by Peaks Pet Nanny, Tami Novak

tamiphotoWhen I adopted all three of my dogs, I realized that I’d need to research ways to save money on vet bills if I didn’t want to take on three jobs to support them. I love my dogs dearly, but I’d rather spend the extra money I save getting them new beds or toys than on overpriced vaccines or pet medications that I can get much cheaper outside of my vet’s office. I like my vet very much, however, I only bring my dogs to him when they are sick or in need of medical attention. For more run-of-the-mill type medical needs, here are some things I’ve learned as a pet owner that may help you save money.

Adopt your pet from a rescue, not a breeder:

Dogs from a breeder are expensive because the dogs are purebred. They won’t come to you spayed, vetted, or up to date on vaccines. You can expect a typical breeder puppy to cost upwards of $1000.

A puppy or adult dog from a rescue organization will usually cost between $250-$350 to cover the adoption fee depending on the age of the dog. To some people, this sounds like a lot. After all, you rescued the dog from being euthanized in an overcrowded kennel: You’re a hero! But consider that a dog from a rescue will come to you spayed or neutered, up to date on vaccines, and (in most cases) microchipped. Your adoption fee will also be used to help the rescue pull other dogs to safety from overcrowded shelters. Finally, that fee you paid the rescue can be considered tax-deductible because it’s considered a donation to the rescue which is a bonus you won’t get from any breeder.

What is Vetco?

Each Petco store location has something called “Vetco” which is a mobile vet service that comes to their stores each weekend with board-certified veterinarians. You don’t need an appointment and you won’t pay the usual vet office fee. Instead, you’ll choose what your pet needs and pay only for that vaccine or test.

Here’s a comparison of what you can expect to pay at the Vetco clinic versus your veterinarian. Vetco will often do “combination” vaccines which are substantially less expensive than single vaccines by your vet.

Vetco prices Veterinarian prices
Rabies (1-3 per year) $19 $75 and up
Distemper/Parvo Combo (5 in 1) $33 $75 and up
Distemper/Parvo Combo with Lepto (6 in 1) $33 $75 and up
Lepto $33 $50 and up
Bordetella $33 $50 and up
Lyme $33 $50 and up
H3N8 & H3N2 Canine Influenza $33 $50 and up
Rattlesnake $33 $50 and up
Feline (3 in 1) $33 $50 and up
Feline Leukemia $33 $50 and up
Round/Hook Dewormer $21 $50 and up
Tapeworm Dewormer 25 lbs or less $29 $50 and up
Tapeworm Dewormer 26-45 lbs $32 $50 and up
Tapeworm Dewormer 46-65 lbs $34 $50 and up
Tapeworm Dewormer 66+ lbs $39 $50 and up
Tapeworm Feline $29 $50 and up
Canine Heartworm Only $29 $50 and up
Canine 4DX Test for Heartworm & Tick Diseases $39 $50 and up
Feline Combo Test FeLv, FIV, Heartworm $29 $50 and up
Fecal Test Kit $20 $50 and up
Microchip $15 $80 and up

To find a Vetco service near you, try going to Vetcoclinics.com, click the button for “clinic locator” and enter your zip code. For me, six Petco store locations showed up within miles from my home, each with weekend days and times listed when the Vetco service would be available.

I could have brought all three dogs to my vet, which would have cost $225 for the vaccines plus a $50 exam fee. Instead, I took them to Petco. No appointments are given. You simply show up at the store and get in line to get a vaccination by a Vetco vet. Tables are set up, forms are given out, and staff is on hand to answer questions. About a half-hour later, I paid under $60 for all three of my dogs to receive their rabies boosters and was given paper medical records for each of my dogs to keep on file.

Other occasions I’ve found Vetco is helpful, have been when my vet was charging about $100 for a heartworm test (usually mandatory before a vet will prescribe your dog heartworm preventatives), Vetco charged me $39 for a simple blood test to check for signs of heartworm and tick diseases. After Vetco tests for heartworm, you can get a prescription for heartworm preventatives right away. This leads me to my next tip…

How can you save on vet prescriptions?  

Many people when told by their vet that their pet needs medication will simply purchase the prescriptions directly from their vet. Unless you need the medication immediately, this is a mistake, because your vet will mark up the cost of the medications tremendously, sometimes as much as 100% before tacking on a $15-$25 medication dispensing fee. Instead, ask your vet to write you a prescription for your pet’s medicines and then follow through on one of these options:

Go online.  Look up “Pet meds online” and several sites will pop up.  Many pet med prescription sites offer coupons and free shipping to entice you to buy at their site online.  Do a comparison shop of several sites and then print out the page listing the medication online with the lowest price you’ve found. Many times your vet will match the online price to keep the prescription sale, so if the price is matched by your vet, you won’t have to order it online at all. Don’t be shy with your vet. You will not be the first client to hand in an online price quote for your pet’s prescription medications. If your vet won’t match the online price, politely take your prescription and order it online.

Another alternative is to take that prescription to your local Costco, Target, or Walmart.  No, your prescription plan won’t cover your pet meds, but it will still be substantially less expensive at the pharmacy at Target than it would have been at the vet.

As a pet owner who always wants the best for my dogs, I know how expensive it can get to keep your animals healthy and happy. I hope this information will help maintain the health of your beloved pets as well as your bank account.

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