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9 Ways to get no cost or low cost veterinary care

    Pet medical care can be expensive. If your animal needs a medical procedure that you can't afford, there are organizations that may be able to help. Some tips and limitations:

-Be aware that few, if any, organizations will pay for ongoing medication that pets will need for extended periods of time.

-It is unlikely that any one organization or program will pay for expensive procedures in their entirety. So, be sure to contact as many sources as possible. The grants may be very small, but they can add up if you get help from a number of sources.

-The inclusion of services, organizations or programs listed here is NOT an endorsement or recommendation. We cannot vouch for these programs, and you should check them out yourself before asking for their aid.

One day I noticed my puppy was acting strangely. She walked a few steps, stumbled, fell over and slowly got back up, only to fall over again. I realized her tummy was extremely bloated.

I rushed her to the vet. The vet examined her for a few minutes and started to chuckle. Then my puppy let out a bellowing burp, and the vet actually started to laugh.

When he asked me if I had left dog food out, I remembered the large bowl on the kitchen floor for my other dog. My puppy had 4 cups of food in her half-cup stomach.

It wasnít serious ó although food bloat can be a very serious condition ó but I wasnít laughing when I got the bill for $100.

Between routine care and those little surprises, your petís medical bills can get expensive. Here are some ways to find less expensive ó or even free ó vet care.

1. Look for low-cost alternatives

Local animal welfare organizations, rescue groups and shelters often offer low-cost vaccinations, spaying and neutering, and other routine care.

To find animal shelters and pet rescue groups in your area, check out petshelternearme.xyz

2. Try a vet school

Veterinary schools are typically cheaper than vet clinics and animal hospitals. While procedures are performed by students, they are supervised by a vet. Expect to pay up to 75% less, depending on your area and demand.

Check out veterinarianschools.net for a location near you.

3. Shop around

Vet prices can vary widely. For example, when I was looking for a new veterinarian in New Orleans, I called six different clinics. The base cost of a visit ranged from $35 to $75.

So, check around. Price often depends on the clinicís location, its equipment costs and the student loan debt of the vet staff.

See localveterinary.net for a list of vets local to you.

4. Ask your vet for help

If your pet needs an expensive medical treatment or youíre struggling to cover the cost of care, discuss the situation with your veterinarian. Many vets offer payment plans or discounts to their steady clients. Many vets also now take credit plans. Check out
veterinarycredit.website for a list of credit programs, including for low income and disabled.

5. Find a charity

If your vet canít help and you canít afford an expensive and necessary medical procedure, you may be able to get help from a charity.

The Humane Society has a list of charities, some of which help with the cost of life-saving medical care for pets. Click on your state to see whatís available.

6. Look for cheaper prescriptions

If youíre buying prescription medication directly from your vet, you may be overpaying. Compare prices online at sites like:

discountpetvaccines.info - Has low cost vaccines

petmedsonline.net - Has discount pet meds

Be careful when buying pet medications online, and deal only with reputable sites.

You may be able to get generic pet meds for less.

Finally, ask your vet if he or she will match the best price you find.

7. Keep an eye out for specials

Just like human-centered businesses, vets offer specials. My vet has offered a 20 percent discount for new patients and $25 off dental cleanings.

Be sure to check out veterinary websites and social media accounts for deals. See localveterinary.net for a list of vets local to you.

8. Be proactive to protect your petís health

Take steps and precautions to reduce your petís chances of requiring expensive medical care:

Spaying or neutering. The American Humane Association says:
Spaying females prior to their first heat cycle nearly eliminates the risk of breast cancer and totally prevents uterine infections and uterine cancer. Neutering males prevents testicular cancer and enlargement of the prostate gland, and greatly reduces their risk for perianal tumors.

Getting wellness checkups. Prevention is always better (and cheaper) than a cure. Make sure your pets get annual wellness exams. Keep up with the vaccination schedule, and make sure you discuss heartworm prevention with your vet. (check out #9 for more help with this)

Pet-proofing your home. Keep dangerous foods out of the reach of pets and avoid bringing toxic plants into the house. Check out the ASPCAís list of people foods your pets shouldnít have and its toxic and nontoxic plants database.

