5 Smart Ways To Save On Vet Bills


Each year, we budget for the expense of an annual checkup for both of our dogs. To balance the bills, some people choose to spread this expense over multiple appointments throughout the year.

We prefer to save up and take care of everything at once, with one large vet bill.

Overall, it’s less stressful for the dogs to only go to the vet once per year and get everything out of the way.

So as the receptionist presents me with this super-painful piece of paper itemizing each individual charge and service that is rendered, I get to thinking.

There are two ways one can logistically approach this in order to save on vet bills:

  1. Budget for the entire expense, knowing we will have to pay (at least) this amount for each dog each year.
  2. Find ways to reduce expenses and/or supplement what is being paid for these services to make it a little less agonizing for all involved.

I, for one, choose to engage in these practices because I do want to prepare for the worst.

And more or less have to — since who has an extra $400 just sitting around, begging to be spent?

But I also want to mitigate the amount spent and only pay what is necessary.

Portrait of cheerful beautiful young woman lying with her dog on the beach
Image Credit: Shutterstock/ Dean Drobot


Note: when I say “necessary,” that’s at the level of care I’m comfortable with providing for my pets. For others, this amount may be different. Neither way is right or wrong. As long as a humane level of care and love is provided, you can be as cost-conscious with your pets as you wish.

But I will say I insist on quality dog food, treats, grooming, accessories, toys, and overall general care for my animals.

Because they are members of our family, we wouldn’t want it any other way. And this quality does come at a price.

For example, I will not buy food, treats, or a cr*ppy toy from the dollar store. It’s just not worth the risk.

Also, I am not a veterinarian. (Obvi.) So please don’t take my suggestions below as professional advice.

Like everything else I talk about on my site, these are my opinions only. I am glad to share things that have worked for me with whoever wants to listen.

Because over the years, we’ve had some doozies in terms of vet bills.

  • Some couldn’t be helped and were part of regular maintenance
  • Some were the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • And others occurred due to stupid little mistakes we allowed to happen

But regardless of the root cause, we’ve found a few ways to be smart about saving on our pet’s vet bills.

Pet Insurance

First and foremost, we do use pet insurance.

The concept of pet insurance was first introduced to the U.S. in the early ’80s by Veterinary Pet Insurance (now known as Nationwide Pet Insurance.)

In 1982, they wrote an insurance policy for Lassie. Then in 2001, they wrote an insurance policy for Snoopy.

No, not the famous beagle — but rather the infamous bulldog:

Our girl Snoop. The one who kickstarted our initial obsession with bulldogs. We initially obtained a VPI insurance policy for her when she was a puppy. And we utilized it many, many times over the years until she sadly and unexpectedly passed in 2013.

For us, pet insurance was the saving grace during many tenuous financial circumstances.

Back then, our initial policy cost maybe $15 a month for the very basic coverage. We then upgraded to the wellness plan, which covered several maintenance items such as an annual visit, heartworm prevention, and a few common vaccinations. (Currently, our policies now cost approximately $60 per dog per month.)

This helped us out on many occasions since money was a bit tight back then. We didn’t have a budget. When vet bills came around, we’d use a credit card and were extremely thankful to have that as an option. (Yes, I know)

But at least we could submit the claim through VPI and apply a reimbursement to our credit card bill.

Many people might argue if we put the monthly premium amount into savings, we’d have money to pay vet bills right then and there. And we wouldn’t even need an insurance policy at all (we’d be self-insuring.)

While I agree with that, I will also say that it’s difficult to do when you’re struggling to make ends meet.

You try to save what you can. But inevitably, that money is taken over by competing priorities. As a result, things don’t always work out how you plan them.

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Save On Quality Dog Food

Since our dogs have skin allergies and sensitive stomachs, we feed them special high-quality, premium dog food containing fresh ingredients. But, of course, with better quality comes a higher price. In addition, this food brand isn’t sold in a regular grocery stores.

Thankfully, I found their dog food in stock on Petflow.com. In addition, we are registered with their automated delivery service, so we receive new bags of food every seven weeks. Delivered right to our front door. Signing up for auto-ship delivery is quick and easy, and you also get an additional $30 off your first auto-ship order.

