In the long-running comic strip “Garfield,” Jon Arbuckle faces a challenge every time he wants to take his cantankerous cat, Garfield, to the vet. The appointment itself might go smoothly enough, but getting Garfield to the appointment is usually a big dilemma.
Some pet owners face a different problem — getting their pet to the vet might not be an issue, but the expense of obtaining veterinary care can be difficult when budgets are tight. And let’s face it, not everyone’s finances are as stress-free as Jon Arbuckle’s.
But never fear — there are ways to save on veterinary care for your pet.
Ways To Save On Routine Care
When it comes to routine veterinary care, like vaccines or heartworm treatment, you have some time to shop around for low-cost options.
Take Advantage Of Vaccine Clinics
I love pet expos! (Doesn’t everybody?) In addition to being lots of fun, pet expo events frequently offer low-cost vaccine clinics in an effort to promote widespread vaccination of pets. These vaccines are typically offered at a reduced cost, which can represent a savings for pet owners.
But affordable vaccines are just the beginning. Many pet expos offer microchipping, treatments for heartworm and fleas, and nail trimming. (Admittedly, nail trimming might not technically qualify as “vet care,” but some “opinionated” pets like my Corgi, Peaches, may require a professional to complete this routine task. Don’t ask me how I know this…)
A pet expo isn’t the only place to find a vaccine clinic. These helpful services are sometimes hosted by humane societies or pet supply stores, so look for opportunities in your community.
Seek Out Spay-Neuter Clinics
Often offered in partnership with humane societies in an effort to control the pet population, spay-neuter clinics are designed to make these important surgical procedures more affordable and accessible. (Some of the programs are limited to low-income families, however, so be sure to ask questions and find a clinic that is appropriate for your situation).
Additionally, spay-neuter assistance programs, such as the “MN SNAP” program, are able to offer spaying and neutering at a reduced rate, thanks to fundraising efforts that offset the costs of the procedures.
Apply For Financial Aid
If your pet suffers from a specific condition, such as cancer or diabetes, it may be possible to obtain financial aid to help cover the costs associated with treatment. Many organizations have been established to support pets that are dealing with specific health problems, providing access to treatment options that might not otherwise be possible.
To learn more about the technicalities of low-cost veterinary care, I caught up with Sharon Granskog, spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“Within many communities there are animal shelters housing veterinary not-for-profit and tax-exempt clinics and hospitals that are available to provide access to important medical and surgical services for animals owned by the indigent and otherwise underserved populations,” Granskog says.
She explained that it’s important to keep in mind that these clinics are often run by not-for-profit organizations or governmental agencies, and their expenses are often offset by donations, municipal funds or other types of support.
“The subsidies allow them to offer the services at a lower cost for the pet owner, but the total cost to those operating the clinic is not really reduced,” she says.
Ways To Save In The Event Of An Emergency
Sometimes the worst happens, and your pet requires surgery or some other expensive treatment right away. Large veterinary bills can be daunting, especially if they’re unexpected. Here are some ways to help cover those costs.
Pet Health Insurance
Many pet owners invest in pet health insurance to minimize the possibility of unexpected costs in the future. While this option may not fit in every budget, it has the potential to result in significant savings down the road.
Go To A Vet School
Vet school hospitals and clinics are another (sometimes lower-cost) option for both emergency and routine care if you have access to them in your area.
Set Up A Payment Plan
If you find yourself faced with a bill that’s impossible to pay at once, your vet clinic may be able to set up a payment plan that will allow you to pay the bill in smaller pieces over time. (If you have time to compare prices between the available clinics and vet hospitals in your area, you may be able to save a bit of money; if the situation is an emergency, taking the time to compare prices might not be an option).
Ask About Emergency Assistance Programs
Emergency assistance programs can provide help in serious situations, and emergency relief funds are also available in some circumstances.
“Many private veterinary clinics, associations and colleges of veterinary medicine have established individual relief funds for clients who run into an unexpected veterinary expense, or emergencies combined with economic hardship, such as losing a job or a home,” Granskog says.
However, Granskog notes that such services are not always available.
“While veterinarians are truly compassionate and sensitive to requests for discounted or no-cost veterinary care, it is not always possible to accommodate every request,” she says.
The expenses involved with the upkeep of a veterinary clinic are extensive, and it’s important to understand the difficulties that face vet clinics each and every day.
“[In order] to keep the hospital doors open, the veterinarian has to generate enough income to keep the lights on, the equipment running, and supplies in stock while also providing a viable wage to the hospital staff,” said Granskog. “Veterinarians have always had to struggle with balancing what their medical skills allow them to do and what the pet owners are able to afford. [They] take on enormous debt and work long hours as they strive to protect the health and welfare of every pet they see; they do so because of the love and compassion they feel for animals.”
Don’t Sacrifice Quality Care
Remember the old adage “you get what you pay for”? Keep this in mind when choosing veterinary care for your pet. It’s easy to focus on the short-term benefits of budget-friendly care, but you’ll want to be certain that the care meets appropriate standards.
“Not-for-profit and tax-exempt organizations should comply with federal, state and local regulations,” including those relating to “ownership of veterinary practices by non-veterinarians” and “veterinary facility licensure and quality standards,” Granskog says.
Paying for vet care can definitely be a challenge, but by doing your homework and exploring available options, you can help your pet get the veterinary care that he needs and you can concentrate on your next task — getting your personal Garfield into the car!