If you have a pet, you know how expensive it can be to take care of him or her, especially when they get sick.
So how do you care for your pets without going broke?
Short answer: Shop around, and especially check out rural veterinary clinics. You may find the best yet most affordable veterinarian around if you’re willing to drive a little.
Here’s our story to prove this worked for us.
I grew up with cats. Then in the year 2000, my husband (boyfriend at the time) Jason adopted a ferret. I thought…What the heck is a ferret? It looks like an overgrown rat.
Well, I fell in love with little Fuzzy. She was the cutest, most friendly little ferret. We rarely kept her in a cage but let her roam free, at least when we were home. She went on outings with Jason all the time, and we both took great care of her.
Then, after Jason and I got married, we adopted a ferret friend for Fuzzy named Louise. Fuzzy and Louise were the best of buddies for a couple of years until Louise died from liver cancer. So then we got a buddy for Fuzzy named Rascal.
After that, we got several new ferrets to replace ferrets that had passed. Over the course of about 10 years, we had a total of 7 ferrets. For several of those years, we had 3 ferrets at a time. We devoted our lives to them (this was before we had kids!).
But guess what? We spent thousands – yes, THOUSANDS, of dollars on their care, particularly throughout those earlier years.
In one year alone, 2005-2006, I calculated we spent about $4000 on two ferrets (Fuzzy and Louise).
We were foolish.
Why? Because at the time, we took our ferrets to a clinic in St. Paul that specialized in care of all “exotic pets.” And since ferrets are considered “exotic” (we thought), we figured we needed to spend more for their care. WRONG. (By the way, ferrets aren’t really “exotic” as they’re domesticated and any vet should be able to care for them.)
Most of the money was spent on repeated tests (because the supposedly specialized doctors had no idea what was wrong with our ferrets) and overpriced surgery (Louise needed a tumor removed which cost over $1000 at that hospital; I learned later that elsewhere it would have cost $300). Unfortunately, ferrets are prone to developing various types of cancer, which can be insanely expensive if you don’t know much about them and blindly bring them to any clinic that says they “specialize” in ferret care, like we did.
After we spent all that much money, I found a ferret group in the area, run by three ladies in the Twin Cities area who provided foster care for ferrets in their home. These ladies really knew ferrets, as for years they had dozens of ferrets in their home at any given time (I admire these ladies!). I got involved and learned a LOT. Plus, I found out about veterinarians in the area who specialized in ferrets, and guess what…none of them worked at a fancy, expensive clinic like the one we were using. They were specialized, but actually affordable!
We tried a couple of veterinarians in the area which were fabulous, including Dr. Mary Arneson in Stillwater. But then I learned about a veterinarian in Elk River named Dr. Joel Ihnen. Dr. Joel is probably the best veterinarian you can find in this area. He’s now in Zimmerman working at All Pets Veterinary Hospital, so he cares for all pets and not just ferrets. But he’s so intuitively brilliant about animals. Unlike the vet clinic we were using in St. Paul, he doesn’t recommend every test imaginable (blood test, fecal test, x-rays, etc. etc.) for every little ailment they went through, costing people a fortune. He can identify a problem often with just an exam. Plus, he’s a cheerful, jolly guy who just loves animals.
We had a ferret named Scruffy who was sick in 2010. I brought him to Dr. Joel, and with just an exam, he suspected it was intestinal lymphoma. We had no idea. Then he confirmed it by doing an ultrasound right in the exam room (that he didn’t charge us for). He then spent over an hour with me, discussing cancer treatment options and looking up info on the Internet to discuss with me. We decided that chemotherapy wasn’t a good option for various reasons including his age, and just managed his discomfort with medications. He died peacefully in his sleep several months later.
Since then, we’ve spent nowhere near thousands of dollars for our ferrets, but have given them better care because we’ve been knowledgeable and have an affordable, ferret-knowledgeable vet on our side.
Currently we have a cat, and we bring him to Dr. Joel in Zimmerman, but have a veterinarian close by for emergencies. That works best for us.
So if you think you’re spending a fortune on your pet’s veterinary care, try shopping around, and consider veterinarians in rural, small-town areas if you’re willing to drive a bit. It made a huge difference for us. I just wish we did this sooner!