Kittieconomics: how I save on routine vet care

Vet care is definitely one of the larger portions of my Gus and Tycho related budget. But thanks to G&T’s Banfield wellness plans, it’s not actually the most expensive part of their overall care! (I’m not cool enough to have sponsors, so this is not a sponsored post. I just really really love G&T’s Banfield plans and frequently recommend them to others!). In the last kittieconomics post, I talked about the costs of spaying/neutering and kitten vaccines. Today’s post is about how price gouging at one vet office led me to discover a better way to provide Tycho with routine preventative vet care!

Tycho with his paw over his mouth
Even routine vet care can be shockingly expensive if you’re going to the wrong vet!

When I adopted Tycho in 2006, I chose a vet for him based mostly on proximity (he does hate long car rides!). His first checkup went ok, and the fees were typical. But when I took him in for his second checkup, things took a turn. Tycho’s teeth were not in good shape, and they needed to be cleaned. The vet there also said that at least 3 of his teeth needed to be pulled.  Their cost estimate for the teeth cleaning and extraction: over $900!

Now, dental cleaning for cats is not as simple or easy as it is for humans. It’s considered a surgical procedure because the cats are put under anesthesia for it. That means most vets want to do blood work before the procedure to make sure that it’s safe to put them under, and they have to stay at the vet office for several hours afterwards to recover. But still, $900 seemed ridiculous. I also wanted a second opinion on whether Tycho really needed to lose so many teeth.

So I left my original vet office without scheduling the dental work, and I called around to other vet offices to get price quotes. I ended up finding a place on the other side of town that was happy to clean Tycho’s teeth for about $200, and they didn’t end up pulling any teeth out.

With the immediate problem solved, I started looking for a new primary vet for Tycho. The place I took him to for the cleaning was too far away for routine care, and it was clear to me that the original vet office was more interested in profit than in Tycho’s well being (it’s been 10 years of annual dental cleanings since I saw that vet, and no one else has though Tycho needed to have teeth pulled).

Funny aside: I recently drove by the vet office I originally took Tycho to, and they’ve gone out of business. They’ve been replaced by a new vet office called the Jackpot vet clinic. I laughed pretty hard at that (though as it’s under new ownership, it’s entirely possible the new clinic is reasonably priced!).

While reviewing options for a new vet, I discovered Banfield pet hospital. Banfield operates vet clinics inside many PetSmart stores, and there happened to be a Banfield just a mile or two from where I lived. I took Tycho there for his next checkup, and they told me about the “Optimum Wellness Plans” they offer. The most basic of these plans covers all the standard routine vet care pets need each year: checkups, vaccines, deworming, some standard annual diagnostic tests, and unlimited office visits. The middle tier plan also includes an annual dental cleaning. The cost varies depending on where you live, but for Tycho the middle tier plan including dental cleaning is $312 (they bill you monthly, so it’s $26 a month). Barring illness or injury, that’s all I would have to pay for his vet care and teeth cleaning each year, which is a really good deal. So I signed him up, and I’ve not regretted it once in the last 10 years. When I got Gus, I signed him up for a plan too (though he doesn’t need his teeth cleaned yet, so he’s currently on the cheaper, $20 a month plan).

Tycho looking sad in a cat carrier about to go in for routine vet care
He might hate going to the vet regularly, but it’s the best way to keep him healthy!

Besides being a good deal on routine care, the other awesome thing about these plans is that I don’t get charged for office visits. That means when (as inevitably happens a few times a year) I think one of the cats is sick or injured, I don’t have to wonder if it’s worth paying a $50 office visit fee to get the vet’s opinion. And since Tucson has several Banfield locations, I can almost always get an appointment somewhere the same or next day. If there is something wrong, I do have to pay for treatment because the plans only cover routine, preventative care. But I get a discount on any non-covered care, and Banfield has very reasonable prices. And not paying visit fees saves a lot. When Gus scratched his eye last year, we had to go in three times to make sure it was healing properly and responding to the eye drops. It was really nice that I only had to pay for one eye exam (they had to stain his eye to see the lesion) and the medication rather than paying for all three office visits!

I also really like the vet the kitties usually see, and his approach to their care mirrors my own. He is conscious of cost, and doesn’t recommend pointless tests or procedures (he said he works at Banfield because he didn’t like how the previous practice he was at wanted him to push more expensive treatments). He also clearly loves cats. He pretty much melts every time he sees Gus, and he always refers to the cats as “kiddos” when discussing them.

Gus curled up on a pillow
not even the vet can resist gushing about this cuteness

Routine vet care is important for keeping our furry friends healthy, but it’s not cheap! You might be able to save money using a Banfield plan, so I encourage you to look into it if you’re not happy with your current vet. Other vet clinics also offer similar plans (I know my sister has one for her dog at an independent vet clinic), so it’s something to ask about when looking for a vet!

Share your tips for routine vet care in the comments! And feel free to ask more about G&T’s vet plans! So far I’ve convinced a few people to get Banfield plans (one after a nearly identical attempt at dental cleaning price gouging!), and they all seem happy with the choice!

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