Coming at you today with a life hack for getting cheap pet medication without a prescription. We rarely do these kinds of “one neat trick” articles—but when we do, they’re bangers. This one’s no exception.
I have a whole passle o’ hounds. My budget for routine flea, tick, and heartworm preventative medication used to be $360.00 per dog, per year. And that didn’t include fees for the annual vet exams or tests to get the prescriptions in the first place! I don’t need to tell you this was way too much fucking money for me. For years, I’d just accepted that price without question because I was too busy with work to think about it.
But at long last, I have the luxury of time! After an exhaustive amount of research (brought to you by coffee and Adderall, breakfast of neurodivergent champions), I found myriad other ways to get cheap pet medication. And I’ve identified what I think is the very best one.
I got my cost per animal down to just $32.50 a year. That’s 90% cheaper, for the exact same medications!
And today, I’ll tell you how I did it.
What I WON’T do for cheap pet medication
I considered a lot of potential ways to save money on pet medications. But I discarded a lot of them because they’re consummately terrible ideas. I want to briefly go over those, so that you understand the dangers, and why I think the route I’m suggesting is best.
1. I won’t just make my pets go without flea, tick, and heartworm prevention
These parasites aren’t just uncomfortable and gross—they spread deadly diseases to both pets and humans. In my mind, it’s a non-negotiable necessity of pet ownership. If I can afford to eat, my pets are getting medicated.
2. I won’t risk buying fake or bad products
I saw suspiciously cheap versions of common medications for sale on shady websites. But I would never buy medicine from an unvetted, unverified source. 70% chance it’s useless, 30% chance it’s gonna turn your pet into the dog from The Thing.
3. I’m not willing to consider cross-species applications.
The most popular ingredient in antiparasitic medication is ivermectin, which you can get for livestock at any tractor supply store. (Or at least you could, before COVID-19 conspiracy theorists bought it all to kill their last remaining brain cells.) I know some Country Folk™ who feel comfortable using the same product to deworm their horses and dogs. It can work!
But for me, I got too nervous trying to research the correct products and calculate the precise dilution ratio. I put in fifteen cloves of garlic when a recipe asks for two—I don’t have the delicacy to follow directions in *micrograms!* I wasn’t willing to risk accidentally poisoning my dogs by messing around with something I didn’t fully understand. When I asked the aforementioned Country Folk™ how they did it, 100% of them said they were taught how to do it directly by a vet. So I can’t recommend this method for regular folks. If you get it wrong, your pet could die, and their death would be on you. Not worth it.
The solution I found is waayyy safer and easier.
Step one: Verify that your pet is heartworm negative
It’s very important that you know your pet is heartworm negative first. Preventative medication won’t kill adult heartworms, and may make your pet worse.
So the first thing I did was go to my vet for an annual checkup. They wrote me a prescription for my dog’s preventative meds. These are the prices my vet quoted me…
- $100.00 for a 12-month supply of Heartgard (heartworm preventative)
- $260.00 for a 12-month supply of NexGard (flea/tick preventative)
- TOTAL COST: $360.00 per dog, per year
I thanked them, but didn’t buy the medication yet. I drove home convinced I’d missed something. “Surely there has to be some loophole? A generic option? Manufacturer’s rebates? A store that sells it more cheaply online? A hookup from my old pal, Canada? There has to be a way to get cheap pet medication!”
And there is…
Step two: Get medication for giant dogs
This is the best-kept secret in dog rescue. I’m possibly violating some kind of “be chill” rule among my fellow pet rescuers, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to present huge savings to my readers—and make sure that more pet owners can afford care for their pets.
Preventative medication for dogs works based on their weight. For example, let’s look at Heartgard again…
- For small dogs, one dose is 68 micrograms of ivermectin
- For medium dogs, it’s doubled to 136 micrograms
- For large dogs, it’s doubled again to 272 micrograms
But relative to their dosage, the price changes very little. Taking today’s prices from a popular online dog pharmacy…
- $10.99 for a single dose for small dogs
- $11.99 for medium dogs
- $12.99 for large dogs
That means that the most cost-effect way to consume this medication is to order the largest size, then cut it into halves or quarters depending on the size of your dog. It’s much easier to cut a single pill in half than to Walter White it up at your kitchen table with livestock doses.
The catch: your prescription isn’t for the giant breed size, and your vet won’t change it for you.
That’s why you’re not going to get it from your vet.
You’re going to go somewhere else.
Somewhere down under…
Step three: Order cheap pet medication from an Australian pet pharmacy
Soundtrack for this section can be found here.
Australia is home to many incredible things: meat pies, Tim Tams, kookaburras, effective gun control, Hugh Jackman…
With so many fine exports, you’d be forgiven for overlooking one: over-the-counter flea, tick, and heartworm preventative meds. And it’s substantially cheaper than what’s offered by even the most heavily discounted American pharmacies.
… Sorry, Aussies. I tried not to have a Crocodile Dundee gif, but I can’t risk my membership in the Obvious Gif Choice Coalition for a Worser Tomorrow. I’m up for treasurer next year!
