I volunteer at a local no-kill animal shelter, so I know what it's like to be on a tight budget. Without using money-saving tips and tricks, we would likely be unable to operate.

While we get generous community support, it simply doesn't cover the cost of caring for up to 55 animals at any given time. We have to be resourceful and stretch our dollars as far as possible using every opportunity to save money.

Those cost-savings skills have another benefit: I have successfully used these ideas at home to save money on my own pets. The more I save at home, the more I can contribute at the shelter. It's a win-win for everyone involved.

Flea preventatives and treatment for pets are expensive, especially if there are multiple pets in the household. I have three dogs and a cat, so I understand how expensive pets can be, but the good news it that it is possible to save money on flea preventation and treatment.

Formula differences and dosages

Advantage II is a popular over-the-counter product that is safe for cats and dogs. What the company doesn't say is that the cat and dog formulas are exactly the same, and the various sizes just contain more liquid at the same chemical concentration! It is important to note that this doesn't apply to every product, and some are deadly if used on a cat when it's made for dogs (and vice versa) so please don't attempt this with other products without very thorough research.

An extra large tube for dogs contains 4mL. The dose for a small dog and small cat is 0.4mL. This means an extra large dog tube is enough treatment for 10 months. The price difference between an extra large dog tube and small dog tube is only $1 more and that means nine additional doses for just $1.

Measure doses at home

I personally buy a six-pack of the extra large dog tubes and then pour them into an empty medicine bottle. Only open the tubes when needed. Store it in a dark place (any clean, sealable container will work), and gently shake the bottle in a side to side motion before using. Use a syringe to measure the amount needed for your pet. For small dogs and cats, I strongly suggest using a 1mL syringe for accurate measurement. A 3mL syringe works best for medium and large dogs. Most pharmacies will give you an empty medicine bottle and syringe for free if you ask. This is not something you want to "eye ball!" Measurements must be accurate or it could cause an overdose. The dosages for pet type and weight are listed below:

  • Kitten (Under 5lbs) 0.23mL
  • Small Cat (5-9lbs) 0.4mL
  • Large Cat (Over 9lbs) 0.8mL
  • Small Dog (Under 10lbs) 0.4mL
  • Medium Dog (11-20lbs) 1.0mL
  • Large Dog (21-55lbs) 2.5mL
  • Extra Large Dog (Over 55lbs) 4.0mL

Shop around

I have found the best price for Advantage II at Doctors Foster and Smith. A six-pack of the extra large dog tubes is $63.99 and shipping is free for purchases over $49. Save even more and get a 12-pack for $123.99 (that's $1 less per six tubes). Be sure to watch for sales!

The six-pack provides one year's worth of treatment for our pets. Without doing this it would cost $448.96 per year. That's saving $384.97 per year!

Go generic

Save money on heartworm preventatives for dogs by opting for generic brands (including a generic option for the popular brand Heartgard Plus). The generic brand that I recommend is called Iverhart Plus. It is an FDA approved generic and is just as effective as the name brand and has the same active ingredients (like buying Wal-Mart's Equate brand acetaminophen instead of Tylenol).

Consider filling prescriptions elsewhere

In most states, veterinarians are required by law to write a prescription to be filled elsewhere if you ask. My veterinarian sells 12 Heartgard Plus Chewables for 1-25 lb. dogs for $64. I can order 12 Iverhart Plus tablets for less than $27. I buy my Iverhart Plus from Doctors Foster and Smith because it is the lowest cost I have found, and it is a fully-licensed pharmacy located in Wisconsin. Ask your vet to call or fax the prescription or write out a prescription, which can be mailed in. Your veterinarian doesn't have to specify generic; as long as it doesn't say "dispense as written" it can be substituted for a generic product. Sadly, there is no generic version of Heartgard for cats, but Doctors Foster and Smith likely sells it for less than your veterinarian.

Perhaps that extra savings could be used to make a modest donation to your local animal shelter. And if money is tight, consider volunteering. It not only benefits the shelter, it's also a great family activity.

 This is a guest post by Scott from St. Louis, MO
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How to Save on Flea and Tick Prevention for Pets