Author Topic: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)  (Read 26495 times)

cbr shadow

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Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« on: October 25, 2012, 09:31:32 AM »
After having a few dogs and needing normal vet care for all of them, I've found a couple of ways to save at the vet that many people dont know..

1) Dont fill your prescription at the vets office!  Ask for a written prescription and fill it at Walgreens or CVS.
2) Ask questions: "How much does this test cost?" - "If the test comes back positive, what's the treatment and how much does it cost?"  I ask these questions because many times it's FAR cheaper just to do the treatment
3) Asking questions about prices will also show the vet that you're concerned about the price and they will generally not "upsell" extras.

Here's an example: My female Rottweiler keeps going to the door to be let outside to pee. She squats and only a few drips come out, then tries over and over again.  Also her urine is a darker color.  I looked up the symptoms online and it looks like it's almost certainly a UTI.  My wife set up a vet visit and they said to bring in a urine sample to run "a couple tests" on.  They also mentioned that if she couldn't catch urine (only a teaspoon is needed) that they can do a procedure with a needle to extract it from her bladder (more $, plus pain for the dog I would think!)
Total costs listed below:
Office Visit - $53.00
Urine Analysis - $34.00
2nd test - $29.00
Extraction (if needed) - $44.00
Prescription filling - $31.00

I called and explained that I'm trying to avoid the fees of bringing her in, along with taking the morning off of work.  I asked if she can just write the prescription based on her symptoms.  She said it would be best if they at least did the Urine Analysis.  I agreed and we brought just a small sample in for her to test.  They did the $33.00 test and said yes, that she needs antibiotics.  I had her write the prescription and filled it at Walgreens, which was $12 to fill!

I spent $45.00 instead of $147 (more if I was too lazy to catch a small cup of urine myself!).  All of that with just a quick phone call.

BTW, the antibiotics worked great and my girl is all better now!

One note: Some vets (previous vets we've had) have given us a major guilt trip about not spending the extra money for the testing.  I just dont get it - if the test costs $100 and the treatment costs $10 and isn't harmful, why not just treat it as if the test came back positive, especially when all symptoms point towards one sickness?

Anyways, I thought I'd share a little money saving tip.


fiveoh

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2012, 09:35:07 AM »
Any advice on heartworm prevention pills?  Do websites like 1800petmeds really have them cheaper?

Another Reader

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2012, 09:45:53 AM »
I do rescue and volunteer at a shelter and we use your approach all the time.  For simple things, it's treatment first, and a vet visit if that does not work.  Some things are pretty obvious, a round of Clavamox or doxycycline for URI, Albon (it comes in pint bottles) for coccidia and its obvious "aroma."  It takes experience to distinguish between simple problems and major issues, however, especially in cats.  If you aren't sure, go to the vet.

Some vets fear liability and aren't willing to work with this approach, but many are very practical about cost control, especially if you have been a client for a long time.


projekt

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2012, 10:19:37 AM »
As a veterinarian, I can tell you that for some things this approach will work fine, but if you stretch it too far you will actually get substandard care because of your reputation for not wanting to pay for recommended services. In my practice, I try to make everyone aware of the "cadillac" plan, which includes all recommended diagnostics and full treatment, and then if they insist on paying less, we discuss the pros and cons of leaving things out. But many veterinarians find it exasperating to talk about money, and so they will identify the customers that push back on cost and not offer the top recommendations. They do this unconsciously, because of the perceived pain of having to haggle.

There is a lot of discussion these days about prescription drugs dispensed by the veterinarian and those dispensed by pharmacists. Prescriptions, vaccines, special food, and laboratory tests are traditionally sold by veterinarians with markup. In the past, veterinarians have been spreading their revenue across these product categories so that no one thing causes sticker shock. Unfortunately, there have been pressures to move to a third party system for many of these products, which will leave services as the primary revenue stream.

