Keep your furry friend (and your wallet) healthy and happy with these tips.

By Kristine Gill
Updated October 23, 2018

Budgeting for cat food and doggy day care is one thing, but planning for unexpected and even routine vet care can throw some pet owners for a loop. Plus, vaccines, dental care, and major expenses like emergency surgery can quickly add up as your furry friend ages.

Here’s how to save on costs (without compromising on care) according to Christie Long, a veterinarian and coach on PetCoach, a site for pet parents doling out advice on everything from medical problems to house training.

Related Items

1 Maintain Their Health

Take your dog or cat to the vet once a year until the age of seven, when you should begin taking them twice a year for a thorough physical exam, says Long. In addition to a once-over by the vet, make sure your pets are on flea, tick, and heartworm prevention to avoid transmittable disease, and have routine lab work done. “This is the number one, big thing to keep your pets healthy,” Long says of routine vet care.

RELATED: 10 Houseplants That Are Safe for Cats and Dogs

2 Get Pet Insurance

Pet insurance has been offered to pet parents for 25 years, Long says, and it has helped when facing daunting emergency bills for lifesaving treatments. Pet insurance pays for illness and injuries, so you won’t save on the routine vet visit or vaccine, but you will be covered in the event that your dog is hit by a car, swallows a sock, or is diagnosed with cancer.

Rob Jackson, CEO of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, says a 2-year-old mixed breed dog living in Chicago will cost about $40 a month to insure. That’s a fee based on the dog’s breed, age, and your location where vet care costs vary. “If there’s an accident or an illness, so long as the clinical symptoms were not present prior to enrollment, it’s covered,” Jackson said.

3 Prevent Problems

Obesity and dental problems are the most common health concerns vets see in dogs and cats these days. That means that simply feeding your dog top-notch food and making sure they get their exercise can save hundreds in treatment down the road. So break out the leash and the peanut butter toothpaste and start prioritizing a healthy weight and those pearly whites.

RELATED: The New Online Store That’s Making Shopping for Pet Supplies Easier Than Ever

4 Opt for a House Call

If you have multiple pets, the occasional vet will wave an in-office visit fee if you can’t bring all of them to the same appointment each year, but it’s rare. What’s more common these days, Long says, is for vets to make house calls. You’ll pay the fee and travel costs for the vet who comes right to your home and sees all of your animals at once. Depending on the cost for the service in your area, it could save you some cash.

5 Ask for Discounts and Price Matches

Most vets give military and senior discounts, but they aren’t always readily advertised. Long said to ask your vet if they offer them. Websites such as 1-800-PetMeds can sometimes save money on prescription drug prices that are a little cheaper than what your vet offers, Long says. But vets are also usually willing to price match.

6 Skip the Vet (Sometimes)

Need a nail trim? What about a simple rabies vaccine? Groomers can do the easy stuff like a paw-dicure for less than what your vet will charge. And clinics are often hosted at area pet stores on weekends so owners can pop in and out for a $19 rabies vaccine. “The cost is maybe $5 to $7 less and there’s no exam fee,” Long says. “But keep in mind that’s because what you’re getting is a rushed visit.” In other words, there’s no substitute for a thorough exam.