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Saving Money on Veterinary Care

By David Wolf, DRVC Director
Posted July 31, 2014

For most of us, the economy is tough enough without the extra added expense of costly veterinary care for our pets. Whether your pet needs a routine checkup with vaccinations, is sick, or is in crisis, it's important that you find a facility that meets your needs as well as fits your wallet.

As more private veterinary practices are being bought up and managed by national chains, many vets are being paid by 'production'. Production simply means that veterinarians are paid a base salary but receive additional pay when they are able perform more expensive procedures that may not change the way your dog will be treated. National chains are run primarily by business people as opposed to veterinarians.

If you currently have a veterinarian, ask yourself if you're happy there. There are multiple factors to consider. Is the facility clean? Are the veterinarians and supporting staff knowledgeable and eager to help? Does the clinic operate by appointments, or on a first come, first served basis? Does the clinic have modern equipment such as a digital x-ray, ultrasonic dental cleaning equipment, surgical lasers and therapy lasers? Are the veterinarians up-to-date on current technologies and research? Is your veterinarian capable of doing a variety of surgeries, ranging from soft tissue surgeries, routine neuter and spays, and orthopedic surgeries, potentially saving you a trip to a specialty facility? Is your veterinary facility open 24 hours? Does it have hours that are conducive to your personal or work schedule? Is the facility privately owned, or owned by a national chain? Is it a for-profit, or non-profit facility? All of the answers to these questions have to be weighed. Even though you may feel loyalty to your current veterinarian, you must consider whether or not they fulfill all of your objectives.

No veterinarian or veterinary clinic will always be able to diagnose every condition correctly on every pet, but they should be able to diagnose most. The experience of the doctors is paramount, both in their ability to take care of clients and in their skill at performing surgeries. This keeps costs down as more experienced veterinarians will most likely recognize conditions with less diagnostic testing and are able to perform surgical procedures faster, cutting down on extraneous costs.

The more you know about the basic care of your pet, and what is necessary and not necessary in regards to veterinary care, the better off you will be. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

Be sure to ask your veterinarian about 3-year vaccines instead of annual vaccines where appropriate. Some vaccinations absolutely have to be given on an annual basis in order to be effective. Puppies and kittens initially require multiple vaccines to make sure their immune systems are protected, but by one year of age, most dogs and cats have strong enough immune systems that a three-year vaccine is adequate against most, if not all, infections. Studies have shown that annual vaccines are unnecessary and even detrimental to your pet's health.

If your dog is seriously ill, don't jump into expensive diagnostic testing unless you are sure that the outcome will alter the course of treatment. Don't be afraid to ask your vet for treatment options and the pros and cons of each and be wary if they are not willing to discuss those options with you. Although many tests will give you additional information on your pet's ailment, they may not change the course of treatment and some of these tests may be very expensive. It is also important to remember that blood work and diagnostics from one facility can easily be transferred to another facility as long as it is recent, which could save you big.

Preventative care is also important when it comes to saving money on your vet bills. For example, your pet's oral hygiene can play a vital role in its overall health. Paying close attention to their oral hygiene or teeth is very important. Puppy teeth are always pretty but some breeds will accumulate plaque and tartar more quickly than others. Every time you go to your vet, they should be looking at and evaluating your pet's mouth. You, yourself, should check your pet's teeth monthly. If necessary, the more dental care you personally do at home, the less likely your veterinarian will have to do it, and potentially at great expense. If you know your pet's teeth are bad, bite the bullet and get it taken care of sooner rather than later. This may be life changing for your pet for the better.

Always look for clinics that offer low-cost spays and neuters. Some facilities even offer breed-specific discounts. If your veterinarian has a CO2 laser, many growth removals and surgical procedures can be done at a lower cost. Some veterinary facilities offer orthopedic procedures but many do not. If you can find a vet that has a staff or visiting orthopedic doctor, you may be able to save instead of going to a specialty facility where you will be paying top dollar for everything.

Try to anticipate your pet's needs so that you do not end up with an emergency situation over a weekend. Weekend visits to emergency clinics will cost you dearly. Many times when you walk in, you must show your credit card first. If your pet is not feeling well during the week, try to make an appointment as soon as possible.

Finally, beware of credit plans extended by some facilities when you don't have the funds to pay for a procedure that you pet needs. These are simply credit cards for pet services. Although you will be offered a very affordable rate initially, usually if you miss a payment or underpay, the interest rate may well go over 25% and it will take you years to pay off the debt. ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINT.

All of this being said, you never want to sacrifice quality of care, regardless of how much or how little you are paying.

This article has been written by the Director of the Dutton Road Veterinary Clinic. It is a non-profit facility that offers all of the good things mentioned above, except we are not currently a 24-hour facility. We suggest you come and visit us at 10901 Dutton Road. We'll be happy to show you around our ultramodern, state-of-the-art facility.

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