Meet Max, my 10-year-old Cavalier Spaniel Mix. He is without a doubt the mellowest and happiest dog I know, and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for him. So, when I learned that he had diabetes, I knew that it was a life-changing event for both Max and myself. What I didn’t fully understand at that moment was how expensive treating his illness would be.
I should preface this by saying two things: first, Max has a wonderful vet; and, second, I don’t recommend ignoring the advice of your own veterinarian. That said, there are ways to save money on your furry friend and still ensure they receive quality care. Here is what I did to save over $4,000 in vet bills.
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Shop for Alternatives to Save on Meds
Diabetic dogs need daily insulin shots to control blood glucose levels, and my vet had written a prescription for a type of insulin called Glargine. The issue with Glargine is that it costs around $300 a vial (roughly $3,600 per year). After doing some quick research, I learned that there is actually a much cheaper alternative to the brand name prescription, Novolin N, which costs $25 per vial at Walmart.
With my vet’s blessing, we put Max on the Novolin N and agreed to monitor his blood glucose levels. Since Max’s current diabetes treatment plan calls for one vial per month, I am saving about $3,300 a year on insulin by using the generic medication.
Take Advantage of Non-Profit Assistance
Max had recently developed a mild and persistent cough — which is concerning, since he has diabetes — so I made an appointment with my vet to have it checked out. A cough could be an indication of any number of heart or lung conditions, so at the advice of my vet, we scheduled an X-ray. It revealed a small cloudy area on one of his lungs. My vet recommended putting Max on antibiotics and getting him tested for valley fever.
Valley fever is a fungus that causes severe flu-like symptoms in humans and dogs, and is most common in the Southwestern United States. It was a good thing that I was sitting down because my vet said the valley fever test would cost $650.
Determined to find a cheaper alternative, I was able to locate an organization called Canine Valley Fever Project (CVFP), which offers discounted pricing on lab tests in exchange for enrolling your pet in their research project. I signed up Max, paid the $125 fee for the valley fever test and had my vet draw a blood sample. I’m happy to say that the results came back negative for valley fever and Max is doing fine.
If you live in the Southwestern United States and have a dog that is showing symptoms, I would recommend getting your dog registered and tested for valley fever with CVFP. By taking advantage of the Canine Valley Fever Project’s discounted lab testing service, I was able to save $425.
If you don’t live in the area, consider researching nearby organizations like CVFP that can offer assistance at a lower cost.
Other Ways to Cut Vet Bills
Max gets insulin shots twice a day. The needles need to be disposed of properly in a sharps container and taken back to his vet. I have learned that if I simply break the tip off, place it in the container, and throw the rest in the garbage, I can avoid the monthly disposal fee. In fact, I’ve had the same container for over two and a half years and have saved an estimated $300 in disposal fees.
Another way to save money on your pet without sacrificing their care is to purchase an in-home blood glucose testing kit and then monitor your pet’s blood glucose levels yourself. My vet charges $59 for the catalyst glucose test and another $53 for the office visit. Initially, you will need to work closely with your vet until your pet’s glucose levels have stabilized. Then you can start monitoring it on your own.
There is no getting around the fact that caring for an animal is expensive and vet bills make up the largest share of those costs. The good news is that there are many organizations (like The Mosby Foundation and The Pet Fund, for instance) that can provide financial assistance for owners of pets with critical illnesses that can’t afford the expensive treatments.
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