SOS Mom Saver: Save Money At the Vet

Owning a pet can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be nearly as expensive as you might think.

One of the most important up-front costs for a pet is vaccines, spaying/neutering, and/or declawing.  Most people have heard that some shelters or pet stores will offer reduced vaccines. These are definitely good options.  However, many don't realize that vet prices can vary wildly for these early pet care items.  Just as an example, when calling about getting our new puppy vaccinated, I was given prices ranging from $154 for the 2 vaccines and a fecal sample all the way down to $45 for the exact same services...all prices from local vets some within blocks of each other.  The prices for spaying/neutering and declawing vary just as much.

So what's the difference?  Why is one vet so expensive and the other isn't?  Here's the bottom line:  There are no insurance companies padding pockets here.  Vets have to compete for your business and they know it.  It's reflected in their prices.  How can you save money at the vet?  You'll have to start by taking some time to make phone calls.  So what specifically are you asking when you call?
  • How much do they charge for vaccinations?  (Ask for specific prices if they don't have a set price for all vaccinations.)
  • Do you charge for an office visit if we're just there to get vaccinations?  (This is HUGE and made for the biggest price difference when I was calling around.)
  • What do you charge for a spay/neuter (depending on your pet).  (Be sure to ask if the price goes up by weight if you have a large-breed dog.  It's not hard for some breeds to be in the higher-weight price-range by 6 months.  Also, ask what that quoted price includes.  Some will give you a low-ball price but it doesn't include anesthetic, post-op care, required antibiotics or pain meds, or follow-up visits.  If the price doesn't include any of those items, then ask what the charge for those items is.)
  • What do you charge to de-claw a cat?  (Again, be sure to ask what the quoted price includes and ask for the price on any items not included.)
  • Do you have any reduced-fee days for vaccinations or spay/neuter?
  • What do you charge for a office visit?  Are the office visits less or more if the visit is for vaccinations only, it's just a check-up for the pet, or the pet is sick?
  • RUN don't walk from a vet who doesn't want to be up front with you about prices.  Any good vet will happily give you the prices over the phone, will direct you to a website with listed prices, or will offer to e-mail you their price sheet.
  • If you really like a vet, but they charge more for a particular service, don't be afraid to ask if they'll price-match another vet.  We plan on doing that.  Our vet doesn't charge an office visit for vaccinations or fecal checks and only charges $10 for each vaccine.  However, they charge close to $100 more than the lowest vet quote we got for a spay.  We really like them, though...so we're going to ask if they'll match the other vet's price.  They might say no, but they MIGHT say yes.  It never hurts to ask; especially if you tell them that you really WANT to keep your business there. 
Equipment such as pet bowls, a kennel and/or carrier, a leash, collar, beds, and toys can further up the cost of owning a pet.  Don't forget that many people have had puppies who quickly grow out of their necessary supplies.  You can often get puppy items on Freecycle for free.  What you can't get there, you can likely get at a reduced cost on Craigslist.  Just remember to properly wash any used kennels or carriers with bleach as that will kill parvo and keep your pet safe.  You can throw stuffed toys, leashes, & collars in a hot washer to kill germs.

We've had Coco the Wonder Cat for years, but we're just entering the puppy realm with our lab.  What have you done to save money on your pet?


Mrs. Riale said...

We take our cat to a clinic for her shots. MUCH, MUCH cheaper!!!!

Thoughts of THAT mom said...

They have vaccination clinics like that here too, but they're on the other side of town. Since our vet only charges $10 per vaccine & no visit fee, I find that to be a good compromise.

In some areas, though, vaccination clinics are the only way people can get affordable vaccines. I fully support them!