Keeping Those Vet Bills Down

The cost of keeping dogs has almost gotten out of hand. More people own dogs than ever before, yet at the same time, too many people are having to make agonizing decisions about their own financial security because of vet bills.  Almost everyday someone sends me a new GoFundMe page to help with a dogs vet bills.
There is an increasing number of senior dogs being thrown away because the owners cannot pay to fix their health needs. Ashamed to ask the vet to euthanize the dog and unable to find a home for an old ailing dog they dump them at county kill shelters.
I understand why a veterinarian feels the  need to charge an arm and leg, after all they are not subsidized by a hospital like a human doctor and have to shell out for equipment. In addition, they go to college longer than a human doctor and have student loans to repay...yes that's right veterinary doctors go to school longer..a point one of my vets loves to make. Procedures like cataract surgery are still about half of what a human would pay. That is because you are not paying for a professional nurse or anesthesiologist. I don't have issues with the general costs of major surgery like hip replacements but I do have issues with the price of what the industry calls bread and butter dentals and annual vaccinations.  When I worked in Pharma selling to veterinarians and medical doctors dog vaccine cost 3 cents to make and we sold a box of six vials for $1.99.And yes, it was only a handful of years ago.

So how can you help keep your vet bills down?

Well, the obvious answer is that good health starts in the womb..that means supporting responsible breeders who health test and OFA certify the parents as free of genetic defects. This won't stop a genetic defect from possibly passing on to a puppy but it greatly, greatly reduces the chances.
The second obvious answer is good husbandry practices. That is the care you provide in the home. Small things like washing your dogs feet after a trip to the dog park can reduce the chances of picking up worms or other contaminants. Bathing and cleaning ears regularly, brushing your dogs teeth, trimming nails, expressing anal glands and feeding the best food you possibly can. If you don't know how to do these things it is time for you to learn. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure could not be more true today. If you suspect a small issue developing that you can't resolve yourself seek medical attention before it becomes a bigger more expensive problem.

When the vet tells you your dog needs a procedure done and it is not an immediate life or death issue to be done today, get a quote. Then shop around. Some clinics will not give a quote unless you have been a client but others will. If you get a lower quote, ask your vet to match it.

Vet prices are not set in stone!

And if it is a highly expensive complicated procedure consider contacting the nearest veterinary school. They have the best equipment money can buy and are not in a rush just because there are more clients in the waiting room. Three years ago I met a woman in town for her dogs cataract surgery at a state veterinary school affiliated with a university. I did not ask her how much it would cost, but she did tell me that it made the six hour drive and nights in a hotel worth it compared to what her own canine opthamologist was charging.
I can't stress enough the importance of shopping around. I once had friend who had a promising show dog develop a skin condition, his vet treated it for months at great cost. I suggested a specialist I knew and she cured it in one visit. If you dog has a condition that is not responding, go to a specialist and stop throwing your money away.
For general veterinary care I find that holistic veterinarians are more about preventing health issues than orthodox ones. If for example, your orthodox vet finds a small heart issue, he or she will say let's check again in six months and see if we need to start meds. While the holistic vet will immediately make dietary and supplemental changes to help with the issue now...before the expensive meds start.
My personal experience over the years has been that holistic veterinary care has saved me a bundle.
I am strong believer in holistic care and feel one of the best things you can do for your dogs health is antibody titer testing before vaccinating. Unnecessary vaccinating can lead to many immune system issues. But if it is your preference to just do annual vaccinations, contact your local American Humane Society ( not to be confused with the Humane Society of the United States by any means) and ask about the special programs they offer. Many of them offer 15 dollar spay neuter clinics, and extremely inexpensive vaccination clinics. Some pet stores also offer reduced vaccination clinics.
Do you have a dog who tends to need regular worming? I will be writing on this subject soon, but for now here is a little tip..instead of frequent trips to the vet for them to check for worms, avoid the exam fee and drop a little stool sample off ( a zip lock bag will do) at the clinic on your way to work. The cost runs 10 to 18 dollars here and if the sample is positive you can purchase Panacur granules in pet stores or online far cheaper than your vet will sell it to you. A dose for a small dog runs about 12 dollars. Most vets will triple that. I have found Panacur brand to be very safe and very effective. There is no other dog wormer I would consider and no, I have no connection to them. If self worming your dog, be sure your dog is otherwise healthy and always read the package insert and follow the directions!
Lastly, start a Health Savings Account for your dog. Even if you have insurance, you are going to need it. And if by luck you never need it, you have that money still saved up for a rainy day.

It's always best to manage mindfully, take good preventative care, and not to let your dogs healthcare expenses catch you off guard.