Sunday, February 18, 2018

Saving Money on Pet Care

This week has not turned out at all like I thought it would! I have spent many hours in the car getting two of my dogs taken care of by multiple vets in our area. Having four dogs to take care of is not cheap and I have learned a lot this week about the varying prices that vets will charge for the same service! Here are several ways that I have learned to save money while still providing excellent care for our pets.

VACCINATIONS AND MEDICATIONS - First off, let's start in October which is when we have to update the dogs with their shots. If I go to my local vet, it's around $200/dog which is insane. So, about 4 years ago, we started using the local weekend shot clinics offered at our PetSense in town. The cost is only $79 per dog which saves us a ton of money each year! Cody (see right) is a biter so I was hesitant to let him get his shots at the clinic, but he did just fine once the vet tech let him know that HE was in charge. LOL! My local vet will price match online prices for heartworm meds (I usually use Allivet.com) and this saves me almost $100 every 3 months compared to what I would pay if I bought it from them without the price match ($150 vs $56). So, ask your vet if he will match the online prices or give you a subscription so you can buy your meds online. It is a LOT cheaper that way!

A PET SPECIALIST USUALLY MEANS HIGHER PRICES - Jump to November. My shih-tzu, Gizzy, had an ulcer on his left eye when we adopted him 4 years ago (you can see it in this photo). Late summer, the eye started to bulge a little more and he had a lot of red in the whites of his eyes. My local vet (vet #1) said it was caused by a cyst that had formed on his eyelid. I had it removed ($200), but it didn't solve the problem. So, in December, I took him to the pet opthalomologist (vet #2) in Knoxville, TN and found out he had glaucoma in that eye! It needed to be removed to lessen any discomfort he was having due to the increased pressure in his eye. That vet gave me a quote of $1500. Yikes! I called my local vet when I got home and he gave me a quote of $800 for the same surgery. Well, that was a lot better, right? So we had the surgery early January. Gizzy had also had a dental done in December and required 5 extractions - total was $300. Remember these prices - they come into play later when I learned I could have saved HUNDREDS more on both of these services!

BE WILLING TO CALL AROUND TO GET BEST PRICE - Fast forward to February 1st. My husband got home early from work and decides to throw the ball with one of the dogs. Xena, our dachshund mix, ran out quickly when he opened the door and went down the long flight of stairs to the yard. Now, I had not been letting her go down the stairs since she started limping a few months back, but she is quick sometimes! When she came back up the stairs, she would not put any pressure on her back right leg. I thought it was her back again and, on February 2nd, called vet #3 in Rogersville, TN that I have used before because they have laser therapy. (I tell you, there is not a vet with ALL of the services I need in my town!) Vet #3 is almost an hour drive one way. I get there on February 5th and she is diagnosed with a tear in two parts of her knee structure. During her exam, I remarked about Gizzy's eye surgery and they said they would have done it for $250 (not $1500 or even the $800 I spent - argh!) However, vet #3 cannot do the knee surgery because they don't have the equipment, so refer me to vet #4 in Jonesborough, TN. I call them and get a quote of $650-850 for the knee surgery which is WAAAAAAYYYYY better than the $3200 quote I got from a vet in Knoxville that was also recommended. Major yikes! I actually called another 4 or 5 area vets to see if they even did the needed surgery. None of them did. So, I traveled to Jonesborough on February 13th to confirm the diagnosis and Xena is now scheduled for surgery next week in Jonesborough. This vet was so nice and our exam was complementary as well!

BE WILLING TO TRAVEL FOR A BETTER PRICE - In the meantime,  I had Shadow scheduled for a dental this week which he needed BADLY. The base price at vet #1, my local vet, is $200 plus extractions and pain meds, so I estimated it was going to be another $300 because I was pretty sure some teeth were rotted. However, looking at the possible $800+ bill for Xena, I knew I couldn't afford it. So, after scheduling Xena's surgery, I called and cancelled Shadow's dental thinking it would just have to wait until March or April. Then I decided to call vet#3 because they are known for their quality service and affordable prices and they told me their base price is $65 plus extractions and meds. They actually had an opening yesterday and I grabbed it and my final bill was $93 ... I saved about $200! They are definitely going to be my go-to for doggy dentals! Now, this was not a fun day as it is a very small town and so lacking in things to do and places to visit or shop. So, my day was like this - one hour drive there, drop off dog, one hour drive home, wait 2-1/2 hours, drive one hour back, pick up dog, drive a final hour back home. I was exhausted!

SHOP ONLINE FOR FOOD - A final recommendation is to check out Chewy.com or any other online dog food supplier for cheaper prices and more variety than what you can find in the stores. Cody must eat grain-free and it is less expensive to buy our chosen dog food online. We pay no sales tax and shipping is free if you set up an auto-ship. (I am not affiliated with Chewy.com; I just love their service!)

In conclusion, it has been an expensive and busy few months. I am very grateful that we have had the money in our emergency fund to take care of all of these expenses which have totalled about $3000 (there were exam costs associated with the surgeries, a couple of groomings and Cody had 2 ear infections during this time as well.) I actually set aside about $300/month to be sure we have the money needed to take care of the dogs. If I hadn't been doing that, it would have been so stressful to be dealing with these surprise surgery expenses.

On a final note, I am grateful for my local vet and that is where I take my dogs for their groomings. My biter, Cody, is settled there now and I honestly think it is best for him to get most of his treatments there because of his comfort level with the staff. So, please know that I believe it is best to have a good relationship with a nearby vet, which I do. However, there are times when it is easier on the budget to seek services elsewhere and I have no problem doing that as long as my dogs are still receiving excellent care.

If you have ways that you share on pet care costs, please share them with me in the comments because I need all the help I can get!

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