Dog vet rebates: Are they always worth it?
As with human doctor visits, understand the pros and cons of dog treatments
I used to sigh when my mother left a doctor’s office. She treated every visit like it was an NBA practice game. She memorized every action, every treatment and immediately checked with health sites to find out the side effects of every medication. I thought it was overkill, considering doctors are “experts.” It was easy for me to say, considering I never checked off any medications nor illnesses on the pre-appointment forms. It wasn’t until she sent me a screenshot of one prescribed medication that I changed my tune. The side effect: death. Touche!
I’m also a hypocrite, and my mother will point it out on occasion. My nickname in college was “Why?” Why? Because I always wanted to know “why” something happened or why someone felt a way. I was preparing for journalism since kindergarten. I want(ed) to know what dentists were doing to my teeth, why an eye doctor used a particular eye drop and/or what my blood pressure results really meant. I still won’t sign the blank line to confirm I got the HIPAA forms. They either have to hand it to me in print form beforehand or show me the electronic version. Signing a blank screen is out of the question. I am my mother’s child.
I’ve quickly realized this mother-daughter habit has traveled its way to vet visits too. As much as I know and like my dog’s vet—and my Hound mix loves this woman along with a few vet techs—I couldn’t help side-eyeing two today. The first one asked me if my dog wanted to get a certain type of shot before she said “hello,” and another beelined to the counter to tell me why I should buy a bulk supply of a specific heartworm med. Even after I said I wasn’t interested in the rebate, she tried to convince me again. After a clipped “I’m not doing it,” it wasn’t until I ignored her altogether that she stopped giving me this commission-adjacent sales pitch. (Luckily, two other techs were far more chill and a relief during the payment process.)
While it’s always a good idea to have a healthy, happy dog, make sure your dog actually needs what the vet techs (and the vet) are pitching. More often than not, the suggestion is helpful. But if you ask why your dog must have [insert treatment/medication here] and their answer is a blank stare, know that you have options—and potentially pet insurance money and pet savings to use elsewhere.
Are dog reward programs worth it?
Let’s use a common heartworm medication as an example. One tablet costs approximately $31 at the veterinarian’s office. If purchased as a set of six, the price is approximately $186, give or take taxes (if applicable), or $372 for a dozen. This reward program will offer 150 points for dog owners who buy the heartworm meds in a half-dozen, and a dozen will earn 450 points. In turn, the pet owner receives a $15 reward value or a $45 value, which leaves them with an end total of $171 or $327.
But you don’t really receive the rebate money. What you receive is a reloadable Mastercard to use for future veterinary bills. For health insurance users, it’s the equivalent of an Ambetter Visa reward card, which can be used to pay for doctors visits and/or monthly insurance bills. So why is the latter reward card a nuisance? For pet owners who already have pet savings accounts, owners of Care Credit cards and pet insurance members, they’re already eligible for so many other vet care bonuses and eligible payments.
From initial purchase and sign-up, it takes six weeks for processing to even receive the initial reward. Then, users may end up skipping already-interesting incentives (ex. Care Credit Rewards) or insurance-covered costs to use these rewards. And unless the dog constantly needs to go back to the vet’s office, chances are pretty high that that dog owner will not return for six more months.
Additionally, for the savvy shopper, some retail stores already offer money off for buying pet medication on autopay. Although I’m not a big fan of Walmart (and its gun-toting stores) and haven’t been physically inside of one in more than a decade, that same heartworm medication is $2 less online, has a 30% discount on the first order, free shipping each time for $35 or more, and an automatic 5% discount on each future autopay order.
Do the math on that same medication. For two heartworm meds (for free shipping), the cost is:
$41.06 subtotal (for two)
$0 free shipping and handling
$2.57 estimated taxes
Multiply that three times (for a total of the same six heartworm meds over a six-month period), and the total is $130.89.
Now compare that to the rebate offer. That’s more than a $40 difference. While the rebate deal may seem like it’s a can’t-miss offer, it may only come in handy for dogs who need regular treatment.
That leads me to the other question: Does your dog really need all of the shots that are offered? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. But ask anyway. Here’s why.