Tips for taming your pet costs

July 11, 2011 7:06:20 PM PDT
How much is that doggie in the window? That cutie could cost you as much as $14,000 over the dog's 15-year life-span, according to the ASPCA. Cats will run you about $10,000. One of the big expenses is medical care.

Pets are part of the family for most people, and when they get hurt, you're likely to pay whatever it costs to get them better. You might be able to save a bundle of money if you know before the crisis occurs some of the ways you can get gouged.

When Candy Fisher's dog, Chrissy, was attacked by a pit bull two years ago, she spared no expense getting her the best medical treatment at her vet.

"I don't even think about these things," said Fisher. "I take her all the time because I want to be sure that she's taken care of."

Candy's not alone. Even during this recession, spending on pets grew to $48 billion last year. But Consumer Reports finds there are plenty of ways to tame your pet costs and still get good care.

First, comparison shop for veterinary care. A good benchmark is how much a vet charges for a physical exam.

"You probably won't find huge differences in the costs, but this could be a good indicator of other costs, such as major procedures that can add up to a lot of money," says Greg Daugherty of Consumer Reports.

Also, if your pet needs any medication, don't automatically buy the meds from the vet. Vets typically charge at least 100 percent more than wholesale, and sometimes even more than that.

"Some medicines have an even bigger markup, like a whopping 1,000 percent markup on the antibiotic Amoxicillin," says Dougherty.

And if your pet is taking a medicine that's also prescribed for humans, check into filling the prescription at your pharmacy. You may be able to save a lot of money.

Also consider new money-saving options for flea and tick control treatments. Some highly effective ones are now available since the patent expired on a key ingredient in Frontline Plus. The savings -- a three-month supply of Walmart's PetArmor Plus costs $28, less than half of what Frontline Plus goes for. So there are lots of ways to save without sacrificing care.

As for pet insurance, Consumer Reports says it's rarely worth the expense. In its latest comparison of pet policies, Consumer Reports found that only in the most uncommon cases -- when medical bills reached the high four-figures -- did it pay to have pet insurance.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2011. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

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