The last thing you ever want to be worrying about is, “where do I find cheap vets near me.”
Whether it’s for routine preventative care like wellness checks, vaccinations, spay-neuter, or emergencies and surgeries, everyone wants access to the best low-cost veterinary care they can get for their companion-animal.
When you are in the midst of an animal emergency, two things could happen. Either you’re not going to care about money and could find yourself with a whopping emergency veterinary care bill later, or you might delay care for your favorite furry, feathered, or scaly friend if worrying about the costs.
Planning for the health of your pet should be part of your overall preparedness considerations. So, let’s discuss some of the ways to keep your animal medical care bills low.
Many of these options are more appropriate for routine and preventative care.
It’s probably a good idea to have a monthly budget item for your pet’s health care. If you find affordable vet care for things you can control, you can have more money to add to a sinking fund when animal emergencies come up!
When You Get Your Pet
Whether you get your pet from a shelter, adopt from a friend or purchase from a breeder, there are likely some initial medical expenses that you will need to take care of. You will also want to consider getting established with a veterinarian, much like you should have a primary care doctor for yourself!
Free Vet Care With Adoption and Services for Pets From Shelters
We all know that adopting a pet is cheaper than purchasing one. But something you may not realize is that for cats and dogs, you may get some cheap veterinary care too.
First, a vet has likely already checked out your animal, so major health problems will probably have already been identified and perhaps treated. Shelter animals will likely be receiving canine and feline flea medication while in the shelter. Dogs and cats will almost always have been sterilized, treated for parasites, and received any of their needed vaccinations, such as a rabies shot, as part of standard shelter animal care. Chances are, you will not need to pay for animal vaccines for almost a year after adopting an animal.
Many shelters have relationships with local veterinarians so that your pet can receive some free or cheap vet care for 2-4 weeks after adoption. They may supply a voucher for one or more vet clinics near the shelter that they partner with. Some shelters are even offering free pet insurance for a short period after the adoption.
Don’t forget to ask your local shelter for recommendations for cheap vets near you, even if you didn’t adopt there. They will surely have some ideas of where to point you.
Spay and Neuter
Local animal welfare groups often work to set up free spaying or neutering for puppies and kittens. There are even more programs to help with female cats' sterilization to reduce the populations of feral kitties running around. You can usually find a charity or animal welfare organization that will help with stray or feral cats’ spays to prevent overpopulation. The ASPCA often runs spaying and neutering clinics or may be able to point you towards one if you contact the closest local office.
If you’re not immediately aware of a free or cheap option to save on spay-neuter costs, which can run up to $200, try using a tool like PetSmart’s database of free and low-cost clinics around the country. Love That Cat also offers a list around the country specifically for cats and low or free spay-neuter programs.
These services may only be available on specific days or times, so plan ahead!
There are several vaccines that your pet will need; what vaccines depend on both local regulations and local safety risks. It would be best if you discussed this with your veterinarian to determine exactly what your pet needs.
Once you know what vaccines your animal needs, you can administer many vaccines to your cat or dog at home. There are resources online that show you how to safely do all of this, which may also offer the vaccines for sale. A local pet supply shop or animal feed store may also provide vaccines for purchase and home administration.
If you are not comfortable with the DIY approach, do not worry. As with spay and neuter, there are often various cheap vets providing low-cost or free vaccination care. Google “free pet vaccines” and your state to see options closest to you.
One-stop Shops for Cheap Vets Near Me
For more comprehensive care in one place, you might be looking for a go-to location. Yes, your pets will need initial routine care, but they will also require ongoing check-ups, and you may have a health emergency involving your pet.
Veterinary Hospitals at Veterinary Colleges
Have you ever been to a beauty school for a cheap haircut? Seeking care for your pet at a local veterinary school provides much of the same benefit. But, with much more oversight from licensed, experienced vets who supervise these veterinarians in training. Since these places are training the next generation, they also have some of the most state-of-the-art medical care.
Since these future veterinarians are still training, you can often access affordable care for your animal here. However, these may only be intended for low-income individuals. It’s also possible; it may not be any cheaper than your local vet. So check prices!
You can look at the list of accredited veterinary colleges at the American Veterinary Medical Association website.
Keep in mind; this is only potentially cheaper if it works out geographically. If you are having to travel long distances or even overnight, the cost savings may not be there in the end!
Veterinary Healthcare Chains
The VCA Hospital network, over 1000 animal hospitals in most US states and even some in Canada, has some unique offerings. Though their name says veterinary hospital, they offer full-service care. For new clients, they also offer a free first exam. They also offer a membership option.
Starting at $25 a month, they offer unlimited regular exams during regular business hours (so, not after hours, not an emergency, and not specialty clinics). You can access free 24-hour chat with a vet on their app and bundled discounts on services like vaccine and lab work. They even have a program to earn money back on products you purchase for your pet.
