According to the Humane Society, more than one third of American households include a furry family member. If you're one of those families, consider these easy ways to reduce the cost of your veterinary bills.
Contact local animal shelters. Many shelters operate on a tight budget, meaning they know who the low-cost vets are in the community. Most are happy to pass along the names of the vets they use.
Ask a rescue shelter for help. Some shelters will offer financial aid for medications or treatments if they know the alternative is for you to leave your beloved pet with them. Others, meanwhile, will spread word among their members your pet needs help.
Check with local pet stores. If you're struggling to pay vet bills, workers at your local pet store may have suggestions that could be helpful; some might even be willing to provide medications at a discount.
Look for a rural veterinarian. Country vets not only have lower business overhead, but they also know a number of the families they help can't afford large bills for farm animals - and their prices reflect that.
Find a college of veterinary medicine. Many veterinary schools offer low-cost care if you allow students to treat your pet. You can find a list of schools at AMVA.org.
Tap social networks. Let your Facebook friends and Twitter followers know you're having trouble with vet bills, and consider posting a picture of your pet with your call for help. You may be surprised by the lengths other animal owners will go to offer assistance.
Administer medications yourself. You don't need a vet to administer some animal medications, including certain shots, so look into taking a hands-on approach before dropping your pet off to the vet.
Check the Humane Society's website. The organization has assembled a database of private and state agencies that may be able to offer help.
Check with groups associated with your pet's breed. Some breeds have assistance programs that can provide financial aid. Do a quick search online or ask your vet if he or she knows of any.
Set up a payment plan with your vet. Many vets will adjust their standard payment plan if you explain your situation, as they don't want you to switch to vets just because another doctor charges lower rates.
Look for ways to reduce the cost of other pet supplies. Don't limit your money-saving strategies to veterinary bills. If you can reduce the cost of pet food and other supplies, that freed-up capital can be used to pay the vet. Look for pet food coupons or consider learning to make your own pet food.
Keep your pet in good shape. A healthy lifestyle isn't just good for you - it's also good for your pet. A balanced diet and reasonable exercise can help prevent serious health problems. And don't forget vitamins.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who founded TheDollarStretcher.com website and newsletters. The site features thousands of articles on how to save your valuable time and money, including an article on reducing veterinary bills.