How to Save on Pet Care Costs (With or Without Pet Insurance)

Pet insurance can help protect your budget in emergency or unforeseen situations, but there are also everyday strategies for saving at your disposal.

Written by Linda Childers / October 7, 2022

Quick Bites

  • Rising inflation costs have left many pet owners struggling to pay for their pet’s food, veterinary care and other related costs.
  • If you’re experiencing financial hardship or just looking for ways to save money, it’s possible to tap into resources that provide subsidized and free veterinary care, discounts on pet food, medications and more.
  • Discounted prescriptions can be obtained at warehouse stores such as Costco or Sam’s Club or by requesting generic versions of the medication.

Our pets give us unconditional love and ask for so little in return. One of the best things we can do for them is to ensure they have access to good healthcare and nutritional food.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends having your pet examined at least once a year by a veterinarian to detect any potential health problems. In addition, vaccinating your pet against potentially deadly diseases such as parvo, distemper and rabies—and keeping them free of parasites such as fleas, ticks and heartworm—can help them to live a long life.[1]

While pet insurance can help defray the cost of medical care for your pet, not all pet owners have an insurance policy for their pets.

“It makes sense to purchase pet insurance when your pet is young and in good health, since many policies exclude pre-existing conditions,” says Dr. Kelly Diehl, a veterinarian and director for the Morris Animal Foundation, an animal health non-profit based in Denver, Colo. “It’s also important to keep in mind that pet insurance plans can vary on the specific services covered, just like our own medical plans.”

Unfortunately, not every pet insurance policy covers medical expenses such as the cost of having your pet spayed or neutered. Unexpected medical costs, combined with inflation, can drive up pet care costs, presenting a financial challenge for many pet owners.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to save on pet supplies and medical expenses to ensure your pet lives a good life, while also keeping costs down. Read on to learn more.

Inside this article

  1. Save on spaying, neutering
  2. Get discounts on food, supplies
  3. Never pay full price for meds
  4. Secure help with emergency bills
  5. Save on preventative healthcare
  6. Train your dog on a discount

Save on spaying, neutering expenses

With animal shelters across the country experiencing overcrowding, having your dog, cat or rabbit spayed or neutered is the responsible thing to do. According to the Humane Society of the U.S., having your pet spayed or neutered can also help to save money by reducing the risk of certain cancers and alleviating some behavioral problems.[2]

Many animal shelters across the country offer low-cost spaying or neutering services. Some are based on household income, while others aren’t. North Shore Animal League America has a database of affordable spay and neuter programs offered across the country.

Get discounts on pet food, supplies

When it comes to buying pet food, Diehl says boutique brands aren’t always the best.

“Find a good middle option somewhere between the cheapest brand and a boutique brand,” she says. “The Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine offers a great blog post detailing what ingredients to look for in a quality pet food.”

For pet bowls, blankets, toys, beds, collars, leashes and more, head to discount stores such as TJ Maxx, Ross and HomeGoods to score significant savings.

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Never pay full price for medications

If your pet needs a pricy medication, Diehl recommends asking your veterinarian for a prescription that you can take to an outside pharmacy. Prescriptions for dogs and cats can often be costly, and not all pet insurance plans cover the cost of medication.

“I’ve written prescriptions for clients and suggested they have them filled at Costco,” says Diehl. You don’t need to be a member to purchase Costco or Sam’s Club Pharmacy prescriptions online or in their warehouses.

Diehl says opting for a generic version of the medication can also reduce the cost. In addition, some pharmacies offer a discount for customers who pay in cash.

Secure help with emergency medical bills

There’s nothing worse than having your pet injured in an accident or diagnosed with a serious medical condition and wondering how you can afford their care. That’s why pet insurance is worth it for many pet owners. Without coverage, though, there are Band-Aid solutions.

CareCredit offers a line of credit for pet owners that need immediate assistance paying for an emergency vet visit,” says Diehl. “Another option, if you have an established relationship with your vet, is to ask if you can work out a payment plan for your pet’s care.”

The AVMA also maintains a list on their website of organizations that help pet owners pay for emergency vet care.

Save on preventative healthcare

Ensuring your pet gets regular veterinary exams, vaccines and uses preventative treatments, including flea and tick and heartworm medication can help them maintain good health.

“As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” says Diehl. “Regular screenings can catch any health problems at an early stage. Some pet owners forgo routine exams for their pets because of cost, but it’s one area you don’t want to skimp on.”

To save money, Diehl recommends asking your vet about wellness packages for your pet. Pet insurers also typically offer preventative add-ons—plus 24-7 telehealth services—that increase your insurance premium. These offers bundle specific services such as vaccines and screenings based on your pet’s age and health. Here are a few examples from non-insurers:

  • PetVet partners with Tractor Supply Company to offer low-cost wellness packages and affordable care for dogs and cats at locations across the country. There’s no office fee or appointments, and care includes vaccines, microchipping, eye and ear care as well as flea and tick prevention.

  • Regional Banfield Pet Hospital offers low-cost wellness packages for dogs and cats.

  • Also, the AVMA says many veterinary colleges across the country offer low-cost clinics for pet owners on a limited income.

Train your dog with discounted services

If you’re having problems housebreaking your dog, or your pet is exhibiting behavioral issues, the Dunbar Academy offers free online courses and videos that can help you curb problems and help both you and your pet thrive.

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In addition, pet stores including Petco and PetSmart offer affordable group classes that cover basic dog commands and more.

Article Sources
  1. “7 Things you can do to keep your pet healthy,” AVMA, https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/7-things-you-can-do-keep-your-pet-healthy.
  2. “Why you should spay/neuter your pet,” Humane Society of the U.S., https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/why-you-should-spayneuter-your-pet.

About the Author

Photo of Linda Childers

Linda Childers

Linda’s articles on healthcare costs and Medicare have appeared in Forbes and MedicareGuide. She has also written on healthcare topics for Arthritis Today, California Health Report, Allure, Health Monitor, US News and World Report, O, The Washington Post and many corporate blogs.

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