If this works out to be a savings depends on your pet, needs, and level of care. But it’s worth checking out.
Knowing that you can take your pet in whenever you need it during regular office hours could prevent an expensive after-hours emergency care visit for your animal.
Your Local Vet May Be the Cheapest Vet Near You.
Don’t write off your local veterinary clinics!
Veterinarians are, by large, pretty compassionate people. If you are an established client with your vet, feel free to ask them if there is any way to negotiate the cost of your animals' care. You can also ask your vet if they know of someone else who may be able to do a procedure for cheaper. Additionally, your local vet knows you are more likely to be willing to offer payment plans to help you pay.
Some vets offer specials, so ask your vet if they have any deals. I checked out a vet office in my state and saw this list of weekly specials:
- Monday: “Pet Microchips: $20.00 each.”
- Tuesday: “Dog and Cat Nail Trims, $10 each.”
- Wednesday: “10% off all X-Rays, Out-House Blood Work, and Most In-House Blood Work.”
- Thursday: “Vaccine Value Day” with savings of $9-$19
- Friday: “Savings on FELV/FIV Testing and Anal Gland Expression” (what a way to end the week, anal gland expression day!).
- Saturday: “Want to take advantage of our daily specials, but you can only come on Saturdays? Ask us about our Gold Paw Membership! (This membership grants everyday special prices any day of the week).
Another office offered a one-time fee per pet for free vaccines for life (standard pet vaccines).
You never know what you might find by simply asking vets in your area! There is also something to be said about the level of service you are likely to get from your local private veterinarian. Are they going to pick up the phone after hours? Might they make a special trip into the office on the weekend for you? Though you can’t put a dollar value to these things, when you consider the whole package your local vet may offer, they may very well be the cheapest vet near you.
If You Cannot Afford Veterinary Care
There are some options available when it comes to ways to help afford veterinary care. As hard as it can be to admit when we need help, don’t let that stop you from getting your animals the care they need with available services. Sometimes you need to accept the help of charities for your family – animals are family too!
The American Humane Society offers this resource, which links to organizations that provide veterinary care assistance. Many of these are local organizations, such as FACE, which provides financial assistance to San Diego County, California.
FACE was started to avoid “economic euthanasia,” where animals are euthanized due to their owners' inability to pay for lifesaving medical care. National organizations include The Shakespeare Fund, designed for the elderly, disabled, and those under the poverty line with emergency vet bills.
Another option is to look for local shelters and animal rescue groups. Some may provide low-income assistance with animal medical bills or care. A great way to find local shelters and rescues is via The Shelter Pet Project.
Don’t forget how expensive pet medications can get. Given that pets can take both “people medicine” and animal use only medicine, you have many options to explore.
For most medications, you are likely to be paying a significant markup buying it directly from your veterinarian. Depending on the circumstances, this may be perfectly acceptable. If it’s a short-term med or one you need to start your animal on right away, this is probably the best bet.
However, if you can wait to get your animal’s prescription filled elsewhere and perhaps delivered, ask for a prescription and shop around. You can also ask your vet if they will price match from a vet pharmacy.
You can use a website such as GoodRx.com to get an idea of what (human) drugs cost without insurance (and using the GoodRx discount card). They even provide costs for some common pet meds via online veterinary pharmacies (but it’s not a comprehensive list).
Costco carries a wide variety of pet meds for a traditional pharmacy and allows the Costco Member Prescription Program for its available pet meds, which should provide additional cost savings.
You may not need to look far, though – many brick and mortar pharmacies do have ways of ordering some of the more common veterinary meds; make sure to price check with another couple of options.
You can do a web search for pet pharmacies or look for lists such as these. Just make sure you compare 3-4 options unless it’s cheap, to begin with!
Also, don’t forget to give your pet their meds according to schedule! Missed doses can add up and lead to longer-term health outcomes. If you need some help remembering what meds to give or coordinating with another caregiver, consider using a medication tracker like the one here, there’s even one for Fido!
General Pet Health, Your Ticket To Avoiding Vet Bills
Keep in mind, the best way to avoid costly medical bills is to make sure you’re keeping your pet happy and healthy. A good diet, exercise, and plenty of love and attention is the cheapest way to keep your pet in tip-top shape. Hopefully, you will never have to scramble to find the most affordable vet near you!
Regina is That Frugal Pharmacist. She’s a PharmD, mother to a son with cancer, breadwinning wife, personal finance enthusiast, artist, writer, and entrepreneur. Regina’s single-income household has been debt-free, including her home, since she was 28 years old.
Her money approach is “holistic financial health.” She encourages mindful spending, awareness of the non-monetary costs of choices, and aligning personal values with money habits. Regina sees a frugal lifestyle and mindset as an important part of environmental stewardship. As such she’s interested in ongoing efforts towards self-sufficiency and sustainability. Learn more at ThatFrugalPharmacist.com