How My Puppy’s First Vet Visit Nearly Cost Me $1,000

Lexi-and-James

I adopted my first dog back in October. Lexi, a 12-month-old mixed breed, is a loving, licking doofus. She’s my new sidekick and constant companion.

Yet, even though I work in the pet industry, puppy ownership has already thrown me some curveballs, especially Lexi’s First Vet Visit.

Earlier this week, I took Lexi to get spayed at the vet. At the front desk, I was told the price would be $340. When I actually met with my vet, though, she strongly recommended I upgrade to the $740 spay package with “more reliable medication and anesthesia.” She was quite insistent about the upgrade and pushed hard.

Unfortunately, I simply can’t afford that. I went with the less expensive package. It was hard to turn down the advice of a professional I respect and worse, I feared it meant my dog was somehow not “worth” the expense, or that I was being judged for making this tough decision.

My point isn’t that vets are bad somehow. In fact, I believe a great vet is essential to any pet’s health. But maybe there’s a problem with the system. Who wants to choose between saving money, and doing what’s best for their pet’s health? Not this guy.

Luckily for pet parents, a new normal is on its way. Pet insurance is working well for many Americans to manage these costs, but what about a program that doesn’t charge more for older pets or pets with pre-existing conditions? PetPlus is that, and so much more.

I’ll talk more about it below.

The Battle Over Pet Medications

While at Lexi’s vet visit, I also asked for a prescription for heartworm medication, and for the post-operation pain medication. Unfortunately my vet’s office was not cooperative in handing over the prescription, suggesting it was unsafe to get them elsewhere. Again, a great vet is great ally in any pet’s health, but there’s a problem here.

The truth is that the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) runs an accreditation program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites), and according to the FDA, all Vet-VIPPS accredited online pharmacies:

• are appropriately licensed in the states from which they ship drugs

• have successfully completed a 19-point review and online survey

• undergo yearly VIPPS review and re-accreditation

• undergo NABP on-site surveys every three years

Many veterinarians have gotten used to making a sizable chunk of their income from pet medication sales. The status quo has been that vets sell the medications they write the prescriptions for, which, not surprisingly, has kept market competition from allowing pet owners to get the best price.

So I opted to get Lexi’s medications through my company’s membership plan, PetPlus, and paid $70 instead of the $170 I would have paid at the vet’s office. (Note: That price difference does NOT represent an employee discount. That’s the price anyone can get on PetPlus with a PetPlus membership, starting at $3/month.)

A Scary Turn

I got a call later that day saying that the spay went well, but that the vet found a lump on my dog’s belly, which needed to be checked out at the lab. That would cost another $140. I had the choice to refuse, but in case it was something bad, I decided to get the test.

Luckily for Lexi and me, the biopsy showed that the lump was a benign tumor that should take care of itself in a few months’ time. I’m certainly glad I got the test done, but it was a good chuck of change all the same.

Of course I was fiercely worried about my dog’s health, but also on my mind was the amount of money I paid. I also knew that my veterinary expenses could potentially skyrocket if the results of the biopsy showed something bad. And I know I’m not the first pet parent to feel these conflicting fears!

As I worry over these costs, I think about ways that I can save money here and there on my dog to try to balance them out. I didn’t think having a 1-year-old puppy would be filled with lab tests, biopsies, and medical costs, but that’s just the roll of the dice with a pet.

So What Can a Pet Parent Do?

I admit that maybe I’m a bit biased in that I work for PetPlus, but I prefer to call it more informed. I would only ever try to make the best choices for Lexi and myself.

In my opinion, since you never know what’s coming down the pipeline in terms of your pet’s healthcare, options like buying medications online or signing up for PetPlus are really worth it. It was worth it for me.

James and Lexi

James is the Assistant Merchandiser for PetPlus. He was born and raised (and still resides) in New Jersey, and enjoys sports, camping, Oreos, and visiting his family in Cape Cod, MA.

Lexi is an adorable puppy.

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