It's an indisputable fact that veterinary care can be very expensive. Our shelter is constantly contacted by folks seeking help for pets that need care outside their budgets. It's the main reason why we run low-cost vaccine, spay and neuter clinics. At the very least, pets need basic services such as these and we realize that the additional veterinary office visit fees and costs are outside many people's means.
When serious situations come up, the options that are most often proffered are either putting the fees on a credit card or going through a care credit company that works through the veterinary office. This can present further hurdles by either increasing the debt with exorbitant interest fees or because the pet owner doesn't qualify for the amount needed.
Some health issues for pets are unavoidable and unexpected, but managing your pet's health first involves preventive care. Preventive care involves protecting them from viruses, internal parasites (such as heartworm and hook worms), external parasites (such as fleas and ticks) and providing them with dental care and weight management.
All of these things cannot be accomplished without the help of a trained veterinarian. Annual visits to shot clinics are not enough because things like heartworm preventative cannot be dispensed without a prescription, worms can't be diagnosed without proper testing, etc. This makes it imperative that you establish a relationship with a vet and have your pet seen on a scheduled basis. However, it doesn't mean that you can't do things to manage costs at the veterinary office.
Let's start with the fact that private veterinary clinics and hospitals are businesses; they are there to make a profit. The business of veterinary medicine also is changing in that many offices are now corporate as opposed to individual practices. Where we once had long-standing relationships with one doctor, we can now expect to see several working out of one office. This makes it a bit more challenging to manage your pet's care and all the more reason to ask questions, ask
for care options and, unless it's an emergency situation, take the time to educate yourself before jumping into expensive diagnostics or procedures. Just as with human medicine, a second opinion is generally a good idea.
Here are some things to consider when facing veterinary costs.
First, it's really important to ask the veterinarian for ALL treatment options. It's very upsetting when our pets are sick or hurting, but take the time to clear your head, understand the diagnosis as well as the prognosis. Is there a less invasive and less expensive plan that could be tried?
What will tests show and what would be done according to the results?
Second, let's talk about medicines and preventatives. Many of the medicines prescribed for your pet can be purchased through regular pharmacies at much cheaper costs; you need only ask for a prescription from the vet office. Parasite preventatives are available online and at pet supply stores; some you will need a prescription for, others are considered over the counter.
Finally, keep that old adage in mind: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Feed them good, appropriate food (avoid the cheap stuff!), get the preventatives and vaccines necessary for the things they are likely to be exposed to and make sure your pet has a physical on a regular basis with a veterinarian who you're comfortable with. If you find yourself in a real jam, give us a call or go to our website, there may be resources to help in some situations.