How to Save on Vet Bills
Nothing is more important to me than our fur kids, so I will move heaven and earth to make sure they get the best care. The best care starts at home. Good food. Clean water. A place to exercise. And lots of love. But what happens when they get sick? A vet bill can sometimes leave you with sticker shock.
I was a vet tech for several years. I worked with a great, big, old bear of a veterinarian. He was as grouchy as he was loud, but underneath that gruff exterior was a heart of marshmallow. He taught me about veterinary medicine by working me to death and then quizzing me after every procedure. LOL!
I can't begin to count how many pre-vet students he scared off as interns, but I hung on because I was passionately interested in the work.
He gave me a foundation of knowledge I probably would never have had otherwise. To this day, friends and neighbors call me to get a second opinion. Most of them don't know I've ever worked for a vet, but I guess I exude some sort of confidence when it comes to animals.
A lot of it is common sense, and you can learn it too. Here's how to stay on top of any health issues when it comes to your pets.
• Be observant. Animals will tell you what's wrong if you learn to read their language. Look for panting, shivering, hiding, salivating, or drooping heads and tails.
• Speak softly. Pets are far more sensitive than most people realize. Approach them quietly and touch them softly. If they trust you, they will allow you to examine them. (Note about the old vet who let me serve as an apprentice: For all his bluster, he was tremendously calm and quiet with animals. I think he just didn't like people.) 😁
• Handle with confidence. Animals know when you're faking it. It makes them nervous. If you can't handle blood, pain, or whimpering, take them to a vet.
• Find a vet before you need one. We tried three different vets before we found the fourth one, whom we adore. You need a vet who will listen to you and won't try to pad the bill.
• Speaking of bills...Always ask for an itemized accounting. If your pet needs surgery or other procedure, ask for an itemized estimate.
• If there is anything on that estimate/bill that you do not understand, ask. One of our dogs once needed stitches. The vet's office wanted to charge for blood analysis, rabies, and x-rays. The dog needed stitches. It wasn't major surgery. Once they realized I was going to question their bill, it was magically reduced by $400. We never went back to them.
• Talk to your vet. If your pet is getting vaccinations, ask about adverse reactions. We had a dog who had a bad reaction to her rabies shot. Scared the hell out of us when she went stiff as a board and keeled over. Greg rushed her back to the vet asap.
• Respect your vet. S/he's the expert. Rely on his expertise, but temper it with your experience with your pet. You know your pet. He doesn't.
Where to find reliable veterinary care.
• Ask friends for their recommendations.
• Check out the vets in your area before you need them. Make phone calls. Visit their facilities.
• Ask for their rates on vaccines, surgeries, and teeth cleaning. Ask about their hours and emergency care.
• Take the vet for a test drive. Take one of your pets for a checkup, vaccines, or for a fecal/heartworm test. Pay attention to how the vet treats your pet and you. Does he respect you? Does he listen to your concerns? Does he ask questions? If your vet knows your concerns I guarantee you he'll keep you in the loop thereafter.
If you're dead broke but still need vet care.
• Call your local shelter and ask if they offer low cost spay/neutering. They might also be able to recommend a vet that provides the basics.
• Keep an eye out for low cost vet care. Several times a year you might see a motorhome with a large sign offering low cost exams. I generally see them in the summer. It's a no frills vet visit good for vaccines, a checkup, and sometimes x-rays. It depends on your area. Many times my local farm and feed store will advertise the visit.
About pet insurance
I've never used it, but a friend of mine swears by it. She goes to a large corporate clinic with a lot of locations. The insurance came in useful because her pets ended up needing constant and long term care. So far, mine have been low maintenance.
We did have two dogs who came down with cancer, but that too was affordable enough for us to handle. We were lucky that there was an oncologist not far from us.
Before you get a pet make sure you can afford him. You never know what will happen. You could have a pet that never gets sick a day in her life, or one that needs lifelong medication and intervention.
Do you have pets? Have you ever had one with health issues?