In human medicine, doctors either charge a lot for their services or they pack 8-10 appointments into an hour. For veterinary care, there will likely be a future of $80 office visit fees and expensive services, and those who are unwilling to pay those fees will only patronize veterinarians who have a high volume model.

khammes

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2012, 10:22:29 AM »
Also, for routine vet visits and vaccinations/prescriptions do a search for the nearest low cost clinic (usually it's a low cost spay/neuter clinic).  That's what we use for our three large dogs and one cat and it's MUCH cheaper than going to a traditional vet office (ex: no "office visit fee").  Plus, your pet is still seen by an actual veterinarian.  These clinics usually provide little to no testing/treatment services, but you can typically at least get routine antibiotics prescribed...or at least some advice on what might be wrong so that you can go to another vet more informed. 

We have had nothing but good luck with low cost clinics and I highly recommend them!

cbr shadow

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2012, 10:46:51 AM »
Projekt,
Thanks for the insight - it's good to hear from a vets point of view.  I know we're talking about animals and not humans here, but to many like myself (and probably you since you are a vet!) these are like our kids.  If a vet isn't at least offering the best treatments I think that's irresponsible on their part and I would definitely find another vet.  What would people's reactions be like if a doctor knew a human patient didn't have much money so they didn't even mention the more expensive cancer treatments?  I know, these are dogs not humans, but still..

Also from what I hear vets dont always make a ton of money like a standard medical doctor does, but there's just as much schooling involved.  So I understand that the high cost of vaccinations and neutering goes to pay for things like xray machines and test equipment that is needed. 

On a dog training board that I go to often people speak about dog nutrition and I hear very often that a vet doesn't get a lot of training in school about canine nutrition - is this true?  I had an exerience with a vet that gave my older rottweiler their own food when I had asked him not to.  He questioned why, and I explained that he's on a grain free diet because grains aren't good for dogs.  He went on to say that in the wild dogs eat all types of things, grains included.  Obviously this was an isolated incident with one single vet, but he didn't seem to know about grain-free diets for dogs, which seems like a hugely popular topic lately.

I love our current vetrinarian, and trust her.  I just think that she's used to offering all of the options and pushes the more expensive ones a bit.  I just brought up this topic because I think mustachians would appreciate being able to save a few extra bucks without sacraficing the health of our pets.

projekt

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2012, 11:12:08 AM »
It depends on the school, but nutrition is becoming a recognizably important part of our education. I may be personalizing it, but I find that when people on the internet say "vets don't get any nutrition education" what they mean is that veterinarians usually don't agree with them about nutrition.

I think that veterinarians should respect the choices that their clients have made about things like nutrition, so long as there is no sign that it is harmful. In that way, I'd say that it was probably an oversight that your rottie didn't get his preferred food, but that I would have been apologetic that we didn't make sure that he got what he was supposed to get. If anything, it's a sign that procedures in the boarding facility are somewhat sloppy.

I have found that, when it comes to medicine, lay people on the internet go crazy about the one or two dials that they can control. Where there is scant evidence that "grain free (but potato loaded)" diets are any better than standard dry diets, there will nevertheless be people on the internet proclaiming that this is the single most important thing you can do for your pet, more important than regular exercise, awareness of behavior and signs of disease, etc. We find that the majority of our patients do great on a high-quality, highly digestible diet from a reputable source that has been shown to provide complete nutrition, provided that they get plenty of exercise and are not overfed. Nevertheless, if I tell a client that their preferred food is made by a manufacturer that has had serious quality control problems in the past, I can often expect to hear that I don't know what I'm talking about.

I consider it to be an example of the "bike shed" problem. If you submit designs for a nuclear power plant to a lay committee, they will spend hours discussing the appropriate location, size, arrangement and color of the bike shed, because that is something they can understand. The actual reactor design is presumed to be well understood by the appropriate engineers, who would have told them if there was a problem.

Similarly, I almost never hear on the internet discussions about why it is very important to go to boarded specialists for things like orthopedic surgery, or which procedure is more appropriate for which case. Instead, the discussions are all about food ingredients and supplements, things that lay people can grasp and which are usually harmless when changed. The other dominant type of discussion is "X killed my dog", which is a minefield.

Masha

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2012, 11:51:50 AM »
After rescuing two kittens last year, I was amazed to discover a local non-profit that payed for the spay/neuter surgery and rabies shots for both kitties(I think they cover dogs too). This service was not even low-income contingent--that really amazed me. They even offered a pick up/drop off service, which I did not accept since I'm healthy and mobile, and I wanted to see the clinic.

