Tips for Saving Money Shopping for Pet Medications
Walking out of a veterinary clinic with your pet's prescription already filled makes life easier. But, if you're on a tight budget, you'll be saving money by going elsewhere to buy your dog or cat's medications and preventatives.
Typically veterinarians charge a dispensing fee of $7 to $12, plus the cost of the medication. According to some estimates, those mark-ups are hefty, ranging from 100 to 300 percent or more.
Since many drugs prescribed for pets are the same ones given to people, asking for a prescription from your veterinarian is the first money saving step all owners should take.
"Family budgets are tight and every opportunity to save matters," said Utah Congressman Jim Matheson, who earlier this year introduced the Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2011.
The proposed legislation would give pet owners a money saving opportunity; it would give them the ability to shop around for the best prices on medications by requiring veterinarians to write a prescription. Currently, in about half of all states, veterinarians don’t have to provide a prescription to clients, even if asked.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, which consists of more than 80 percent of all U.S. veterinarians, is out to quash Congressman Matheson's bill, claiming it adds an unnecessary regulatory burden on doctors.
Of course, the money saving opportunity for the consumer would also cut into profits.
Wendy Myers, a veterinary practice consultant in Colorado, says drug and medical supplies generate 17 percent of hospital revenues.
"Depending on which region you’re in, a veterinary hospital’s revenue from flea, tick and heartworm products (alone) is easily $100,000 or more a year,” she told Veterinary Information Network News Service last year.
Buying pet medications at a reasonable cost isn’t difficult if you know what questions to ask your veterinarian, and where to look for the best deals. Here are a few easy, money saving tips to try.
Money Saving Tip #1: Ask if Human Equivalent Exists
If your veterinarian prescribes an animal-only medication, ask if there's a human drug equivalent instead. Recently my veterinarian prescribed Simplicef -- a pricey, animal-only antibiotic. When I balked at the cost she wrote a script for Cephalexin, a human generic, that I purchased elsewhere. The savings? $52.
Money Saving Tip #2: Opt for Generics and Shop at Big Box Retailers
Opting for human brand-name drugs and generics (whenever possible) allows you to flex your financial muscle by shopping for the best price at big box retailers like Costco, Target, Sam's Club, Walgreens and Walmart. Better yet, some of these pharmacies offer discount prescription drug programs that sell 30-day supplies of generics for as low as $4.
Money Saving Tip #3: Comparison Shop
Even among the retail titans, prices on drugs can still vary widely, so be sure to comparison shop, especially for life-long medications and monthly preventatives. A one month supply of Ketoconazole and Cyclosporine – something regularly needed for my dog's skin disorder -- is $89 at Costco. (Membership, by the way, isn’t required to buy from Costco's pharmacy although it offers additional savings.) Across town, at Target and Walmart, I discovered the price jumps to $190. Yikes!
Money Saving Tip #4: Get a Free Prescription Drug Card
Get a free prescription drug card from the National Association of Counties (NACo) that offers savings of up to 24 percent off the regular retail price at participating pharmacies. The program is for both two and four legged members. Nearly half of all counties nationwide participate in NACo's program and it's available to residents, regardless of age or income.
Money Saving Tip #5: Check for Coupons!
Check drug manufacturer websites for printable coupons redeemable at your vet's office.
Money Saving Tip #6: Don't Be Afraid to Bargain
Lastly, bargain with your veterinarian. Ask for a price match from a Vet-VIPPS accredited online pet pharmacy, or a discount for buying preventatives or regularly needed medications in bulk.
Savvy hospitals and clinics know about the increasing pressures from outside pharmacies and don't want to lose your business, so speak up. Otherwise, you'll pay up.