Seven Ways To Save Big On Your Pet Pharmacy Bills

Dr. Patty Khuly

Saving on Pet Medications

I have to give credit where it’s due: This article is brought to you by legions of thrifty clients whose money-saving tips have opened my eyes to the many ways in which pet drugs and products can be had more affordably.

Yes, a vet can learn a lot from her clients. All she has to do is ask the right questions. In this post, my clients pony up on how they save significant amounts on their prescriptions. So, if you spend any amount of money on pet prescriptions (and almost all of you will qualify), you’ll definitely want to read this.

Now, before I offer these tips, it’s important to note that the veterinary industry is currently undergoing a lot of change on the subject of pet products and medications. Here’s some background info on this:

Historically, veterinarians haven’t typically worked like your family doctor when it comes to drugs. Instead of sending you elsewhere to purchase your meds, we’ve always offered you drugs on site. Rather than sending you home with a prescription you need to have filled at the pharmacy, we’ve cut out the middleman and made sure you didn’t have to make two trips.

Convenient, right? Trouble is, with the rising cost of pet drugs (this is big business!), this scenario hasn’t always been so easy to sustain. Veterinarians, who have always been granted exclusive access to these drugs, are no longer in full control of their sale. Other outlets are now available for pet owners who wish to purchase them elsewhere at a discount.

Sure, it’s no longer so convenient. But that’s no obstacle for those who are trying their hardest to make ends meet in a tough economy.

It’s true; pet owners need more for less. That’s why human pharmacies (yes, your corner store) and online pet drug outlets are fighting tooth and nail for your pet-dedicated dollars.

With that brilliant news in mind, here are a few ways you can save on your pet’s pharmacy bills:

#1 Prescription plans

I don’t normally go out of my way to praise big box superstores, but some of these are wooing you with such low prices and attractive family plans that I can’t help but point them out. Many generic drugs are available for a pittance of their typical price. That is, if you sign up for a plan. At Walgreens, for example, pets are included in a $25–a-year family plan.

#2 Four-buck antibiotics (and other drugs)

Yes, it’s true. You can get antibiotics and other drugs for $4 at many big box pharmacies. Though I’m aware that it can be tremendously convenience to get your one-time-only drugs at the vet, you might want to re-think that if the hospital’s markup means your big dog’s cephalexin comes to $60 at the vet’s office.

Note: Your veterinarian isn’t typically cheating you! The thing is that we can’t even buy these drugs at such low prices. It usually takes big orders on huge quantities to make $4 prescriptions happen.

#3 Bulk buying

Sure, each drug has limits on how many pills (or ounces) constitute such a stash, but if your pet’s on long-term doses of levothyroxine (Soloxine), methimazole (Tapazole) or fluoxetine (Prozac), for example, you should save quite a bit by buying in quantity. 90-day supplies are typically cheaper than 30-day supplies. But ask your local pharmacy for their policies.

Note: Be aware, however, that some drugs can’t be offered in these higher quantities. Either because of a rapid expiration date or their governmentally-controlled nature, some drugs must be doled out in smaller quantities.

#4 Online pharmacies

Online drugstores are another possibility for pet-Rx price shoppers. If veterinary-specific drugs are what you seek, this is probably the best way to find them at the lowest prices. But beware: Some sites are not what you think they are. Stick to outlets that are well known and have a reputation to protect.

#5 Ask your veterinarian about alternative drugs and generics

Let’s say your pet takes Baytril (an expensive pet-only antibiotic) for seven consecutive days a month (as prescribed by his dermatologist). Will ciprofloxacin do? In some cases, the answer will be “yes.” This drug is available on most of the plans I researched above.

Caution: Many “vet-only” products like flea and tick meds are available elsewhere for less. “Elsewhere” may mean the local big box supermarket or pet store. It may also mean an online outlet or the local feed store. The problem is that way too many counterfeit versions of these products are making the rounds of these places (I know ‘cause I’ve seen them). Be sure you’re using what you think you are!

#6 Ask your veterinarian for a better price

This is how it’s done: Research the prices of the drugs you need. Ask the receptionist of practice manager what the drugs you need will cost you. Armed with this information you can now ask for a better price. It might not happen, but it’s always worth a try.

Of course, this approach works best if you buy in larger quantities and you’re a fabulous client in every other way.

#7 Split your pills

This only works if tablets are scored and the manufacturer says it’s okay. I would be very cautious otherwise. But, if you ask your vet for a bigger scored pill or a stronger concentration, this can really work out in your favor. For some drugs, it’ll cut your costs smack in half. For others, it won’t be possible.

Okay, so that’s all I’ve got. Now it's your turn to offer up your approaches to saving money on your pet’s pharmacy bills …

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