9. Compare pet health plans

    "Many people might feel that they would rather put money into an account to provide for emergencies with their pet. That may be a very good idea for ongoing veterinary costs, such as payment for check-ups. But what if something unexpected happens and you have to pay thousands of dollars for an operation for your dog?" said pet lifestyle expert and entrepreneur Wendy Diamond, founder and CEO of Animal Fair Media. "You're unlikely to have saved that much money, especially if you've only been saving for a few months. If you have pet insurance in place, this can help with the cost."

    But the cost of insuring your pet can add up over time, too. Pet insurance premiums vary widely depending on the age, species, size, type of plan and deductible, as well as the state you live in. The most common question pet owners ask about pet insurance is: "Is pet insurance worth it?" Itís a valid question and one worth exploring.

    I think that people often have the wrong attitude about pet insurance. For example, it's not uncommon for someone to say they would rather just open up a savings account to pay their veterinary expenses rather than "waste" money on pet insurance premiums. This person doesn't understand the purpose of pet insurance. People buy insurance of any kind to help them pay for large, unexpected or unplanned expenses for which they would have trouble paying for out-of-pocket.

I'm all for having a so-called "pet health savings account," but not instead of pet insurance. The reason is obvious. What if two months into your savings plan, your pet becomes seriously sick or injured and requires treatment totaling several thousand dollars? You'd be a little short. That's when a pet insurance policy comes in handy. And situations like that happen all the time in veterinary hospitals around the country.

    Another comment I hear a lot is: "There are too many exclusions, like hereditary problems and chronic diseases, to make it worth it." If you believe this, perhaps you haven't looked into pet insurance lately. There are a dozen companies offering policies in the United States and coverage has vastly improved. And most companies now allow you to customize your policy by selecting from several deductible and copay options to find a premium that fits your budget.

    If you've ever had a pet that was seriously injured or ill, where you spent hundreds to perhaps thousands of dollars for your pet to be treated, you are likely more receptive to the idea of buying pet insurance. In fact, in hindsight, you've probably thought that pet insurance would have come in handy. You may have even purchased pet insurance just because of such an event.

    On the other hand, if your pets have always been relatively healthy and you've never been faced with a large, unexpected vet bill, you might be thinking, "Something like that has never happened to me and probably won't, so buying pet insurance would just be a waste of money." Unfortunately, you can't tell the future, and while they say "hindsight is 20/20," it's too late to do you much good.

    Perhaps you know some pet owners who scoff at the notion of spending much money at all on their pets. They have the attitude that if anything were to cost more than say $500, they'll just have the pet euthanized and go out and get a replacement pet. Pet insurance would indeed be a waste of money for these pet owners.

    Surveys have been done asking pet owners how much they would spend to save their ill or injured pet. A large percentage of pet owners respond that they would be willing to spend "any amount" to save their pet. It has been my experience as a veterinarian, however, that when I present the cost of a diagnostic and treatment plan to pet owners, and it's no longer a theoretical question on a survey - but reality, some aren't so sure of the answer anymore.

    Often, your veterinarian will want to refer serious emergencies or complicated surgeries or medical cases to a specialty or emergency hospital. Specialty and emergency hospitals (when needed) play an important role in providing quality healthcare for your pet, and can often be the difference between the successful or unsuccessful treatment of your pet. But because these hospitals often deal with life-threatening problems that need intensive care, the fees are usually higher than what you would pay at your regular veterinarian's hospital.

    I believe specialization in veterinary medicine will only increase in the future. Therefore, odds are that your veterinarian will refer your pet to an emergency or specialty hospital one or more times during your petís lifetime. This will usually involve a large and often unexpected veterinary bill.

    So, if your pet were seriously sick or injured and required major surgery and/or an extended hospital stay, would you be willing to spend $5,000 or $10,000 if required? If your answer is yes, but youíre worried about how you would afford it, then you should at least look into purchasing pet insurance.

Check out petinsuranceonline.us to compare pricing.