Saving on Pet Medication Costs

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Between Maggie’s cancer diagnosis and Jack’s recent bout of pancreatitis, we’ve been spending a ton of money not only on vet visits, but on medications. We are so grateful that our pet insurance plan from Healthy Paws has covered 90% of both Jack and Maggie’s treatment. It covers not only their vet visits and treatment, but it also covers their medication – and pet medication can be EXPENSIVE.
We usually use 1-800-PetMeds, an online service to order the dog’s medication. It’s easy and fast – they contact the vet for prescriptions and renewals and it gets delivered right to our home. All very customer friendly.
Maggie is on three different prescription medications and Jack is on one:

  • Tramadol – $70 for 100 tablets
  • Gabapentin – $25 for 100 capsules
  • Carprofen – $65 for 60 tablets
  • Proin – $70 – 180 tablets

pet medication costs
That adds up pretty quick. Why are these prescription meds so expensive? One of the reasons is that many of the medications we give our dogs are also medications used by humans. Going through the process and expense of FDA approval can be quite expensive for a drug company – upwards of $500 million for a human drug FDA approvals compared to $20-100 million for an animal approved medication! I’m not making excuses for the pharma companies, but there is a higher bar for some of medications we give our pets than there was in the past.

In my research, I found an interesting report published by the Federal Trade Commission related to pet medication industry. It stated that 2013 retail sales of prescription and non prescription medications for dogs and cats was estimated at $7.6 billion. U.S. retail sales of companion animal pet medications are expected to grow to $10.2 billion by 2018. That is some phenomenal growth.
A real advantage for consumers is the knowledge that they don’t have to buy the medications from their vet. While it is convenient and necessary in an emergency, you should look to purchase your pet’s medications elsewhere – there are online channels (1-800 PetMeds), your local Costco or Walmart who sell the human-grade medications and even local pet stories sell flea remedies. It’s not that your vet sees selling prescriptions drugs as a money maker, but there is certainly a markup on the drugs and you can save some money going elsewhere.
Additional Readings:

Competition in the Pet Medication Industry

My Lesson in the High Cost of Drugs for Pets

5 Ways To Pay Less For Pet Medications


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  1. We know the prices of the medications online and our vet will typically match them for us which is nice. It is always worth asking. Sometimes they are a bit more, but they have rebates that bring the cost back down. Some medications are vet only and we have to get them there, but thankfully, we aren’t on any other than heartworm and flea and tick right now.
    Emma recently posted…Sleep Tips From Cat Bro Bert And Morris The CatMy Profile

  2. Geez, poor Callie was on meds for both her cancer and her arthritis, including the Tramadol like Maggie. I forget all the meds she was on. I just remember they were expensive. Ducky is on 4 different meds to control her IBD. Shadow’s on 2, plus a vitamin and a glucosamine supplement. Our vet matches the prices for us as well. The only drug I don’t get from him is Ducky’s generic Prozac but it only costs $8 a month at Target.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky\’s Mom recently posted…Play With Me!My Profile

  3. Well, some of those meds sure sound familiar…we had the Tramadol & Gabapentin as well, but weren’t smart enough to get them from elsewhere. We’ll keep this in mind! Thanks!
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…The Ultimate Boredom Buster For Your Dog – Food Puzzle Featuring PB & Beef Green Tripe TreatsMy Profile

  4. This is really good to know. It does add up quickly and ordering online should be much better. I am going to look into getting her heart worm medication online and see if it is a better price.
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  5. I have found Costco to be the cheapest if you are a member. However, a quick trip to Mexico and the same medicines there are pennies on the dollar…………unfortunately, it’s more than the FDA approval regarding cost. It’s the greedy pharaceutical companies.

  6. I’ve had good luck filling meds at Costco. Often pet-specific meds are just rebranded, marked up generics like you mention. It takes some research to sort out, but well worth it in the long run.

  7. The doctor gave me a prescription for Tramadol for my arthritis. ☺ I have never used a mail order prescription service for the dogs, but it sounds like quite a savings.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…A Letter to MomMy Profile

  8. When the sheepdogs were alive, Puck was on Proin and we tried to order from the mail-in source initially but a low-cost clinic opened nearby that was less expensive. What a great idea using pet insurance though.

  9. Thanks for this, we might need it in the near future.
    DZ Dogs recently posted…Feeling Better!My Profile

  10. I really regret not buying insurance for Haley when she was young. It’s so nice that you have coverage and it pays well. My vet recently joined an online pharmacy that we can order prescriptions through. They are about 20-30 percent cheaper than buying directly from their office and I’m sure they get a kickback from the website. It’s a win/win!
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  11. It is wonderful the at the pet insurance covered both pets conditions. I’m loving my insurance with Glory and this pregnancy. The only downfall to ordering prescriptions online is that if your pet has a adverse reaction the online companies nor with the manufacturers of the medication cover any of the cost for treatment. If you get the medication from the vet and something happens we will file a report and can usually get the drug company to cover the costs of treatment. Like Emma said it doesn’t hurt to ask your vet if they will give you the same price. I know walgreens has a pet program where you pay 20 a year and then you get your medications for a reduced rate or a flat rate.
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  12. When we did need costly med’s – our vet was kind enough to call it in to Costco. What a savings. I do want to look into 1-800 Meds – thanks for the reminder.
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  13. Some vet clinics are now going to a commission basis and, therefore, some vets are prescribing/offering drugs, even supplements, that cost more from them. Always ask if you might be able to find the same product for less somewhere else. My vet clinic does not like to give prescriptions to Dr.s Foster & Smith and similar places because they say they can’t guarantee anything that’s considered ‘after market’. I’m tired of pulling teeth from my vet clinic and may soon be looking for an alternative practice.

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