Pet Healthcare for Less

by Linda Shapero

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Americans are crazy for their pets. We spend billions on them, and they are treated like a cherished member of the family. When Fido gets sick, we rush him to the vet, just as we would take one of our kids to the pediatrician. With an average pet check-up running around $135, not to mention the cost of more complicated procedures such as surgeries, you can see why Americans spend a staggering $20 billion a year on pet healthcare. (Statistics from NPR Stories, July, 2008.)

Wouldn't it be great if we could somehow lower our pets' medical costs? As much as we love them, it's sometimes quite a stretch to have to pay a large bill that comes as a complete surprise.

I know when I was presented with a bill of $800 for vet clinic care for my cat a few years ago, I was stunned and knew I had to do some research to find a less expensive way to deal with my pet's chronic health problems.

I found the answer by doing research online at several websites that gave information about a large variety of pet illnesses and conditions, as well as the usual websites that sell all kinds of pet supplies, foods and medications.

Did you know that there are websites where you can get advice from pet health professionals (i.e. You choose the professional with whom you wish to speak, and they will advise you if the animal has something that you can handle at home or if it is a situation where it must be seen by a vet.

"Vetinfo" also offers advice but at no charge, with the warning not to use the site to attempt to treat or diagnose your pet. They recommend the site be used only as a source of information about a pet's condition and to seek out veterinary advice from your own vet when necessary. There are many other websites like these. You may want to check them out for future reference, just in case.

Another interesting website,, has a section on veterinary medicine with a subsection about health insurance and wellness plans for animals. There are interviews with numerous veterinary health insurance carriers, asking all of them the same questions, so you can go onto the site to read and compare the different plans that are available. With the ever-increasing cost of pet healthcare, this is a topic you may want to investigate, too.

My motivation in going online originally, though, was to see how I could avoid further large vet bills for supplies after my cat was diagnosed with chronic renal failure, a fairly common ailment in cats. After doing my homework, I found that one bag of Lactated Ringers solution (needed fluid for the cat to be injected with every day) cost me $4.25 compared to the $12.50 I paid to the vet. There were also medications, an IV setup, and syringes I saved a bundle on. Not everyone would want to do this procedure at home, and that is understandable. However, this is just an example of how much money you can save by not purchasing pet meds and other supplies through your vet.

Two very good websites for ordering meds and supplies are and 1-800-PetMeds. They will even get in touch with your vet to obtain the prescription, and the orders are delivered quickly. In addition, there are sometimes sales and reduced shipping costs, which will save you even more money.

Oh, one more thing. The last time I took my cat to have her nails trimmed, it cost me $10. Now that I've seen nail clippers online ranging from $2.99 to $6.99, I will be purchasing a pair and not only saving on the cost of getting her nails trimmed but also saving her the trauma of going in for a visit, which she hates.

There are so many items to purchase, medical and non-medical, on these websites that you will be amazed. And even if you don't want to do anything of a medical nature yourself at home, you will still save a lot by just purchasing medications online.

Just remember, there are certain things that must be handled by your vet, with no exception. It's okay to explore these websites, but make sure you follow any given advice saying your pet must see a vet.

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  • Stop overpaying for your pet's medications. See how much 1-800-PetMeds can help you save.
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