age. My point is--sometimes you pay more in the end by trying to be "cheap" and buying less expensive food.
I had some friends who used to take their pets to a University vet clinic and they said the treatment was pretty good. They said it was great if you had to have some kind of specialized treatment for your pet as the school had all of the equipment and did progressive procedures that you might not get at your local vet.
Happy with Teaching Hospital
I live in a university town that has a vet teaching hospital connected to the university. Yes, the Vet clinic is excellent. You can figure on at least 50% off of the regular cost of a vet with about 200% of the care & service.
My boxer was getting neutered. I called a regular vet and the cost was $80 on an outpatient basis. He would be discharged 2 hours after the operation. My dog is very lively and loves to play with his ball. That short time concerned me, as I was afraid that he might injure himself before he healed.
I called the University Vet Clinic. Their treatment of this was a 3-day stay. First day was check-in & through exam. Second day was the actual operation & thorough monitoring. Third day was more monitoring & check out. My dog came home happy & healthy. No need to say how relieved I was. Total cost was $45.
You can also get all of your heartworm & flea & tick meds there at substantial savings. Even places like Petmed Express with free shipping couldn't match the price I pay for these at the clinic.
Yes, students do treat your pet, after all it is a teaching hospital, but it is under the strict supervision of the teaching vets. They are also given an exam by them after the student & will have a conference with you, the student & the pet to answer any questions that you may have.
I am on a budget also and would never compromise my pet's health to save a buck. Try the University Pet Clinic. I'm sure that you'll be quite satisfied.
Shop Around For Prices
I worked for a vet clinic for close to 2 years and I saw some unbelievable bills for sick animals. My suggestions may be common sense but sometimes it's hard to think about these things when your animal is sick. Make sure you know exactly what the vet is doing for your animal. Ask for an itemized statement if they don't give you one automatically. Check to see if any medications the vet wants to send for your animal are available at your local pharmacy. Compare prices on the medications. Sometimes the pharmacy will be cheaper. Make sure and tell the vet when you go in you only want done to the animal what has to be done. Sometimes they will want to do a stool check or something that is unnecessary at the time. These items can end up costing a fortune. Finally, unless you really like your current vet, check around for prices at other clinics. You would be surprised at the difference in cost.
A Good Source of Pet Supplies
I can't help with the vet bills but I've found a great source for pet products such as flea control, heartworm meds, etc.www.pets-megastore.com.au/.
They are Australian & I just fell upon them in a desperate search to save a little money. I was paying $39 for a 4-month supply of Advantage flea control. A 6-month supply from this site came to $22 and that included air postage! When you place your order it will reflect AU dollars. I was confused with that at first but the people are friendly and wrote back, "We are an Australian Company and by law your receipt must be in Australian Dollars. Think of your purchase in this way, you have just had a short shopping trip in the land down under Australia. Now you have made some purchases, your receipts will be in Australian Dollars but the charge back to your credit card provider is always in USA Dollars."
I ordered July 4th and they got here July 10th and with a free little toy mouse! The site usually advertises US cost in each product description but they also have a handy conversion scale too. If you must use these products (and we can't avoid it in FL) it is a great deal.
A Change in Diet
Try the cat food that is specifically for cat urinary health. My kitty started having UTIs when she was 5 years old. She even had blood in her urine, poor baby. I was told to get the Special Care from Purina for Urinary tract health. She has not had another one since! She turned 9 years old in March. About a year or so I go, I found that Wal-Mart was making a urinary health cat food. It is less than half of the price of the Purina, so I tried it. She loves it and it works just fine. It is called Special Kitty Adult Care and is in a wine colored bag.
Take the Next Step
- Will you buy your pet a toy when you save on your pet's medications at 1-800-PetMeds?
We're still paying off last Christmas and worry how we'll afford the holidays this year without charging it again! Tell us: Yes, we could use help getting out of the debt trap we're in! or No, debt is not a problem for us but I'm always looking for ways to trim my family's expenses further!
Money-Saving Tools for Families
Trending This Week
- 5 big bills you can cut fast
- 5 frugal ways to expand your living space
- 4 steps to a simpler (and more frugal) life
- Is the economy killing fatherhood?
- How much does the Tooth Fairy leave at your house?
- Teaching kids how to do basic home repairs
- Finding new childcare solutions
- This week's Readers' Tips