Veterinary care can be really expensive! If you a cat owner on a budget, going to the vet can be a daunting thought. It might even cross your mind to skimp on your cat’s health care to save a few dollars. There are affordable options out there, you just have to know where to look! As a cat owner on a budget myself, I have have discovered some important secrets to getting low-cost veterinary care.

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The Biggest Secret to Getting Low-Cost Veterinary Care!

The biggest secret to getting low-cost veterinary care is not much of a secret at all – invest in wellness care. It is far more expensive to take care of a cat that is sick than to maintain the health of a healthy cat. How do you keep your cat healthy?

Vet Visit

Photo Credit: Captain Pancakes via Flickr

  • Good nutrition
    Feed your cat the best cat food you can afford. The higher quality the food is, the better it will serve your cat’s health. What things make a cat food higher-quality? Look for cat foods with few carbohydrates, more moisture, fresher, higher quality animal proteins (actual meat listed rather than some kind of “meat” meal), and no artificial ingredients.
  • Playtime
    Exercise is as important for your cat as it is for you! It keeps the mind and body healthy while lowering the risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases.
  • An Engaging Environment
    Cats need to have appropriate things to do, to feel safe, to have hiding places, and places to scope out their environment from above.
  • Regular vet check-ups
    Life isn’t fair. Sometimes cats get sick no matter how awesome of a cat owner you are. If you are taking our cat to see the veterinarian for regular check-ups, your veterinarian could catch problems early. The earlier a problem is caught, the more likely it can be solved and the less expensive that solution will be.
  • Spay/Neuter
    A litter of kittens is expensive, much more expensive than spaying or neutering one cat. Plus, spaying or neutering a cat has health benefits! Check out the low-cost spay and neuter programs around the US using the widget below.

Secret #1: Have an honest discussion with your veterinarian.

It may feel a bit awkward, but it is important to have an honest discussion with your veterinarian about your budget before any services are rendered. Your veterinarian may be able to work with you to come up with a care plan that will work for you. They can offer discounts, choose different types of testing and help you find treatments that are more affordable. Depending on the particular clinic, you may be able to trade some work (cleaning, organizing, etc) for services too. You don’t know until you ask. If the veterinarian can’t come down to your price range, they may be able to refer you to someone who can.

Secret #2: Use a subsidized veterinary clinic.

There are veterinary clinics all around the United States that are subsidized by the government. These clinics can offer their services at lower prices than private veterinary clinics. The most common subsided veterinary clinics are associated with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the ASPCA. Visit the HSUS or ASPCA websites or do an internet search for the subsidized clinic nearest to you.

Secret #3: Contact your local veterinary teaching hospital.

Dooley Held by April

Photo Credit: April and Randy via Flickr

Veterinarians have to complete a certain amount of work with animals in order to get their certifications. Therefore, many veterinary colleges have a teaching hospital or clinic where pet owners can get low-cost veterinary care. At one of these teaching hospitals, your cat will receive care from a new veterinarian that is being overseen by more experienced veterinarians. There can be benefits to this as these new veterinarians are learning the latest about cats and treatments rather than being  stuck in old methodology.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) requires that all of their accredited veterinary colleges have a teaching hospital associated with them. For your peace of mind, a list of accreditation requirements can be found here. Contact an AVMA accredited college to ask where you can take your cat to be a part of their program. There is also a list of veterinary colleges that are searchable by state here.

Secret #4: Talk with your local animal rescue groups.

Animal rescue groups get a lot of experience with the local veterinary clinics. They are the masters of finding low-cost veterinary care. They can tell you which veterinarians provide the most cost effective services, which are best to see for a particular problem, and give you an idea of the veterinarian’s overall reputation. A fancy office does not necessarily mean a better veterinarian.

Secret #5: Investigate non-profit organizations and charity groups that help with veterinary costs.

Walmart Pet Perscriptions

A sign at my local Walmart pharmacy.

There are quite a few organization out there that can help with veterinary costs. Some of them give grants to help with the treatment of specific diagnoses (heart disease, cancer, etc) while others offer more general help. HSUS has a great list of these organizations that is searchable by state. It will take a little bit of research, but you might be able to find the exact help your cat needs.

Secret #6: Use human pharmacies for your cat’s prescription.

If your cat needs a prescription medication, you don’t have to fill that prescription at your veterinary clinic. A lot of popular pharmacies (Walmart, Walgreens, Costco, RiteAid, etc) will fill prescriptions from a veterinarian as long as they have the medication in stock. Online pharmacies can fill pet prescriptions too. Many of these “human” pharmacies will offer better prices than a veterinary clinic can (even offering low-cost generics and antibiotics). Talk to the pharmacist about your cat’s medication and see what options they have available for you.

Do you have any secrets to getting low-cost veterinary care?