By: Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | Sep 30, 2016
Paying a visit to the vet can be expensive. We love our pets and want what’s best for them, but we always have to consider finances when building a treatment plan. My clients want to take care of their four-legged family members, but not at the risk of filing for bankruptcy. Here are some tips that may help to reduce your vet bills in the future.
There are many cases I’ve seen that could have been treated at home. I’m happy that the client came in with their pet so we can ensure the right treatment is used and given effectively, but in some cases, I believe the client could have avoided the visit. This is a difficult point to make because I don’t want to encourage pet owners to allow medical conditions in their pets to go untreated and possibly worsen without proper care. However, if you feel confident about it, there is nothing wrong with implementing a treatment and monitoring the response before running to your veterinarian. I do this with my own children so you can certainly do it with your pets. If my daughter has a fever, I don’t go to the emergency room. I administer some medication, encourage fluid intake and get her to rest. If I don’t see a positive response or her symptoms worsen, such as her appetite reduces or she is becoming more lethargic, I act immediately. The same concept can be applied to pets. If their skin is red and irritated, try an antibacterial shampoo, Polysporin if it’s local, and keep them away from it. If it doesn’t get better, then book that appointment quickly. But as I always say to my clients, if you are concerned, then come in and let us take a look.
You can always call your veterinarian and ask to speak to them. Some veterinarians will always take these calls in a timely manner, others may be too busy with current cases to get right back to you. If they can’t, don’t be disappointed, they are likely helping others in need. If you get them on the phone, tell them your pet’s symptoms and ask for a treatment that you could simply pick up or use at home. Keep in mind that veterinarians cannot dispense medications without understanding the disease their treating so again, don’t be disappointed if they decline, but there’s no harm in asking. Also, if your pet is prone to recurrent issues like diarrhea from a sensitive stomach or skin infections from swimming, then you can ask for extra amounts of the medication you use to treat these conditions so that you have some at home and at the ready for when it happens in the future.
Be cautious. I would not recommend this in general because the sources of information are so varied you can end up with ineffective information, and in some cases, harmful advice. I would exhaust other options before using the internet as a source. You can improve your odds of getting good information by asking your veterinarian for a reputable source. There are websites that offer information in a client-friendly format that also have a business of educating veterinarians. They will be completely reliable and your veterinarian can guide you to them.
This is a highly valuable yet under-utilized resource. Every veterinary clinic has technicians who have a wealth of information to share with pet owners. I’m always surprised at how few clients forge a relationship with the registered veterinary technicians at the clinic they use. These are the unsung heroes who take care of your pet, whether your pet is hospitalized or just in the clinic for a quick visit. Having a strong relationship with them will help you and your pet receive a greater level of service when you visit your neighbourhood clinic. Not only that, but I can almost guarantee that if you call the clinic and leave a message for a registered veterinary technician, they will get back to you and they would be pleased to do so. They are wonderful people and take so much pride and joy in helping a client. At many clinics, you can even book free appointments with a registered veterinary technician. They cannot dispense drugs, but they can educate and teach you how to do many health-related procedures with your pet.
It’s important to make the point that you shouldn’t try to avoid the vet at all cost. Despite the expense, in many cases, a disease or condition can worsen over time and become even more challenging or potentially life-threatening if left unattended or improperly treated. It’s always best to have at least a consultation to make sure you are not missing an opportunity to properly address a medical condition in your pet. Spending money on expensive annual blood work and physical exams can save you much more in the future.
Finding a disease early will not only improve the success of treatment, but it can save you a great deal of money. The examples are endless….addressing obesity early can avoid costly arthritis medication; removing a small mass is cheap compared to one allowed to grow large and invade other tissues; or treating diabetes is less expensive than waiting until your pet collapses from a complication of the disease being uncontrolled. Routine care really is worth a pound of cure…your pet’s health and your bank account will benefit from it.