Working at an Animal Hospital, I am often times flabbergasted by the cost of some medications clients need to purchase for their pets. Preventatives (like flea/tick and heartworm treatments) and medications for ongoing diseases (like diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, allergies or even arthritis) can really add up and break the bank. I don’t think you should have to sell your firstborn to treat your pets! While I firmly believe that pets are family and should get the care and medications they need, there are ways to decrease the cost of Fido’s pills. So what can you do? Here are 7 ways you can keep the cost down:

1. Ask your vet

1. Sometimes you just have to ask. If you have financial concerns, or even if you don’t and just want to know your options, I always recommend getting an estimate in the exam room before committing to anything. Ask about the cost of the pricier medications. So Fluffy has a skin infection that needs an antibiotic that costs $75, but is this medication the only option? Veterinarians will often present you with the “gold standard” option, but sometimes there are less expensive alternatives that can get the job done just as well. (For example, there’s an antibiotic injection for cats and dogs that lasts for 14 days, and it’s amazing! But it is also expensive and you can easily substitute a pill or liquid that costs a third of the price. It will be more work for you because Fluffy needs that cheaper medication twice a day for two weeks, but it will save you money!)

2. Use coupons and rebates

Often times new medications and preventatives have coupons or rebates you can use. It doesn’t hurt to ask if the vet is aware of any, or to take your receipt home and use your computer skills (really, just a Google search) to see if the manufacturer offers any rebates online.

3. Comparison price shop

3. Do some comparison price shopping before going to the vet, particularly for preventatives (like your once-a-month flea/tick medication and heartworm treatments). Some practices will price match what you can find online.

4. Try your vet’s online pharmacy

Find out if the vet has an online pharmacy. (The one I work for does. It is directly connected to our practice so we can easily submit prescriptions and they can be sent directly to your home.) The medications are less expensive, and if you order over a certain dollar amount the shipping is free. The medications are all FDA approved and are the same exact pills we provide in our clinic. An online pharmacy directly connected to a veterinary practice is a great option for medications that don’t need to be started immediately or ones that you will be continuing for a while.

5. Try your local pharmacy

Is it a medication used in human medicine (think Valium and Prozac…No judgement here). If so, you can get a prescription from your vet and have it filled at your local pharmacy. (Try before you fill it. This website will give you the price of the drug at all your local pharmacies so you can see where it is the cheapest. The price differences can be astounding!) I find that Costco and Walmart tend to have the cheapest medications in my area, and you aren’t required to have a Costco membership to fill a prescription there! Also, many ‘human’ pharmacies now carry pet medications, so if your dog is on something like Rimadyl for arthritis, check to see if your pharmacy carries it.

6. Go generic

See if there is a generic brand for the medication your pet requires. That Rimadyl I just mentioned? There are several generic alternatives that cost much less. Get a prescription and then do your homework to find the least expensive option.

7. Try an online pharmacy

My last choice (for many reasons) would be an online veterinary pharmacy (not directly connected to a veterinary practice). I kind of hate them. I have to deal with these places quite often when I work. They make A LOT of mistakes and often times don’t have the necessary knowledge about the drugs to be working with them. There have been reports about some of these businesses getting their drugs from overseas where the safety requirements are less stringent. Do your homework and use these online businesses with caution.

If all of the above are not enough, get a job at a veterinary practice. Kidding (not kidding)! Veterinarians are not going to ask you if you would like a less expensive way to get your pet’s medications, so you have to be your own advocate and speak up. It really can pay off!