Plus, a bowl of food is donated to a pet in need with every purchase you make. What’s not to love about that?

And how does this save money on vet bills? By having a healthier pet, from feeding premium dog food to fewer allergy problems and stomach issues.

A healthy dog is a happy dog.

Save On Maintenance And Grooming

Along with feeding quality food to keep your pets healthy, it’s also necessary to groom them appropriately. This will save loads of money long-term. Things like nail trimming, ear cleaning, and brushing their teeth will go a long way.

You can do these things at home and don’t need to pay someone else to do them.

Nail trimming: Not only will your pet feel better, but you can also avoid issues with their footpads by keeping nails nice and short.

It’s smart to get started with this when they are puppies by just using regular nail clippers. However, their nails will become much harder as they get older, and you’ll need to use actual pet nail clippers.

Another option is to use a device like a Dremel to file their nails. This is something we did with my first bulldog, who didn’t like the nail clippers at all.

Of course, before using a tool like this, make sure to vet out the safety requirements fully so you don’t hurt your pet. The online resource I used to follow is no longer active, however, I did find this video to be very informative and helpful.

Ear cleansing wipes – to keep ear canals clean, odor-free, and to prevent wax build-up. These are the exact wipes I use for my dogs, and they don’t mind the process one bit. Previously, when we used liquid ear cleanser, I’d have to chase my dogs around the house trying to squirt the liquid into their ears. I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t like that either.

Tooth wipes: Like humans, keeping a dog’s teeth healthy is a great predictor for remaining healthy overall. We use these wipes to clean our dogs’ teeth, getting in there to scrub inside and out.

They have peppermint oil in them, which keeps our dogs interested. So while I’m scrubbing teeth, they’re trying to grab a piece of the wipe because it tastes & smells good.

Keeping Their Weight Down

This one will be short and sweet. Just like humans, pups don’t do very well when out of shape. It affects their breathing, joints, heart health, and so many other things.

Keeping your pet lean and trim will help to extend their years. And more time for them means more time with you! So help them stay healthy and avoid vet visits related to osteoarthritis, mobility issues, trouble breathing, diabetes, and heart issues.

Save Money By Using Product Rebates

When we think about going to the vet, there are usually two expectations —

  1. The vet will do whatever they can to care for my pet
  2. It will probably cost a lot of money

And while #1 is very often the case, #2 doesn’t have to be. Knowing how to make the most out of your vet-spending dollars can save you money on your next appointment. One way to do this is to take advantage of any product rebates that are offered while you are there.

For example, whenever I pick up a box of heartworm preventative, my vet office also provides a rebate slip that I can fill out and send to the manufacturer. Typically, it’s a $15 or $20 refund for purchasing an annual supply of preventative.

This also applies to the dental chews I buy for them. Saving the codes from three 30-count boxes can be redeemed for a $10 or $15 credit (depending on dog size.)

So make sure to check with your vet’s office — and don’t forget to fill out the forms once you get home!

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Also: To Save On Vet Bills, Choose Your Breed Wisely

One additional word on dog breeds. As most of you know, I am an English Bulldog enthusiast.

Some might say “fanatic.” Others might even say “obsessed.” But I just love those smushy faces, wrinkly butts, and snorty noises.

But all of that wrinkly cuteness comes at a cost. Bulldogs are expensive to breed, raise, maintain, and generally keep healthy. And when things start to go south, boy, that costs some money.

So if you are contemplating a dog breed and would like to remain in the realm of frugality, an English Bulldog might not be the breed for you.

Mixed breeds tend to be much healthier overall, which is one of many great reasons to go the adoption route.

Save On Your Vet Bills

All in all, there are several ways you can save on vet bills. Acknowledging that foregoing pet ownership altogether will probably save you the most money. Because then you wouldn’t need to see a vet at all.

But for those of us who love our animals and couldn’t imagine life without them — that would never be a viable option.

And engaging in a few smart tricks to lessen the bite of a vet bill will allow you to enjoy your time with your snuggly ones fully.

The most important thing is to make sure they remain as healthy as possible to prevent conditions or illnesses that will require vet care. But also knowing how to budget and save money on what pets need will help you save in the long run.

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