Save money at the veterinarian

How to cut costs without compromising your pet’s health

Vet bills

These days, with budgets so tight, you may feel overwhelmed by pet care and vet costs. Dr. Louise Murray, director of medicine at the ASCPA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City has these smart suggestions:

Head off problems. You may think you’re saving money by skipping routine procedures like spaying and neutering or vaccinating your pet. But not sterilizing your pet can cause problems, such as an infection of the uterus in female cats, which will be costly to treat. And vaccines cost only about $12 to $15 each, while the diseases they prevent would cost $1,000 to $3,000 to treat. (Ask your vet to personalize vaccines to your pet; there are some your pet likely doesn’t need. For example, cats can only get feline leukemia through close contact with other cats, so if you have an indoor kitty, it probably doesn’t need the vaccine.)

Talk to your vet. Ask how you can save on your pet’s ongoing care. For example, maybe you can stop feeding your dog expensive prescription food until your financial situation is better (only make this move if the special food is addressing a non-critical problem).

Care for your pet’s teeth. If you do regular dental care at home, you can stretch out the time between costly professional vet cleanings. Wrap some gauze around your finger and swipe your pet’s teeth every day. Do be sure to ask your vet if your pet needs a professional cleaning; gingivitis can damage the animal’s kidneys, which is painful and expensive to treat.

Get help in an emergency. If your pet gets hit by a car or swallows a piece of string and needs expensive critical care, you may receive a hefty bill. Here’s what to do in that situation: 

•Some vets are willing to work with people who can’t afford care. They may be able to arrange a monthly payment plan.
•Ask if your vet takes Care Credit, which is a healthcare financing company that gives you credit for 12 to 18 months with no interest. You can apply at your vet’s office (learn more and read the fine print at
• There are certain nonprofit groups that help pet owners who cannot afford to pay for critical care (see each site for application qualifications and instructions). Here are a few to try:


Don’t abandon your pet. You’ve probably heard stories about pet owners leaving their animals behind when they exit their foreclosed homes, or people dumping pets on the side of the road, hoping someone will pick them up and care for them. Those are the worst things you can do. It could be months before someone enters your foreclosed home, so your pet could starve. Ask a responsible friend or neighbor to temporarily care for your pet, or take the pet to a shelter―at least it will be safe, fed and cared for.