You Should Get A Secondary Veterinary Opinion. Here's Why

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  • Don't assume the veterinary office closest to you, or the one you've always used, will give you the best price for routine care or special procedures.
  • Call around and get price quotes for non-emergency pet care.
  • In an emergency, it's likely better to go with a vet you already know, however.

Pets are expensive, so it's good to save money when you can.

As someone who has historically moved cities and states very often, and who has always had pets, it feels as if I talk to more than my fair share of veterinary offices. Sometimes, I even call different vet offices when I've already established my pets with one local to me. Why do I bother? It all comes down to cost, and knowing how much I could or should be spending on vet care.

Vet care is often expensive

If you too have taken a beloved family pet to the vet and later left with a noticeable dent in your checking account, then I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. And chances are there are multiple options for veterinarians in your area, so you don't have to settle for the first clinic you call. I spent several months living in a very rural town with a population of fewer than 6,500 residents, and still had multiple vet clinics to choose from when I needed to take one of my cats in for a routine check-up and vaccinations.

Note that even if you have a pet insurance policy to cover your beloved pet, you'll likely be required to pay out of pocket for vet care and then get reimbursed by your insurer. So if you can shell out less money upfront to be reimbursed later, that's for the best.

Pre-existing conditions may require more frequent care

If your pet has a pre-existing condition, defined as any injury or illness your pet has prior to insurance coverage taking effect, you are likely to spend even more on vet care. This makes it even more crucial to shop around. No pet insurers cover chronic pre-existing conditions, but some may cover curable ones, like respiratory or gastrointestinal issues that eventually go away.

If you've got a pet with allergies or diabetes, for example, it's a good idea to call around and see if you can find a vet that will charge you less for the likely more frequent vet visits you'll have to make and medications your pet will require.

Big procedures equal big price tags

Over the summer, I had an opportunity to shop around for care for my oldest cat. He needed dental cleaning and some tooth extractions, which is not a cheap undertaking. The full process involved blood work ahead of time (to ensure he was healthy enough to undergo the procedure), anesthesia for the cleaning/extractions, and pain medication and a follow-up appointment after. Based on the expected level of care and number of teeth my cat was set to have removed (included in the price at my regular vet), I was quoted around $1,300 for the whole procedure. Ouch.

I called two other local vet clinics to see about getting baseline quotes over the phone for the procedure (without examining my cat, it wasn't possible to get as firm a quote as I had gotten from my regular vet clinic). In both cases, I was quoted under $1,000, but with the caveat that tooth extractions would cost extra. And my vet thought he'd need at least three removed. Cha-ching.

Knowing this, I felt better about planning to pay that $1,300 to my regular vet. So even though I didn't end up using a different clinic, knowledge was power in this case. And as it turned out, my bill for my old man cat came to only $1,000, as he got to keep more of his teeth than originally expected.

Tips for picking the right vets to call

If I've convinced you that shopping around for vet care is a good idea, you may be wondering how to choose which vets to call. I've had the most success when I've asked local friends and colleagues for recommendations. And if you have a friend with the same kind of pets as you, they're likely a better judge of a clinic. I have a former boss who also had cats, and she recommended the vet's office I used for more than four years -- they were great to my cats, too.

You should also check out online reviews for vet clinics; take them with a grain of salt, but if you see the same rant (or rave!) repeated by different reviewers, that's a sign it's probably accurate.

A caveat

The above advice is intended for non-emergency vet care. If your pet is in trouble, and the minutes count, that is not the time to shop around! You're more likely to be able to get an emergency appointment with a vet who already has your pet's health information on file. So stick to your regular vet, and if they instead send you to a specialized emergency vet, TRUST THEM.

Having pets is a wonderful part of life for many people, despite the monetary costs. It just makes good financial sense to shop around for vet care and save a little money when you can.

Our Research Expert

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