Veterinarians and auto mechanics have a lot in common. They both fix urgent problems for people who often have no idea what’s going on—and are never happy to get a big bill.
Sticker shock is real, but it doesn’t mean that every expensive trip to the vet is a scam. Part of owning a pet is paying for their medical care, and that care is often expensive. Unfortunately, it’s also true that “upselling” is common in the veterinary industry. If you want to avoid paying for stuff you—and your pet—don’t need, it helps to go into the vet’s office with the same attitude you’d bring to an auto shop. Here’s how.
Bring a buddy (or take notes)
Having someone else in the room isn’t just about moral support—it’s hard to absorb and retain complicated information when you’re stressed out. Your spouse or friend might ask questions you might not have thought to ask, and they can help you remember what the vet actually said.
Of course, this may not be an option at the moment. COVID-19 safety precautions will likely prevent you from entering the building, let alone bringing a second person to your vet appointment. In that case, bring a notepad and a pen so you can jot things down.
Ask the right questions
Most pet owners don’t know much about veterinary medicine, which means that every vet appointment is a learning opportunity. If you ask the right questions, you’ll leave with a better understanding of your pet’s health—and you may even avoid paying for a procedure they don’t need.
Two simple questions—“Why?” and “How much?”—go a long way. Whenever your vet suggests a test or procedure, ask why. If they’re not forthcoming with details, get more specific: What information will they get from that test, and how will it change their plan? What made them decide to recommend that procedure over another one? Finally, always ask how much something costs before you agree to it.
Attitude is everything here. You don’t want to be hostile or rude, but you also shouldn’t give up until you get answers that make sense. It’s not an easy balance to strike—try to be as patient and polite as possible.
Take care of the absolute basics yourself
The best way to avoid unexpected vet bills in the first place is to keep your pets physically and emotionally healthy. If you’re already on the way to the vet, this is obviously pretty useless advice, but once everyone’s back home, assess your pet’s daily routine. Are you giving them everything they need?
Every pet is different, but these three things are total no-brainers:
- Keep their weight in check: Carrying extra weight is rough on animals of all sizes, so make sure you’re not overfeeding them. A digital kitchen scale makes meal portioning super easy.
- Brush their teeth: This one’s a little trickier for adult animals, but if you start early, regular toothbrushing can prevent expensive dental procedures.
- Take their emotional needs seriously: Behavioral problems can be caused by illness or injury, but a lot of the time, your pet’s just trying to tell you how they feel—so pay attention.
It can take some time to adjust to a new routine, but the effort is worth it: Staying on top of the simple stuff will keep your pet healthier in the long run, and that’s what it’s all about.