How Much Should You Spend on Vet Care for Your Pets?
Managing the cost of pet care grows more emotionally and financially challenging as we and our pets age. The cost of care often sets up ethical dilemmas, especially for older adults facing unfunded gaps in retirement income.
The cost of veterinarian services is growing nearly three times faster than Social Security benefits. While retirees are making do with a 1.6% COLA in 2020, veterinarian services increased 4.7% from January 2019 to January 2020. Over the same period, costs for physicians of human patients rose just 0.7%.
Vet services are estimated to cost at least $260 per year for dogs, and about $178 per year for cats, while many of us pay much more, even with so-called senior discounts. Diagnostic procedures can cost over $1,000, while some surgeries can run in the thousands of dollars.
Here are some ways to trim the cost of visits to the vet:
- Annual vaccinations. While you don’t want to skip annual exams and vaccines, you might be surprised to learn that many recommended vaccines are licensed to be effective for three years or more. However, all pets are different and some non-core vaccines may need to be given more frequently. State and local laws can affect how frequently some vaccines are given. Ask for a copy of your pet’s vaccination records, if you don’t already have them. Then check around for low-cost spay & neuter clinics that also offer discounted vaccinations. To learn more about discounted vaccines, contact your local SPCA, animal shelter, or local pet supply stores to learn what may be scheduled in your area.
- Shop around for heartworm and flea preventatives: Heartworms can kill your dog or cat, while fleas and ticks carry dangerous diseases that can be transmitted to humans. While vets often have discount coupons associated with these products, if you want to save more money, it’s important to compare prices, especially at pet supply websites such as 1-800- PetMeds, and Chewy.com. Those companies often have much lower prices, especially after discounts are thrown in.
- Get prescriptions from your veterinarian for medications: When your vet prescribes antibiotics or any other drug, don’t automatically buy all the pills from the veterinary practice. Ask for a prescription. Often, you can get a cheaper price from your pharmacist instead, so check first. You can get a pet medication discount card from Costco, CVS, Rite-Aide, Walgreen’s and Walmart. Compare prices with reputable online companies as well.
- Supplements and vitamins: Have you ever been surprised by a recommendation to put your dog on pet glucosamine or another joint supplement? Prices for these supplements at the vet can be up to 30% more than ordering these supplements online. Compare these prices at pet supply websites.
- Pet health insurance may not be worth the cost. While many veterinarian practices have brochures for pet health insurance, shop carefully, and read the fine print about what these policies do and don’t cover. Pet owners can expect to pay between $30 to $60 per month for premiums, often more than what you pay in services most years. Consumer experts suggest that if you are worried about catastrophic costs, put the money you would spend on pet health insurance premiums into a pet savings account.