Being married to a veterinarian lets me view things from a different perspective than the average consumer. Many people complain that vet costs are really high. Pets are not cheap and like human they will require medical care at some point in their lives.
Lady Kit is an emergency veterinarian and as such she is typically seeing people on one of their not so great days. She works a medium sized hospital and she gets paid a salary rather than based on production (production just means a percentage of what a vet bills, like commission). She prefers this salary model as it allows her to focus on what is best for the patient (animal) and client (owner).
Full disclaimer, I am not a veterinarian and my wife has not read this article. This information is purely from my own experience and research. As with anything you read on the internet you should definitely do your own research.
Here are 5 things you can do to reduce your vet costs.
1) Preventative Care
Much like humans a lot of problems can be found and treated as little problems before they become big problems.
An annual visit to vet allows you to stay on top of any health issues. This will include the doctor or vet tech asking questions and getting some recent history on the pet. Be prepared to answer if there has been any change activity, appetite, behavior, or physical symptoms. It may also help to include any information on changes in living situation, have you recently moved, added another pet to the family, added another human to the family, or changed your pet’s diet.
Medical history will greatly aid the doctor in making any diagnoses if your pet does become ill. Thorough medical are much appreciated by vets especially if you take your pet to a new vet.
Your pet will also receive a physical exam including temperature, pulse, and respiration (TPR) and weight. In 2017 over 60% of cats and 56% of dogs were overweight or obese and just like in humans this can have severe health consequences (not to mention if you cut back on the pet food a bit you’ll save some more money).
The other major portion of preventative care is vaccination. Vaccines are incredibly important. There are a number of diseases out there that are easily contractible by our pets and can have devastating effects both to our pets and our finances. Your regular vet will be able to recommend and provide the appropriate vaccines for your pet (and there also low cost mobile vaccine clinics in some areas).
2) Pet Insurance
Pet insurance should be treated like any other insurance. We personally don’t have it because my wife is a vet so we get some reduced costs on vet care and we can cash flow most emergencies. If the cost is going to be high enough that we can’t we’re probably going to be having a quality of life discussion anyway.
There are a number of pet insurers out there now. At this time I can’t give a thorough review, but if you decide to get pet insurance here are some things you need to evaluate:
- Pre-existing conditions – Most insurers don’t cover pre-existing conditions
- Age limits – Will coverage be dropped with the pet reaches a certain age
- Deductible – How much do you have to pay before coverage kicks in
- Co-insurance – What percentage of the remainder do you still have to pay
- Policy Limits – Is there any maximum amount (per incident, per pet, or lifetime)
- Once you consider these factors then it is a matter of comparing each plan benefits with the premium payments
One type of insurance I would recommend against is ones that cover preventative care. Insurers make money by collecting payments. For preventative care they are counting on you not using it (which you should) and you not realizing you could get a better deal by doing some shopping around for a good quality vet with fair prices.
3) Is It Really An Emergency?
Emergency vet hospitals are open 24/7/365 just like the ones for humans. This offers great convenience if your pet is injured or gets ill when your regular vet is closed. However, their focus is on actual emergencies.
An emergency an exam will (most likely) be more expensive than an exam performed by your regular vet.
You may have to wait…a long time. Emergency hospitals can be very busy sometimes (holidays, the day after a holiday, weekends, and summer-time). If you come in because your dog hasn’t been eating for a couple of days, but is still walking just fine then the dog that just got hit by a car that comes in 30 seconds behind you is going first.
When your pet has had an issue for a few days (or a few months) you should really have your regular vet do an examination first. If that issued became worse by all means go see the emergency vet though.
I hear a lot of stories with a statement similar to “So my dog has been limping for 3 weeks” and the response from the emergency vet is “Did it become worse today or is there some other condition you’re worried about” to which the owner replies “no, I just had today off.”
There are a few things wrong with this scenario.
- A regular vet could have examined it cheaper
- The animal has probably been in pain this entire time
- Further damage may have been caused by not seeking care sooner
- It may be a long wait when you do bring the animal in based on what other emergencies are in the hospital
4) Paying For Emergency Care
Veterinary care can be expensive, especially when surgery is involved. An emergency may require multiple vet techs, the doctor, diagnostics, medications, other supplies, and equipment. All these things cost money.
Most hospitals are going to try to work with you because they want best outcome for the animal. If you don’t have the money out of pocket here are some things to ask the hospital:
- Do they have hardship discounts?
- Do they work with any non-profits that do cost sharing?
- Do they accept Care Credit (essentially a credit card pet care, but do offer 0% interest for up to 24 months)
5) Follow Your Vet’s Advice
A veterinarian is a highly educated and trained professional. Much like a MD on the human side, DVMs first get a bachelor’s degree and then go through 4 years of incredibly intense vet school (I barely saw Lady Kit during 4 years she was in vet school and we were married).
After graduating with a DVM degree they’ll either start practicing medicine or they’ll continue on to a one year internship under the guidance of board certified specialists and then follow on to a residency program and then become board certified themselves.
The point of all this is they know a lot more than 5 minutes on google will teach you. Following their advice on vaccines, nutrition, activity, etc. can help reduce the risk of injury and illness of your pet.
Final disclaimer, like any profession they are good vets, great vets, and not so good vets. Find a vet you trust and who provides excellent care and advice at a reasonable price. If your emergency vet tells you to follow up in a few days with your regular vet and your response is “can’t I just come back to you?” then it’s time to find a regular vet.