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How to Avoid Expensive Veterinary Bills for Your Dog

Proper preparation can avoid costly vet bills.

The costs of health care are increasing all the time. In fact, many bills are rapidly rising in cost for families. Veterinary bills are no exception. Unfortunately, having or not having the money to pay the veterinarian sometimes means the difference between getting your animal necessary treatment or choosing an unhappy alternative. How can you avoid this heartbreaking situation?

Acquire Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is a great way to get ready for potential veterinary bills. Many pet insurance programs help cover diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, emergency visits, and even specialists for your pet. There are many different companies to choose from, and they have different deductibles and coverages. At, we recommend Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation. You can learn more about why we like this company and their coverage in our thorough article: "Pet Insurance = Peace of Mind." In order to get the most out of pet insurance, you should sign up for it as soon as you adopt your dog. Once he gets sick or injured, it will be too late because the condition will then be termed pre-existing and likely won't be covered.

Apply for Care Credit

Care Credit is a unique credit card that allows you to make purchases for veterinary services as well as some human medical and dental services. You may qualify for 0% interest on charges for a certain time period. Make sure your veterinarian accepts Care Credit. You can learn more about and apply for this great program here:

Set Money Aside for Veterinary Bills

Consider creating a dedicated savings account into which you commit to placing money from every paycheck to use toward veterinary bills. Having the money set aside will give you a bit of a cushion if something unexpected happens with your dog.

Be Prepared for Routine Bills

There are certain things that your dog is going to need every year such as vaccinations, examinations, fecal tests, and possibly lab work, dental cleanings, and preventative medications for fleas, ticks, and heartworms. Be aware of what your veterinarian recommends yearly for your pet and what the associated costs will be. Being prepared by saving up for routine bills will make it easier for you to afford treatment if your pet becomes ill or injured. You can learn more in the article: "How to Be Prepared for Your Dog's Veterinary Bills."

Find out If Your Veterinary Clinic Offers Wellness Plans

It is becoming more popular for veterinarians to offer wellness plans for adult dogs and puppies. These plans are set up differently according to each individual clinic, but they usually offer coverage for routine items, preventative care, and sometimes discounts on other services. You may pay a lump sum at the beginning of the year for these plans, or you may be able to pay monthly. Ask your veterinarian if they have any programs like this.

An Ounce of Prevention

You can avoid many costly veterinary bills simply by using good prevention methods for your dog's health. Here are just a few ways in which you can avoid canine health problems and their associated costs:

  • Keep your dog at a healthy weight. Countless conditions from diabetes to joint problems can be managed or avoided by keeping your dog at a healthy weight. Learn more here: "Dog Weight Loss: Tips for Helping Your Dog Lose Weight."
  • Pay attention to your dog's teeth. Your dog's mouth health can have a big impact on his general health. Develop a home dental care routine for your dog and stick to it. Also, be sure that your veterinarian checks out your dog's mouth every time you go in for an examination.
  • See the veterinarian for routine exams. Discovering illnesses and conditions as early as possible is the key to reducing the costs associated with treating them as well as increasing the effectiveness of the treatment. Consult with your veterinarian to determine how often your dog should receive a routine exam.
  • Use preventative medications. Medications are available for dogs that can help prevent heartworm disease, flea and tick infestations, and certain intestinal parasites. While these medications may require you to spend some money monthly, the diseases and conditions that they prevent will be much more costly to treat if they occur. Your veterinarian is best-suited to help you decide which medications are important for your individual dog and your geographical area.
  • Be aware of the signs of potential problems. Certain medical problems run within dog breeds. There are conditions that are more common in small dogs, large dogs, dogs with floppy ears, or those with flat faces. Ask your veterinarian what conditions you should be on the lookout for in your particular dog. Learn the signs associated with those conditions, and take your pet to the veterinarian at the first indication of a problem. You should also become familiar with the causes of common, often preventable conditions in dogs such as pancreatitis (this condition is not always preventable, but avoiding fatty human foods can decrease your dog's risk).
  • Do what you can to avoid accidents and toxic exposures. If you have a puppy, make sure to puppy-proof your home. Examine your house through the eyes of the mischievous puppy, and remove or secure dangerous items. Make yourself aware of products and foods that are toxic to dogs, and be sure to keep those things out of reach.
  • Properly socialize your dog with other dogs. If your dog isn't well-socialized with other dogs, he may be prone to getting into fights, resulting in injuries. Good socialization is best accomplished during puppy-hood by exposing your dog to lots of different situations. If you adopt an older dog, you can still work on increasing his socialization, but you may also need to take more care with ensuring that he isn't put in situations in which he might become aggressive. If your dog is friendly and well-socialized, it's still important to keep him under control when you are out and about. Other dogs may not be friendly, and if your dog runs headlong up to one of these, a fight may ensue, resulting in costly injuries.
  • Spay or neuter your dog. Dogs that are not spayed or neutered run the risk of developing many health problems including uterine or prostate infections or mammary or prostate cancer. Learn more here: "Dog Neutering: Is Earlier Better?"
  • Properly groom your dog. Some dogs require more routine grooming than others, but all dogs need a certain amount of maintenance coat, skin, and claw care. Claws need to be kept short in order to decrease the risk of them being torn or broken. Ear canals may need to be cleaned routinely to decrease the risk of ear infections. Some dog breeds require routine hair clipping to reduce the potential for matting and skin infections. If you aren't sure what type of grooming your dog requires, consult with your veterinarian or a professional groomer.

Maintain an Open Line of Communication with Your Veterinarian

The most important thing you can do when dealing with money issues surrounding your dog's veterinary care is to be open and honest with your veterinarian. Be sure that you always understand all of your options in any given circumstance. If you don't, always ask for clarification. There may be more than one way to treat a particular condition. If you are honest with your veterinarian about how much you have to spend, he or she may be able to work with you to determine the best course of action for your dog and your bank account. Always remember that veterinarians are people with budgets themselves, and most of them are very understanding about money issues.

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