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How to Spend Less at the Vet’s Office Without Sacrificing Your Dog’s Health

Veterinary expenses can quickly add up. We tell you how to save money while getting your dog the treatment they need.

Jackie Brown  |  Feb 10th 2017


The cost of veterinary care is at an all-time high. We all want to provide our pups with the best care possible, but that total at the bottom of your vet bill can sometimes be shocking! Luckily, it’s easy to trim costs while still giving your dog’s health the highest priority.

1. Save on dental cleanings

Annual dental cleanings are so good for your dog’s teeth and even his overall health, but they can be crazy expensive, especially if you opt for X-rays. I recently had my dog’s teeth cleaned and the bill was more than $500! Many veterinarians celebrate National Pet Dental Health Month in February, offering discounts for dental procedures. Simply plan to book your dog’s annual cleaning in February and take advantage of the savings.

2. Save on medications

Did you know that you can fill your dog’s prescription at places other than your vet’s office? You can ask your vet to write a prescription and shop around at various online pet pharmacies to find the best price. If your dog’s medication is commonly available in human pharmacies, your own pharmacist might be able to fill it for you (ask for the generic) for less than the price your vet would charge. When shopping online, always buy prescription medications from an accredited pharmacy. These tips from the FDA tell you what to look for in an online pharmacy and what to avoid.

Some medications, like diphenhydramine (Benadryl), are cheaper if purchased over the counter—no prescription needed. Simply ask your vet what formula to buy and the dosage for your pet. Buying a standard drug from your local big-box store or warehouse club store can save you a bundle. Of course, always ask your vet first, as he or she might offer prices that are competitive to your other options.

Dog taking pill by Shutterstock.

Dog taking pill by Shutterstock.

3. Save on parasite preventives

Similar to the approach above, shop around before buying your parasite preventives. Some such products require prescriptions—simply ask your vet for a prescription and compare prices at online pet pharmacies. Some products are sold over the counter, so you don’t need a prescription. These are available though the online pharmacies, as well as other sites like Amazon, and many are available at your local big-box store or warehouse club store.

4. Ask for a conservative approach

When your dog is sick, and depending on the specific illness or injury, your vet usually can take a conservative approach, a moderate approach, or an aggressive approach. In cases where appropriate, ask your vet if a conservative approach is an option. Let’s say your dog is limping and the vet doesn’t find anything during the exam. A conservative approach might include a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication and rest, as opposed to a more aggressive approach, which might include taking X-rays. You can always add on more tests, procedures, and drugs if the issue is not resolved through a conservative approach.

5. Shop around

If you feel that your veterinarian’s prices are just too high, call around to compare costs at other clinics in your area. Veterinary hospitals cater to their local clientele. Sometimes you might find lower prices—but just as good care—at a veterinary hospital a few towns away.

6. Consider pet insurance

For a small monthly fee, pet insurance can pay off if your pet becomes seriously ill or injured. Pet insurance doesn’t cover “well-pet” services like vaccines or teeth cleanings, but if your dog is hit by a car, ingests poison, is diagnosed with cancer, or needs a knee replacement, pet insurance can cover much of the cost. Accidents, injuries, and major illnesses can cost thousands of dollars without insurance. Pet insurance provides peace of mind, but it’s not right for every pet, and you need to choose your plan carefully. Learn more in our guide to pet insurance.

7. Stay on top of your dog’s health

Believe it or not, avoiding the vet is not the best way to keep your overall veterinary costs down. Bring your dog in for regular checkups, brush his teeth at home and take him in for annual dental cleanings, and keep up with regular grooming. When you stay on top of your dog’s health, you will notice problems immediately. It’s sometimes tempting to wait and see if your dog’s diarrhea will go away or he will stop limping, but the sooner you seek care, the cheaper that care usually is. When injuries or illnesses progress, they become more difficult—and expensive—to treat.

8. Look for low-cost care

If money is really tight, call around to your local shelters to ask about low-cost veterinary care and spay/neuter clinics. Many shelters provide discounted care to low-income families. If you are lucky enough to live near a veterinary university, call to inquire about low-cost care through a veterinary teaching hospital.