Vet bills: how to look after your pet’s health for less | Money
Pets don’t have the luxury of free NHS healthcare if they get sick, and even a minor visit to the vet can bring with it a big bill. Pet insurance offers some protection but only one in five owners buy it, according to the market analysis company Statista, and policies do not cover every expense. Routine treatment, including inoculations, won’t be insured, there is usually an excess to pay on claims and you may need to pay upfront for treatment before reclaiming costs.
Even without insurance, there are ways to save on bills without compromising the health of your dog or cat, and these start with the vet you choose.
All veterinary surgeons and nurses practising in the UK must be registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), but the pricing side of their business is unregulated.
Practices set their own fees and charges, and these will vary between companies and locations. You may face higher rates for evening or weekend appointments and any out-of-hours treatment.
You can find your local practices on the RCVS website and it is worth checking and comparing charges, as well as going on a recommendation.
The typical cost of an appointment, including consultation and diagnosis (but not medication), is £60, according to the price comparison site Moneysupermarket.com.
You can save at some practices by booking an appointment with the consulting nurse. For example, at Coastway Vets, which has seven branches across Sussex, a consultation with a nurse costs under £20 for a dog or cat compared with £45 to see a vet.
The Animal Trust, a not-for-profit veterinary company, has a free consultation policy, so all you pay for is any treatment.
The service is open to anyone. However, on a practical basis, you will need to live near one of the trust’s 10 surgeries, based across Yorkshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and north Wales.
The Animal Trust’s founder, Dr Owen Monie, says: “We offer free consultations to avoid the barrier of a pet owner gaining professional advice through anxiety over a consultation fee.” If no treatment is needed, there is no charge.
The trust publishes costs on its website – something many practices do not do, although these should always be available on request.
Monie adds: “Many clients find our fees significantly cheaper than conventional surgeries and we avoid ‘loss leaders’ like neutering as we don’t think it’s fair to lure in new clients with cheap shop-around services, and then charge more elsewhere when the pet is sick and it can be difficult to shop around.”
Free or discounted treatment
If money is tight, do not assume your local vet will have a sympathetic ear. “There’s no obligation on practices to offer payment plans,” the RCVS says. While it says many do, this is at their discretion.