Ten tips for big savings at the vet hospital (Part 2: For the experienced veterinary client)

Patty Khuly, DVM
October 03, 2008
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To celebrate this week's bailout fiasco I'm offering these additional points on how to save money on your vet care. Unlike Part 1 of this post (referenced below) this one addresses the needs of slightly more sophisticated owners. Enjoy!

I know some are persnickety points some vets will roll their eyes at but here’s my list anyway:

1-Ask for scripts on antibiotics: When many big-box stores will sell antibiotics for $4 a treatment cycle it seems stupid to pay three to five times as much at your vet’s place, right? Sometimes this just isn’t doable (for pet-only meds or for certain antibiotic choices) and sometimes it just ain’t worth the hassle (or the gas money) but it’s well worth a consideration.

2-Compare prices for online medications to your vet’s fees: …but remember not to buy from fly-by-night bottom-of the-barrel enterprises. It seems that increasingly, online (and even big box) outlets are willing to sell diverted, counterfeit and/or out-of-date products so stick to buying from companies you know have a reputation to maintain.

3-Less expensive bloodwork: Ask if your blood tests are less expensive at an off-site lab. Often they’ll be cheaper than the in-house variety. They’re often more accurate, anyway. The only down-side is that it typically takes longer (24-48 hours) to get results.

4-Specialist trip prep part 1: Going to a specialist for a procedure? Get your pre-operative basics done at your regular vet’s. It might sound like cheating for pennies but IV catheters and bloodwork cost about half of what they cost at the specialist’s place. The only kicker is that your own vet’s IV catheter better be placed well enough to last or else you may end up getting charged again for placement at the specialty hospital.

5-Specialist trip part 2: Know you’ll have to see the specialist for an orthopedic procedure? Does your vet plan on taking X-rays first in spite of the probability of a cruciate ligament rupture or the historical presence of hip disease? They’ll almost certainly get taken again by the picky orthopod and his digital toys. So if a trip to the specialist seems an inevitability, just wait for the surgeon to take ‘em. It’ll save you one or two C notes, for sure.

6-Refuse yearly vaccines: Find a vet who accepts the importance of an every-three-year protocol. And for those of you who choose not to vaccinate at all beyond babyhood: “Just say no”…to expensive vaccine titers—unless you need a piece of paper for official business (kennel, flights, etc.).

7-Specialist follow-ups: If you’re working with a specialist, ask if your regular vet can administer the chemo, perform follow-up testing and/or replace bandages as needed. This can save you huge bucks. Many specialists will comply—especially if they have a good rapport with your regular vet.

8-Be very careful when selecting your pet insurance plan: I tend to recommend the higher deductible insurance with cancer, genetic and orthopedic riders (these are the big ticket items you’ll encounter most frequently). Check out www.petinsurnacereview.com for ratings on these companies and their reliability when it comes to payouts. Make sure, also, that you’re getting good service when you call to set up your policy. If you don’t it’s a bad sign. Service quality usually means serious lapses elsewhere in management.

9-Choose your vaccines wisely, too: If your pet is not at risk for certain diseases, for the love of God don’t vaccinate her for them! Lyme in South Florida? Puh-lease! Feline leukemia for an exclusively indoor cat? Bordetella for a closeted dog? THINK before you leap!

10-Keep your pets indoors: ‘Nuff said on this one.

Have more? I’ll take ‘em…