Pet medications and veterinarian bills can be a hefty expense for any pet owner. These necessities, especially when you own a puppy or kitten, an elder animal, or an animal with special needs, can add up quickly. The inability to support an animal financially is a contributing factor as to why many dogs and cats end up in shelters, but there are many resources and options available to pet owners in order to help offset costs. You should never have to choose between your financial health and the health of your pet.
According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans are projected to spend $55.53 billion in 2013 on pet expenditures. Of that, $14.21 billion will be spent on veterinary care (figure includes routine non-surgical care and prescription medications), up from $13.67 billion spent in 2012. This does not include supplies or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, which is estimated to increase from $12.56 billion in 2012 to $13.21 billion in 2013.
VET OFFICES ARE TYPICALLY MOST EXPENSIVE FOR PET MEDSMost veterinarian offices have their own pharmacies, and approximately two-thirds of pet owners buy their medications from these in-office pharmacies. Veterinarians are required to attend seminars every two years in order to maintain their drug administration licenses, and they have the knowledge to advise how drugs interact with other drugs, and what to do if your animal has a reaction. However, according to the August 2011 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, vets usually charge a markup of 100% to 160% over the wholesale cost of the medication. In addition, some vets may charge a dispensing fee of $5-$15. If time is not of the essence or you are seeking preventive medications, it may be wise to examine other places to purchase pet medications.
Veterinarians will write prescriptions that can be filled out of the office, you just have to ask. If your veterinarian is reluctant or refuses to write a prescription for you to take elsewhere, you may want to consider finding a new veterinarian. If your animal needs medications as soon as possible and you can get it in the office, then the convenience of the office may be the right choice for that scenario. With special pet medications, it can sometimes take 24-48 hours to fill, so keep your pet’s health and well-being in mind. Whether you go to a store or order online, do not order from places that do not require a prescription. You do not want to purchase counterfeit or incorrect drugs that may jeopardize your animal’s health.
Many large retailers that have pharmacies are now offering pet medication programs. Winn-Dixie stores advertise that they carry every pet medication on the market. Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart have pet medication programs, and Wal-Mart’s website is easily navigable and shows the pricing for a large amount of the pet meds they carry, although you cannot purchase them online. Both Wal-Mart and Target offer special programs for generics, with eligible generics costing only $4 for a 30 day supply, or $10 for a 90 day supply. Pet stores such as Pet Smart and PetCo carry many OTC medications, but do not have pharmacies to fill prescriptions.
Another option is to research cross-over drugs. Cross-over drugs are medications that both humans and pets can take. Some cross-over drugs include Alprazolam for behavioral problems, Atopica for dermatitis, and Atenolol for heart conditions. Another cross-over is the antibiotic Amoxicillin, and although Publix Supermarkets do not have a specific pet medication program, they offer 14 day supplies of Amoxicillin for free. Talk to your vet before you use a cross-over drug to make sure that you give your pet the proper dosage.
ONLINE PET PHARMACIESIf you do not want to purchase your prescriptions in a store, there are many online pharmacies. It is important to make sure that the online pharmacy you use has an accreditation from Veterinarian Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (Vets-VIPPS). There are over 18 accredited sites online. Some of the most popular sites include 1800petmeds.com; drsfostersmith.com; and petcarerx.com. These sites feature different coupons and promotions, and offer reasonably priced prescriptions. When ordering online, a shipping and handling charge is applied, but most websites will waive the charge if an order reaches a certain amount. Shipping and handling is free on orders over $39 on 1800petmeds.com; over $49 on drsfostersmith.com; and over $35 on petcarerx.com.
OTHER OPTIONS FOR PET MEDSIf you have explored all of your shopping avenues and are still finding certain medications too expensive, there are other steps you can take to minimize your veterinary costs. Drug discount cards are available, and if you are a AAA or an AARP member, you may want to see if your medication discounts can apply towards pet medication. There are many pet insurance policies out there that may help to offset costs if an emergency occurs. However, Consumer Reports recommends simply budgeting out a few hundred dollars each year in case of a pet emergency, that way if you do not use that money you will keep it, not the insurance company.
There are many options available to make caring for your pet more affordable. Having a pet will inevitably cost money, and it is important to make sure you are prepared to care for your dog or cat. The health of your animal is never an optional expense, and if you put an unhealthy animal into a shelter, they are at a greater risk of being euthanized. Take the time to explore all of the different pharmacies, and ask your veterinarian for recommendations and advice. There are many outlets that offer assistance in these trying economic times. Even when the going gets tough, just remember that if you are there for your pet, your pet will always be there for you.