I just came back from the vet’s office, where the checkup and a small battery of regular exams (heartworm, minor ear infection, office visit) for our dog Lola, ran a shockingly high amount. This got me thinking about how we try to save on pet care in a safe and responsible manner:
1. Shop online for pet meds: For an urgent situation or the first time we need medication, I tend to buy whatever medication my dog needs at the vet’s office. Yes, it’s more expensive, but at least you’re sure of what you’re getting. Once you’re in a situation where medication is something you have to buy regularly though (for example, Rimadyl for doggie arthritis) and are familiar with the dosage, brand and name you need, go online and price shop. There are several stores online which will almost always be cheaper than the vet’s office — 1-800-PetMeds(aff), EntirelyPets, KV Vet Supply come to mind — but prices will vary depending on what medication you need.
By the way, if you aren’t aware of this, there’s nothing out there that requires you to buy your pet’s medication through the vet. Vets must provide you (or the vendor) with a copy of the prescription at your request, unless there is no medical reason it’s needed.
2. Shop online as well as the vet’s office for flea/tick/heartworm medication: One area where prices online aren’t necessarily cheaper is in the flea/tick/heartworm control department. Many vets have finally realized that by giving you a 7-month supply of medication for the price of 6, you might buy through their office instead of going elsewhere. Because several of these preventatives are non-prescription medications, competition from pet store chains and online purveyors have brought down prices. After including tax and shipping costs, sometimes it’s cheaper to buy at the vet’s.
3. Sometimes human supplies are cheaper: The margins on a product created “specifically for your pet” can be outrageous. For food and water bowls, you can often find clean, perfect substitutes in the form of dishware from outlets like TJ Maxx, on sale at retailers, or even at thrift stores.
4. Do dogs care that much about toys? I’m completely guilty of spending $10 on a colorful rubber toy that my dog played with for all of one day. It turns out my dog likes one or two of her Nylabones but largely prefers…well, sticks and old tennis balls. Toys are cheaper online, but our neighbor also hits the $1 store for random plush animals for her dog. The thrift store is also a good place to hunt for $2 bags of clean kids’ toys that dogs will end up destroying anyway. Just be sure that whatever you buy is doggie proof. (No plastic bits that will come off easily, no hanging tags, etc.)
5. Build-your-own pen: When Lola was a puppy, we built a small indoor pen for her using PVC pipes and these instructions so she’d have a safe area to play in while we were away for a couple of hours. You can modify the size of the pen pretty easily by adding or removing PVC joints, and we had to make ours higher. A few trips to Home Depot saved us quite a bit. (The biggest pain was to cut the PVC tubing to the right lengths.)
I don’t scrimp when it comes to Lola’s diet or vet visits, but there are ways to save when it comes to supplies. And, honestly, I’ll probably continue to let my human senses tempt me to buy new and shiny toys.
But, maybe I missed other obvious tips for saving? Any other ways pet owners have found?