Affordable Vet Care For Senior Pet Owners
Are there any resources that can help senior pet owners with their veterinary bills? I have a dog and two cats that mean the world to me, but the vet care has become too expensive. What can you tell me?
Living On A Budget
Struggling with the high cost of veterinary care is a common problem for millions of pet owners today, especially seniors living on a tight budget. Routine medical care can cost hundreds of dollars, while urgent/specialized treatments and procedures can run into the thousands. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to reduce your vet bills without sacrificing your pet’s health. Here are some tips and resources that can help.
If you’re not attached to a particular vet, one way to save some money is to shop around and compare costs. Call different vet clinics in your area and get price quotes on basic services like annual exams and vaccinations, as well as bigger ticket items, for instance to mend a broken leg, and be sure to ask for references too. Also, check to see if you live near a veterinary medical school, go to www.veterinaryschools.com for a listing. Many schools provide low-cost care to limited income pet owners.
Work With Your Vet
To help make your vet bills more manageable, see if your vet’s office accepts payment plans. Some clinics accept monthly payments so that you don’t have to pay the entire cost up front. Also, find out if your vet offers discounts to senior citizens or reduces fees for annual checkups if you bring in multiple pets.
It’s also suggested that if your vet prescribes an expensive treatment for your pet, it’s a smart idea to get a second opinion. It will cost you another consultation fee, but another vet may have other, less expensive ways to treat your pet.
Search for Low-Cost Care
Many municipal and nonprofit animal shelters offer free or low-cost spaying and neutering programs and vaccinations, and some work with local vets who are willing to provide care at reduced prices for low-income and senior citizen pet owners. Call your local shelter or humane society to find out what’s available in your area.
Find Financial Assistance
There are a wide variety of veterinary care assistance programs that provide financial assistance to help people in need pay their vet bills. To locate these programs, the The Humane Society of the United States provides a listing of national and state programs on their Web site at www.humanesociety.org/petfinancialaid. If you don’t have Internet access, ask a friend or family member to help you or visit your local public library.
Another good resource is the American Animal Hospital Association’s “Helping Pets Fund”, www.aahahelpingpets.org, 866-443- 5738. In order to qualify, your animal hospital must be AAHA accredited, and your vet will need to submit an application requesting assistance on your behalf. To find an AAHA accredited hospital near you go to www.healthypet.com.
Buy Cheaper Medicine
Medicine purchased at the vet’s office is usually much more expensive than what you can buy online. Instead, get a prescription from your vet, ask for a generic, so you can shop for the best price. Good deals can be found at sites like www.800petmeds.com, 1-800-738-6337 or www.absolutelypets.com 1-888-511-7387, or a resource that has links to sites that offer lowerpriced medications, www.discountpet medicines.com. It also doesn’t hurt to ask the vet if he or she has free samples they can give you.
If you can afford it, pet insurance is another option worth looking into. You can get a basic policy for under $10 a month, and some insurers offer discounts for insuring multiple pets. See www.petinsurancereview.com to compare policies. Membership discount plans like Pet Assure, www.petassure.com, are another way to save, but you’ll need to use a vet in their network.
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC “Today” show and author of The Savvy Senior book.
The Gazette does not endorse the contents of The Savvy Senior. Check with professionals about the contents of this column.