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Saving Money on Your Veterinary Bills
Stretch those vet dollars
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Today, the human-animal bond is stronger than ever. It seems as though the more tumultuous the world around us becomes, the tighter we cling to our beloved dogs. They soothe us with their predictability and unconditional love, and give in excess of what they receive. Imagine, then, the heartache when it’s necessary to cut back on a dog’s health care because of financial hardship. If you’re feeling the pinch (and who isn’t these days?), here are 10 things you can do to economize while still doing a great job caring for your dog’s health.

1) Lay your financial cards on the table when talking with your vet. Yes, this is difficult (discussing fleas is one thing—having a candid conversation about your bank account is a whole ’nother ball game), but such a dialogue can open doors to options that make better financial sense. There is rarely only one way to diagnose or treat a disease, and regardless of your financial status, you’re entitled to an explanation of the risks and benefits of every single option.

2) Request a written estimate for veterinary services before they’re provided. How else can you know if your bill will be $200 or $2,000? With an estimate in hand, you will avoid the element of surprise and won’t end up paying for things you feel are unnecessary. In no way does requesting an estimate reflect how much you love your pet; you’re simply being fiscally responsible.

3) Kick the once-a-year vaccine habit. We now know that parvo and distemper vaccinations provide a minimum of three years’ worth of protection once the puppy series has been completed. If your vaccine-reminder card suggests otherwise, have a heart-to-heart talk with your veterinarian.

4) Don’t neglect preventive health care. Doing so could cost you more in the long run. For example, administering heartworm preventive is less expensive for you (not to mention safer for your dog) than treating heartworm infection.

5) Feed your dog less! Just like their humans, many dogs are overweight. Ask your vet for her honest opinion about your dog’s waistline. If she agrees that your precious pup could lose a few pounds, try putting less food in the bowl. Not only will this new habit translate into cost savings, it will result in a healthier dog, and a healthier dog translates into fewer veterinary bills.

6) Be a savvy consumer of supplements for your dog. Some supplement suppliers would like you to believe that your dog’s good health is dependent on their products. Avoid being seduced by such ads. Talk with your veterinarian about which might be useful and then buy just the ones that are recommended.

7) Investigate creative options for paying your veterinary bills. Who knows, perhaps the clinic administrator is willing to barter. Or, look into a line of credit that can be used to pay for veterinary expenses. They are as easy to apply for as a department store credit card. Such companies typically charge neither service fees nor interest for the first few months. This may be financially advantageous compared to paying the bill via your usual credit card. Ask your vet hospital staff if they have an association with such a credit lender.

8) Consider investing in pet health insurance, especially if you are inclined to take the “do-everything-possible” approach when it comes to your dog’s health. Most providers will reimburse 80 percent of your out-of-pocket expenses. Do the math and determine if, in the long run, medical insurance for your dog makes financial sense. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you are aware of the medical conditions (preexisting diseases, inherited disorders) that will be excluded.

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Submitted by Linda C | January 27 2010 |

Getting a second opinion might be worthwhile. One clinic's $1,000 surgery might be $200 at another hospital. Call around.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 16 2012 |

Consider vaccination clinics, you usually have no office visit fee. This can save about $40.00. I don't reccomend this for a new puppy though because he/she needs a thorough check up and should be kept away from other dogs until the puppy has built an immunity.

Submitted by Bambi Arredondo | August 16 2012 |

My Pepper was also diabetic and I was like you I didn't know what to do at the time. I used my care Card and it helped me through the initial crisis. The vet there at emergency clinic was awful and told me I would be seeing her a lot...not if I can help it. I went to the K 9 diabetes forum and learned so much from this forum and did not take my dog to a vet for the last 3 yrs of her life. I did the same when my other dog camevdownwith kidney disease. Use the forums and they will get you through and you will get soooooo much support.

Submitted by Stefanie Skye | July 16 2012 |

Vet's are constantly pushing Care Credit. I had to sign up in order to save my dog when he almost died one weekend due to the onset of diabetes. Unfortunately I was stressed out to the max and didn't look into other credit cards at the time. The card does have good benefits such as not paying interest for certain time periods. But the catch is that you have to pay off the balance by a certain date. For a college student with a minimum wage part time job it was impossible to pay off the balance. Their interest rate is like 29.9% so to say the least they made a ton of money off me as I could only pay the minimum balance each month (as I also had an HSBC credit card to cover more vet costs due to the diagnosis as the time).

Submitted by Anonymous | March 2 2013 |

I guess I don't understand how people have been so blindsided with care credit. I applied. The website told me EVERYTHING I needed to know. Then I got the paperwork in the mail and it describes everything again. Do you people not know how to ask these questions?? It's common sense. Care credit saved my dogs life when she had an allergic reaction and I know everything there was to know about care credit!!!!

Submitted by Jessica | August 26 2012 |

As someone mentioned earlier, be careful with Care Credit. I don't know if they have a deal with veterinary hospitals or what, but EVERY vet clinic recommends it. I too was faced with a horrendously difficult situation about 3 years ago: My dog, who is my life, was having trouble breathing. I had to rush him to the ER, which came to about $300 before they even began surgery. They said the only thing that would help him was a Soft Palate Resection, as his soft palate had grown into his throat. They quoted the surgery as $1,500, but luckily they helped me find a vet that did it for $400. I had to apply for Care Credit to cover the cost of the ER vet expenses. I was a college student making close to minimum wage and could not pay off the balance within the introductory APR period. I'm now saddled with an APR of 26%. And despite the face that my credit rating is better now, there's no way to reduce it.

The best advice I can give is to take out a low APR credit card or loan from your bank or credit union NOW, before your pet has any issues. They frequently offer much better terms than Care Credit. This company reels people in under the guise that it is a credit card for medical expenses, but in actuality any credit card will do for this purpose. You're better off finding one that won't stick you with a ridiculous APR. And, in the event that your pet needs immediate medical attention, you won't feel pressured to sign a contract for a card that may financially ruin you.

Submitted by Steve | September 11 2012 |

In defense of Carecredit, the whole point is that you get 6, 12 or 18 months at 0%. If you're not going to be able to pay it off before the expiration of the 0% period, you should look into other options.

I have used it for both pet bills and other medical expenses and it has worked perfectly.

Submitted by Lee | November 5 2012 |

Care Credit is a actually a decent option in managing your financing IF your vet's office had explained all the options to you properly. There are 0% financing options which are time-limited (6 months, 1 year, etc.)The downside of these options is that if you do not pay off your entire bill in this time period, the interest rates are prohibitively high (as other commenters noted). Another thing to be careful of is the monthly bill you would receive would not cover your payment in the allotted time - for instance, if you owed $600 in 6 months, you would not receive a bill for $100 each month - you might receive a bill for $55.00. It's up to you to know you have to pay more than the minium amount requested (skirting sleazy for sure, but Caveat Emptor). There are also options where you can use Care Credit like a specialized credit card for pet care (or your own health/dental care). You pay an interest charge of @14-15% like a regular charge card and have a much longer time to pay it off based on what your balance is.

Please understand that your Vet is not in "cahoots" with Care Credit. Where your vet's office failed you was in not explaining the program thoroughly to you. Care Credit can be a decent payment option for many people who find themselves with unexpected veterinary expenses - but you need to know what you're getting yourself into. Never agree to anything if you are very upset at the time - a good vet will always want to ensure you're comfortable with your choices and understand all your available options fully before committing to anything.

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