7 tips on how to cut down on vet bills

Pet care can be pricey, but there are some smart options

Most of us agree that pets are important members of our families. But as many of us know, costs can soar if they get sick, injured, or suffer from allergies or dental issues. At times like these, it’s important to be aware of all your payment options so you can make an informed decision. Here’s what you need to know…


Along with ensuring that your pet leads a healthy lifestyle, staying up-to-date with vaccinations, worming, flea treatments and regular check-ups will help to minimise potential future costs through prevention. Doing so also helps ensure early detection and treatment of underlying issues that can quickly snowball into much bigger concerns.


Healthy Pets New Zealand chair Dr Cath Watson advises a virtual vet consultation can be a cheaper alternative to an in-person visit if you’re checking whether medical treatment is actually needed. “Due to a widespread shortage of veterinarians, it can be difficult in some places to get an appointment, so online vet visits may be a useful way to get advice, like when your dog has eaten something you’re not sure about but otherwise appears well,” she says. “You don’t have to leave home, with the stress of getting your cat into a carrier or coping with a stressed-out pooch in the clinic.” However, Cath warns your online vet may not have access to your pet’s medical history and is unlikely to be able to prescribe medication. For more information, visit


If you’re caught off guard by unexpected bills, it’s worth talking to your vet. Some clinics accept interest-free Q Cards or they may offer After Pay, where the owner can settle the bill over a set number of payments.


This can be an awkward conversation to have with your regular vet, but if you feel you need a second opinion, it’s best to be upfront and respectfully explain that you want to explore all possibilities. Your vet may be able to share records that will assist the next vet that you visit. They may also refer you to a specialist or a vet that has expertise in your pet’s condition.


Just like human meds, pet medications can vary in cost, so it’s worth asking your vet if there are cheaper alternatives, although in the majority of cases, you’ll be offered the most cost-effective options. Canine health and welfare officer for Dogs New Zealand (, Rhea Hurley says, “Like human medicine, animal medications have to be trialled and found to be safe. As we have a relatively small population and no government funding, the medications can seem more costly than human ones.”


Pet insurance is another option that has become more popular in recent years because it means you don’t need to decide between your finances or your pet’s health and happiness – potentially even its life.

“This can be a really smart option to cut down on vet bills in a big way because you’ll be covered for a wide range of illnesses, injuries and other ailments; plus the earlier you take out insurance for a pet, the fewer, if any, pre-existing health conditions they’ll have,” tells PD Pet Insurance COO Michelle Le Long, adding that pre-existing conditions aren’t covered by any New Zealand insurers.

“Basically, young pets are still fresh and new, so they generally have a clean health slate. Their insurance will cover new health issues that arise over time, after any waiting periods. Having said that, getting insurance for a pet that’s past puppy or kitten stage will still help you afford treatment for all kinds of conditions over their lifetime.” Some insurers even provide free cover periods, discounts and third-party liability cover for when pets cause damage to someone else’s property or pets. For more information, visit


For people who are financially stressed already, meeting the cost of pet treatments can be an impossible task. Many turn to crowd-funding pages, like Givealittle, or social media for help with their vet bills. For example, Kiwi animal welfare charity Paw Justice has an “emergency fund to assist cases of abuse or neglect where financial considerations would otherwise prevent treatment”, explains Cath.


As much as we love our furry friends, there can come a time when treatment isn’t possible or you can’t afford it. “Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is never easy and it’s important to process the grief you are going through,” says Dr Kylie Kim of Sunset Vet Care (, which offers personalised, compassionate pet palliative care in the privacy of your own home. If you’re struggling after the death of a pet and need to speak to someone, free counselling services are available by texting or calling 1737 at any time.


PD Insurance suggests researching the following to find the most suitable policy.

  1. Breadth of cover – eg, accidents, illnesses, hereditary conditions, dental and third-party liability.

  2. Annual and sub-limits – total amount you can claim up to annually and maximum claim for certain conditions.

  3. Co-payment – does the insurer pay out 100% of your claim minus excess or is the percentage lower?

  4. Excess payment – is it a one-off for an entire “claimable event” or charged on each vet bill?

  5. Claims reimbursement turnaround – you want the money back ASAP!

  6. Contract terms – eg, are you locked in? Can you pay monthly or only annually?

  7. Customer reviews – they’ll usually tell it like it is.

  8. Award wins – these are earned, not paid for.

  9. Price – this is obviously a key consideration!

  10. Website – what does it show of their customer commitment? How do they communicate?

Find out more information at

Related stories