Saving Money on Medications for Pets

prescription bottles

Over the decades I have spent vast amounts of money on medications for my animals. As anyone who has ever had an ill pet knows, medications for pets can be very costly. This can be especially true when meds are purchased from a veterinarian. There are, however, ways to save substantial amounts of money on your pet’s medicine.

Few veterinary clients realize that their veterinarians may be steeply marking up the price of medications purchased through their clinics. Clients simply take whatever meds the vet hands them on their way out the door without question, and they may end up paying a much higher than necessary price for them. Some vets, however, will price match medications if you take the time to research cheaper med sources. This is always a question worth asking your vet.

If your veterinarian will not price match, request a prescription for any necessary medication. In many U.S. states, veterinarians are required to write prescriptions on the client’s request. Even in the states that don’t impose that requirement, many vets will write prescriptions to maintain good client relationships. Be forewarned, however, that some vets charge a fee to write a prescription. When price shopping, it’s important to factor in any such fees to determine the final price of a medication.

Once you have a prescription, call all of your local pharmacies and check prices. Most pharmacies, particularly the chain pharmacies, have discount drug lists from which you can purchase listed drugs for astoundingly low prices. Prices tend to be even lower for larger prescriptions. A 60-day supply generally costs less per pill than a 30-day supply, so ask your vet to write the prescription accordingly. These discount drug lists vary from store to store and are updated by each store periodically, so make a point of asking each pharmacy to check its discount list for the specific medication you need. If there’s a drug that your pet takes for an extended period of time, call around and check the discount drug lists each time you need a prescription refilled. The large chain pharmacies like Walgreen’s, Target, Kmart, and Walmart also publish their discount drug lists on their websites.

Some pharmacies require you to buy an annual membership in a savings club in order to take advantage of their discount drug lists, which may or may not be worth it, depending on which drugs your pet needs and how often (s)he needs them. Certain pharmacies may offer discounts for pet medications, so don’t forget to ask about this, as well.

A few prescription items and supplies can be purchased inexpensively in case lots, such as bags of sterile fluids administered subcutaneously by many caretakers of cats with kidney disease. I, personally, can purchase a case of 14, 1000 ml bags of Lactated Ringers Solution (with a veterinary prescription) from my local Target Pharmacy for less than some folks have told me they have paid their own vets for a single 1000 ml bag of the same solution!

Most medications used in veterinary medicine are actually human medications dosed down for use in companion animals. It’s possible that you may have difficulty finding drug stores that stock these lower strengths of some medications. In this case, ask the pharmacist if the lower strength can be ordered. Some pharmacists will do this for you; others won’t.

Ordering pet medications and medical supplies online or through a catalog is a far riskier business than buying locally. There are, of course, reputable remote veterinary and human pharmacies, but if you choose to order from an Internet or catalog source, it is critically important that you research the source carefully to make certain that it is a legitimate and reputable pharmaceutical provider. Your pet’s life depends on it.

Veterinarians will sometimes prescribe medications and supplements that are available both in pet and human formulations. Two examples of this are L-lysine, an amino acid commonly prescribed as a supportive therapy for herpesvirus infections, and probiotics, used to help normalize digestive activity. The pet-formulated versions of these over-the-counter supplements are flavorized to presumably make them more appealing to pets … and MUCH more expensive for our pocketbooks! The human versions are easily mixed into canned pet foods and are generally substantially cheaper.

When your veterinarian prescribes anything for your pet, make sure you understand exactly what is being prescribed and why. Ask if there is a less expensive, generic equivalent. Ask if there is a suitable, human-formulated equivalent for pet-formulated items. Ask for a prescription. These questions can help you stretch your available veterinary funds to provide the best possible care for your 4-legged family members.

Leave a comment and let me know if you have any additional pet medication savings tips to share.

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