The Two Best Ways to Save Money on Pet Care

Fantastic advances have been made in the realm of veterinary medicine. It wasn’t too long ago that these weren’t even an option:

  • Cancer care: Radiation and chemotherapy
  • Orthopedic surgeries for complex injuries and deformities
  • 24-hour intensive care with emergency care specialists
  • Breed-specific or geographically customized preventative care
  • Cardiac surgeries and interventions

All of these can greatly increase the length and quality of a cherished pet’s life, but as you can imagine, some these advances can come with a hefty price tag.  So what can you do to save money or prepare for potential emergency costs?  Here are two of the best possible options for you to consider.

Pet Insurance: Hoping for the Best, Planning for the Worst

Think of insurance for pet care as a pre-paid “safety net.”  It works very similarly to human health insurance.  You pay an annual or monthly premium, plus a pre-determined deductible.  Once you cover the co-pay, the insurance company pays the balance of the veterinary bill.  

Big-city life typically involves a higher cost of living and consequently a higher cost of medical services, both human and veterinary.  Treatment for emergencies such as acute pancreatitis, diabetic complications, and bloat – which are not that uncommon - can easily run $3500-$5000 or more.  Think how nice it would be to not be responsible for more than the co-pay once the deductible has been met.  It can help pet owners afford the best treatment options for their animals without cost playing a major role in their decision.  

Caveat: Pet insurance varies enormously from plan to plan and company to company.  I highly encourage you to do your research prior to purchasing a policy for your pet.  Several companies will not cover certain diseases or injuries for specific breeds, and most will not cover preexisting conditions without costing significantly more money.  A great place to do research to compare different policies and companies is: www.petinsuranceguideus.com.

Keep in mind that if your pet stays healthy, you may not get the full benefit of having health insurance on them.  (Just like your auto insurance…you have to pay the monthly premiums whether you get in a fender bender or not).  But if your pet gets injured or sick, having insurance will soften the financial blow.  

Wellness Plans

Wellness plans address a different aspect of pet care, aiming to take care of the preventative and/or early detection aspect of your pet’s health.  Once only offered at the larger corporate veterinary hospitals, wellness plans are now offered at smaller clinics around the country too.

Typically they are set-up as a prepaid or monthly fee that entitles the pet to comprehensive wellness exams, recommended vaccines, bloodwork, parasite screening, and deworming.  Some plans even include x-rays, ECG’s, dental cleanings, microchipping, eye pressure tests, and unlimited office visits while on the wellness plan.  Participating in these plans can save an owner up to 20% off the cost of these items individually.  

I feel that the hidden benefit of these plans is the opportunity for client education.  The pet, veterinarian, and client get to meet face-to-face more often to discuss health maintenance, risk assessment, early disease intervention, and wellness in general.  For puppy programs, the entire puppy vaccine series is included, and each visit offers the client an opportunity to discuss everything from housetraining to breed-specific health concerns.  Senior wellness programs increase the chance of detecting disease early, increasing the treatment options and success.  

With time we’ll see even more methods for pet owners to save money on healthcare for their pets.  Ask your veterinarian for their money saving recommendations.  Quality healthcare doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg (or a paw!)


Dr. Jen Deming

Jennifer Deming, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and member of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition. She strives to improve her patients' wellness through nutrition counseling and preventative medicine. Dr. Deming lives, works, and plays in the beautiful community of Durango, Colorado.