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Saving Money When Caring for Sick Pets

Written by Teri Cettina on October 4, 2013 in Family Money  |   2 comments

If you have a furry or feathered family member, you’ve probably faced this conundrum: How much are you willing to budget for medications and medical care for Fluffy? It’s not always a simple question to answer. For example, our family paid less than $10 for…

saving money, budgetIf you have a furry or feathered family member, you’ve probably faced this conundrum: How much are you willing to budget for medications and medical care for Fluffy?

It’s not always a simple question to answer. For example, our family paid less than $10 for a hamster, and we swore that we would never spend more than a few bucks on medicine and we would never take her to a vet. Yet when she got sick a year later, I caved in and took the little fluff ball to the urgent-care vet’s office. That one office visit cost six times more than the hamster herself. (I drew the line at paying for a hamster MRI test, though.)

Chances are, your pet is worth more than ten bucks and will live quite a bit longer than our hamster. Fortunately, if you need to shell out some cash on prescriptions or medical care, you do have some options for saving money:

Shop around. Veterinary care is often a competitive service, especially in larger communities. Check with several clinics and ask what they charge for routine services or for the particular procedure your pet needs.

Negotiate with your current vet. If you have a limited budget, let your doctor know. He or she may be able to recommend less expensive treatment alternatives, provide product samples, or arrange financing over several months at no additional charge.

Look for discounted care and medications. Contact your local Humane Society or ASPCA. In many communities, both groups offer inexpensive vet services—particularly for vaccinations and spaying and neutering services. Veterinary colleges also may offer low-cost services to pet owners who are in financial need, so check with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which offers a list of veterinary colleges in every state.

In addition, be sure to shop around both off- and online for common pet medications, like heartworm preventives and flea controls. Your vet’s office may not offer the best deal in town.

Get advice at the pet store. Most reputable shop owners are happy to share health advice for critters—and they won’t you charge a cent. As long as your pet isn’t seriously ill, see what the pet shop expert recommends first. In our case, we have urban chickens (as well as a new hamster). Visits to an avian vet are expensive and hard to schedule, but the folks at our local feed stores are great resources. They also stock common animal medications at very reasonable prices.

Consider insurance—or self-insurance. The jury is still out as to whether pet insurance is a good financial deal. However, if you know you’ll want to take advantage of every medical option available to your sick pet, you may want to consider insurance. Things like surgical procedures and cancer treatment can get quite expensive, and sometimes insurance can help you cover your costs.

One alternative to buying a plan is to create your own pet insurance fund. Deposit the amount you would have spent on insurance premiums into a separate savings account every month. Use that money, if you ever need it, to pay for future pet medical care.

Pets are like part of the family, and caring for them can sometimes be stressful and expensive. To help ease the burden, consider all the options available to you and look for ways to save money where you can.

Teri Cettina is a mom of two daughters and freelance writer who specializes in personal finance and parenting topics. She blogs at Your Family Money. Follow her on Twitter: @TeriCettina

The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


  1. Lisa P says:

    Unfortunately my Siamese cat got a snakebite on dec 29th 2013. I knew the antivenin that it needed would cost at least $1000 and so I tried treating it with some natural remedies- when I realised it was in dire straits I took it to the vet and a day later got the bill for $980.00Au but that wasnt the end of it – it was a public holiday for New years day and it still needed intensive care so had to be taken to another emergency hospital – I transported it there and 2 days later paid another bill of $900.
    Two weeks prior to the snake bite I actually looked into pet insurance – about $5 a week per cat – I own 2. Then only part of the bill and certain illnesses/emergencies were covered – I weighed up my options as my cats rarely go to the vet because they are indoors and have a cat enclosure outside so never go near a road. I made up my mind to put money aside weekly rather than get insurance.
    Not only was it extremely unfortunate that a deadly australian brown snake go into their enclosure but that it happened near public holiday periods where all the costs are tripled.
    It was extremely stressful – give the cat antivenin for a couple thousand dollars or pay to have it euthanized. I loved it and its only 9yrs old so I took the hard road. Thankfully one week later he is fully recovered.

  2. May C says:

    When I was faced with this situation – pet care expenses, I decided I needed to seriously look at my overall budgeting abilities. I found a few sites to be helpful, including My Budget (.com . au). It’s worth a look as sometimes these expenses can skyrocket.

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