When we first got the cats, we did go to our local vet for check-ups and worm treatment, and we have taken them back since, but I can't see any reason not to take advantage of the many low-cost routine care options available locally (such as $7 rabies shots at the mobile clinic).

Finding these services is the hard part--the ones here(in NC) have hard to find websites, limited hours, and sometimes random/ out of the way locations.

gestalt162

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2012, 11:59:43 AM »
We have a large male dog with chronic urinary problems (urethral blockages- we suspect bladder stones, but multiple tests have never confirmed them definitively). As a result, our vet put him on prescription food a few months ago- lower mineral content in the food, so stone formation is less likely. We also mixed his food with water to encourage excess hydration.

Unfortunately, the prescription food has doubled our monthly dog food costs. He goes through one 35-lb bag of food per month (he's a giant breed), which costs $75 at the vet's office. I have not seen any pet stores in the area carry the food, and online stores are just as expensive, if not more so. Is there any way to lower these prescription food costs?!

totoro

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2012, 01:34:31 PM »
I think the biggest way we save on vet costs is through making our dog's food ourselves.

When we got her as a puppy 5.5 years ago we fed her higher-end commercial food.  Then came the melamine-tainted pet food scare three or four years ago.  It caused me to research recipes online and learn that commercial dry dog food was not the greatest in many ways.  I decide to give homemade a try.

The end result is what I believe to be a much better quality diet for my pet.  We use a crock pot to make it once a week (cooked) and mix brown rice, sweet potatoes/yams/carrots, with a variety of meat on sale including offal.   It gets cooked up and portioned out twice a day and she gets part of a raw marrow bone once a day.  Once in a while I add a raw egg in.

Our dog's breath improved dramatically after the switch.  She is the exact weight she should be, has a great coat and tonnes of energy.  We get asked all the time if she is a puppy.  Part of this might be her breed (lab/poodle cross), but I do believe the diet works.  Her teeth have little tartar too becaue of the daily bone.

It doesn't make sense to me that you would have to buy expensive prescription food for your dog.  Sick humans modify their diet, not buy bags of prepared specialty dehydrated kibble.  Why can't we do the same for our pets?  It saves money and is better quality imo.  Here is a bladder-stone friendly recipe that you could look into: http://www.2ndchance.info/homemadediets.htm

1.5 lb. of cooked ground beef, with the fat retained, 1/4 lb. of cooked calf’s liver, one cup cooked brown rice or mashed potatoes , 1 teaspoon canola oil, 1 teaspoon of phosphorus-free calcium (crushed calcium lactate or calcium gluconate) or 8 "regular Tums" tablets, and one quarter Centrum or Pet Tab-type tablet given as directed on the bottle.

The two most important factor in dissolving struvite stones are feeding a diet that maintains an acid pH urine and adding as much water as possible to your pet's diet to dilute its urine. (add more water to the food when serving)

projekt

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2012, 03:34:05 PM »
I've been under the impression that home-cooked diets are more expensive than kibble, but I have never priced it out. Kibble is certainly more convenient.

The nice thing about home-cooked diets is that they are probably lower energy density so people will naturally feed a little less energy to their pets. Keeping a healthy body condition (slightly skinny for dogs) is definitely associated with longer, healthier lives.

The problem with home-cooked diets is a matter of not really knowing how balanced they are. Humans can make it to the doctor at the slightest feeling ill health, where they can find out that they are low in B12 or calcium. Dogs can't relate these feelings so it will go unchecked. Recently, for example, I had a patient on a home-cooked diet. We did routine bloodwork and discovered an unnaturally low phosphorus. The dog hadn't been getting enough calcium, so there was therefore consistent pressure to excrete phosphorus and recover calcium from the bone. That puts the dog at risk for osteoporosis, a rare condition in domestic dogs and cats. Wouldn't have been an issue with a commerical diet that had passed an AAFCO feeding trial.

If home-cooking is cheaper than high-quality food (with something like Dog Chow being a minimum standard), I would definitely recommend it over buying low-quality (Ol Roy, Old Yeller, pretty much anything that's <$0.30/lb) food that hasn't been through a feeding trial.

