ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Americans spent almost $30 billion last year on veterinary expenses. So, it's no surprise Consumer Reports says many pet owners worry they won't be able to afford their pet's medical treatments.
"We want our dogs to be healthy, but it costs a lot more to keep them healthy than even us sometimes," said dog owner Diana Bryant.
Pet owners spend anywhere from $9,000 to more than $13,000 for medical treatments over the course of their animal’s lifetime -- and costs continue to rise if your pet needs a prescription medication.
Consumer Reports Health Editor Lauren Friedman says before you buy the meds directly from the vet, you should spend time shopping around.
"You can also buy a lot of your pet's medication from a regular human pharmacy like CVS or Walgreens," she explained.
Another lower-cost option is your local Humane Society.
"The cost of pet meds are probably where people get hit the hardest, especially in Florida where flea control and heartworm prevention are very important. Those are relatively expensive medications on occasion," explained Dr. Christian Broadhurst, senior veterinarian at Clay Humane in Orange Park.
Although there are certain drugs only available through your veterinarian, because a number of the meds prescribed to pets are the same as used for people, some pharmacies will give you the same discounts on drugs that they offer to their human customers.
"We can fill out prescriptions for owners to take to the human pharmacy. Sometimes it's cheaper, sometimes it's not," said Broadhurst.
He recommends trying an app to help pet owners save.
"There are actually some apps on your phone. GoodRx is one of them, that you can use to price check your medication and it'll tell you where to go for the cheapest prices," Broadhurst suggested.
Another way to save on your pet's medications: online pharmacies. But, Consumer Reports says just like buying your own meds online, it's important to make sure you are shopping on a safe website.
"The Safe.Pharmacy program screens online pharmacies for humans and for pets. It makes sure that they're storing their medication correctly, dispensing it correctly, and dispensing the right kind of medication," explained Friedman.
- Go to Safe.Pharmacy
- Click on "Find a Safe Site" at the top of the home page
- Scroll down to see the choices under the "United States" heading
- Click on "Veterinary Pharmacies" to find a list with links to each website
Before you order, Broadhurst offers a warning when buying certain pet medications online.
"If you use an online pharmacy for heartworm prevention, and your dog comes up heartworm positive, not having purchased it from your vet almost always voids the warranty," he said.
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Broadhurst also warns about giving your pet over-the-counter medications.
"Talk to your veterinarian before giving any kind of over-the-counter medications," he said. "Some over-the-counter medications are safe. Some are absolutely not."
He says if you have questions about your pet's medication, and you have a relationship with your veterinarian, just call them because they'll often try to answer questions over the phone -- without you having to come in for an appointment.