Saving Money

I Saved Hundreds At The Veterinarian By Asking One Simple Question

saving money at the vet, veterinarian expenses, budgeting at the vet

Insanity is sometimes defined as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  This definition popped into my head as I drove to the veterinarian’s office late last week, along with the hundreds of dollars I’d spent on my cat over the course of the last year. Here’s our first story about it. I extended the definition to my finances in that spending my money on the same thing expecting a different outcome may also be considered insane.  I was determined to be smarter this time.

In the last year, we’ve taken our cat to the vet twice when it displayed symptoms of throwing up, and trying to go to the bathroom in the middle of the living room.  Both times we forked over hundreds of dollars for an exam, x-rays, and blood work all to find out that the cat was backed up (ie, constipated).  The theory was, the cat didn’t drink enough water causing extreme constipation and to just not feel well.  It was also believed that arthritis at the base of it’s tail found on the x-rays likely makes going to the bathroom especially difficult when constipated.  The cat was given a fluid sack for the dehydration and some pain medication for the arthritis to help things get moving again.

When the cat experienced these symptoms for the third time late last week, I developed a slightly different theory.  This cat doesn’t particularly like it when unfamiliar people are in our home.  She becomes visibly agitated.  We’ve had a house guest staying with us for the last week, thus the cat has been increasingly stressed.  Looking back at the dates of the two visits to the vet last year, they coincided with having house guests for an extended period of time.  My new theory is that with unfamiliar people in the home for several days the stress causes the arthritis to flare up,  an idea I found by searching the internet and seemingly confirmed by the very gingerly way the cat was observed going up and down the stairs.   With increased pain in it’s back end, it doesn’t go to the bathroom causing the described symptoms.

When I arrived at the vet’s office, I explained all of this to the receptionist and asked one question that could save me hundreds of dollars; I asked if I could simply get the pain medication as I believed it was all I really needed.  The receptionist referred me to a tech, who checked with the vet, and I was soon on my way home with the pain medication.  No putting the cat in a box to bring it to the vet, no exam, no x-rays and no bill for hundreds of dollars.

Within an hour of getting the pain medication the cat’s behavior had improved markedly.  It saw it go downstairs to it’s litter box, and her appetite returned shortly after that.  I texted my wife the good news, and breathed a sigh of relief as I thought about the out of pocket difference between this episode and the last two.  Instead of spending hundreds of dollars for exams, x-rays, fluid sacks, and medication, I paid a mere $23.50 for the pain medication.

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment when it comes to caring for your pet.  They are members of your family and you want to do what’s best for them.  However, you also have to be smart about not paying for unnecessary tests and procedures and do what’s best for your budget.

How about you, Clever Friends, have you ever spent a large amount of money on pet medical care?  Have you ever found a way to cut the cost for a chronic condition?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

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Brock Kernin


  • When we had cats and they got older and started requiring more medications, they would provide us the medications on a regular basis, but at certain points along the way they would insist that we bring them in to get checked up. So, at some point you may make this request and they might say ‘no’ but understand that they will likely want to check their bloodwork to make sure that there aren’t any other health issues that the pain meds could counteract, or something along those lines.

    For us, we basically had a year to get various things that they needed without requiring a checkup, but anything past that and they would ask us to have the animal checked first.

    • Good information, Money Beagle, and it makes sense. They recommend a yearly exam, so any info they’ve gathered needs to be periodically updated to make sure the medication is still correct.

  • I just blogged about pet expenses last night! My house cat managed to tear his Achilles tendon while I was at work a couple years back, just a couple months after the kids talked me into taking him in! It definitely wasn’t an injury or expense I had been planning for! $3000 later…

  • Animals are expensive. You have to know your animal to figure out what is going on with the cat, and if their behavior is related to something going on around it. Cats are extremely territorial and don’t often relate to change easily. Cats also hate going to the vet so any time you can keep an eye out and figure our your cat, saves you time and $. The one reviewer is right, after a year or so they will ask for an appt. to see the cat and do more tests. Also I want to mention that you can get your own prescription for the cat meds from the vet and get them cheaper at Costco, or online. Also often the vets have a return med policy so if a med is not working or your cat hmmm deceased, you can return the meds even if open as long as not expired. If someone can’t afford meds they often will give them to a pet mom-dad for their animal. Married to a vet with a practice for several years, cat owner for 30 years, dog almost the same. Divorced now, no cats, last one died of old age at age 20. All our cats were rescue with some type of problem, sometimes major. Once divorced I had to work to keep pet care financially in line, no more free care. At some point as animals are living longer, more likely to start having health problems, and it does get expensive. Also there are now vets that come to your home instead of hauling the animal to the vet. You can also call ahead to ask questions about getting meds instead of going to the clinic. Good for you for saving $.

  • This is a great tip! Anything to save money with the furry ones. I currently supply senior living services for my 2 remaining older dogs. It can get very expensive around here. It’s good to also ask friends and neighbors for reviews on local vets. In my area, I’ve found one that, while probably incredibly on point, it feels like they recommend more diagnostic lab work than others and prescribe more meds. Each trip to this clinic seemed to cost a small fortune.

    We have a great relationship with the vet we’ve settled with. I consider him to be more down to earth. He’ll tell me when I can treat my pets with human otc meds and will guide me on doses. In the past, he’s also guided me with at home overnight care – constant back and forth texting and phone calls – to help me avoid taking one of my sick dogs to the emergency clinic for overnight watching. When my dogs are acting “off,” I’ll text him a video of them behaving out of sorts. He then recommends either something I can do at home or bring them to the clinic. We’re regulars at his practice, so he only charges me when we come in. Finding a vet that will provide this kind of personal service is priceless.

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