And, to be frugal, make sure you're not overfeeding! Health saves money!

totoro

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2012, 05:46:04 PM »
Homemade is slightly cheaper in our case.  We use sale meats including ground beef, pork and chicken, along with heart and sometimes liver. 

I have heard the argument from vets that dogs may suffer nutritionally without a commercial dog food diet.  I find that possible but extremely unlikely if you are mixing good proportions and adding a raw bone to chew or egg shells or bone meal to the food.   If you are worried, I would say that it is better to add some sort of supplement than revert to commercial food.

I have found it very easy to make and feed my dog homemade dog food and enjoyable.  She is almost never thirsty except after a run and I attribute this to the greater water content in her diet.








bogart

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2012, 05:55:43 PM »
Any advice on heartworm prevention pills?  Do websites like 1800petmeds really have them cheaper?

I don't know, but (with my vet's approval) I skip them entirely and instead give my dogs the equivalent dose of Ivermectin (the active ingredient in at least some heartworm prevention products -- e.g. Heartguard) cow wormer, orally.  I can buy enough wormer to last 2 years (more really, but that's typically the expiration date on the bottle) for my 2 large dogs for $30.  It is a bit more of a nuisance to administer; I have to slurp it out and measure it with a syringe, and I then inject it into fish-oil capsules (that I've poked a needle into and squeezed the fish oil out of) and "pill" them, but someone here describes just soaking it into some bread and feeding that to the dogs.  I prefer the "pill" approach as one of my dogs is finicky, etc. etc.  Anyway, cow wormer is available OTC from pretty much any farm supply store.

fidgiegirl

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2012, 06:29:56 PM »
Any advice on heartworm prevention pills?  Do websites like 1800petmeds really have them cheaper?

I don't know, but (with my vet's approval) I skip them entirely and instead give my dogs the equivalent dose of Ivermectin (the active ingredient in at least some heartworm prevention products -- e.g. Heartguard) cow wormer, orally.  I can buy enough wormer to last 2 years (more really, but that's typically the expiration date on the bottle) for my 2 large dogs for $30.  It is a bit more of a nuisance to administer; I have to slurp it out and measure it with a syringe, and I then inject it into fish-oil capsules (that I've poked a needle into and squeezed the fish oil out of) and "pill" them, but someone here describes just soaking it into some bread and feeding that to the dogs.  I prefer the "pill" approach as one of my dogs is finicky, etc. etc.  Anyway, cow wormer is available OTC from pretty much any farm supply store.

I've heard of this but never done it.  FWIW, you can get empty capsules at some health food stores.  I wonder if my vet would advise on this . . . we have two babies now.  Babies being doggies!

We are going to start making their food as well.  Totoro, I like your crock pot idea.  I have been contemplating how to get going on it.  I got Dr. Pitcairn's book but now that I have bought the stuff for Healthy Powder I am thinking perhaps I have not gotten myself into anything that is more frugal!

Totoro, where do you get your sale meats?  Do you ask at the meat counter, or buy it packaged?  What kinds of "cuts" do you ask or look for?

totoro

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2012, 07:38:25 PM »
I buy what is cheapest.  Where I am, the Chinese grocer sells ground chicken cheap in packages like ground beef.  This is something that is commonly used in wontons.  When beef and pork are on sale I buy them.  I usually buy ground but sometimes get stew meats that are marked down for quick sale.  I add in chicken hearts usually because they are inexpensive and I think some organ meat is good.  I use kelp powder sometimes and ground eggshells.  I don't add brewer's yeast or vitamin C but sometimes add a fish oil capsule.  I do give a a raw marrow bone a day and my dog loves that.

What I make is likely not as complete as Dr.Pitcairn's recipe for healthy powder.  I'll think about that.   

The crock pot works great and I keep the inner pot in the fridge.  I used to make it in a big stew pot and individually package and freeze portions but this way is less work and fresher.

fidgiegirl

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Re: Ways to save at the VET (Dog related)
« Reply #15 on: October 25, 2012, 08:38:36 PM »
I will have to check out the Chinese grocer where I live . . . thanks for the ideas!