After a ton of price comparison, I found the cheapest option for my brands was Pets Megastore. They sell legitimate products directly from the same manufacturers you’d get from your vet, without the hassle of calling to confirm your prescription. To be clear, they didn’t sponsor this post! It’s my honest recommendation as a private citizen.
I selected a premium all-in-one pill, and ordered a 12-pack of the largest possible size. This one box will cover all of my dogs for a full year. After gnashing my perfect American teeth as I double-checked calculations on AUD to USD and kilograms to pounds, I submitted my order. It arrived two weeks later, in perfect packaging, exactly as expected.
- $148.00 for a 12 month supply of Nexgard Spectra (all-in-one preventative)
- $10.00 for international shipping
- TOTAL COST: $31.60 per dog, per year
For even cheaper prices, check the clearance section. They have some offerings sold at a steep discount because they’re within a few months of their expiry. If you plan to divide it among two or more dogs, you can go through those quickly and save even more money! None of the brands I wanted were available this time, but I’ll definitely check again next time.
Here’s more of our advice for frugal pet owners:
- How to Save Money on Your Beloved Pets
- 30 Pets Ranked for Financial Efficiency by Cold, Unfeeling Human Overlords
- Twelve Reasons Senior Pets Are an Awesome Investment
Go forth and use cheap pet medications responsibly
I hesitated before writing this article. Some people really don’t like it when we discuss hacking medication access. (We literally got a rape threat from a pro-choice reader who took exception to us discussing the Yupze Method of using birth control as extreme emergency contraception. Thanks for the feedback, die mad about it!) I’m sure we’re gonna get some blowback for this one, too. A lot of pet owners feel there’s one right way to do things, and can get quite nasty when someone suggests cutting corners.
But ultimately, I decided it was information that could save lives. That’s always worth sharing.
I’ve volunteered with the same dog rescue for over a decade. I’ve seen the terrible consequences of poverty on pets and their owners.
These medications are cheap to produce. Like human medications, institutional greed keeps their prices ludicrously high. It feeds the cycle of sadness, suffering, separation, and death that occurs when people can’t afford veterinary care for their animals. And I think that’s fucking wrong.
Pets should never be adopted lightly. It’s irresponsible to take in an animal without first making sure you can afford their needs. But giving them good basic care shouldn’t be an unattainable class privilege of the wealthy either.
Bitch Nation: how have you hacked pet medication? Does anyone have a secret sauce to beat this price? If so, you owe us an explanation in the comments below! And if I’ve helped you save a bunch of money today, please consider kicking a few bucks our way on Patreon to say thanks.
15 thoughts to “How to Get DIRT CHEAP Pet Medication, Without a Prescription”
Just wanted to hop on and say thank you for sharing this!! I can’t afford a dog currently (I’m on disability and it’s not enough for even just me right now), but this gives me hope that at some point, I’ll be able to have one without having to panic about standard care (the medications and preventatives). I sincerely hope that you all don’t get any nasty comments, and if you do, that the good ones outweigh the bad.
A few other US resources for pet owners looking to save could be looking into Zoetis pet care rewards and Petco’s Vital Care membership.
1. Zoetis will give you rewards rebates for specific brands of medication that you buy (doesn’t matter where from), and then those rewards can be redeemed for cash on a pseudo-debit card from Zoetis that can be used at your vet. For example, I bought my dogs Simparica Trio medication and got 300 points for both dogs, which translated to $30. I was able to use that $30 towards my next vet bill. My vet (and I think most) are aware of Zoetis and actually recommend it! Also it’s free to sign up for this, or at least it was when I first did it.
2. Petco rolled out a new Vital Care membership a few years ago and I’ve been a member since the beginning. It costs I think $19.99 per month per pet ($2 discount for multiple pets), but comes with quite a bit of incentives. You get $15 in Petco rewards every month, discounted grooming or free nail trims/teeth cleaning at Petco grooming salons, free visits to their Vetco clinic, a 10% discount on any nutrition purchase, and a great benefit of being able to submit receipts from OTHER vet clinics you visit outside of Petco for $20 in rewards per receipt. These rewards alone have allowed me to buy my dogs’ medications through Petco (heartworm/flea/tick and allergy pills) at a much discounted rate, in addition to their special dog food. Petco also usually has a few sales going on (buy online, pick up in store, receive a discount; discounts on certain brands). This may not be for everyone since it’s an annual membership commitment that does cost money per month, but I’ve personally felt that it’s helped me save a lot of $ on two dogs over the last two years. Currently I spend $37.06 each month for 2 dogs, so $444.72 per year. But if you take the fact that I get $30 in Petco rewards each month just for my membership renewing, I easily earn $360 in rewards per year, not to mention the other added discounts and rewards I receive for submitting vet receipts. It ends up paying for itself quickly! Also look into repeat delivery options to save even more – Petco always has amazing discounts for those (…and I’m not suggesting you do this all the time, but you can always cancel them later.)
Just thought I’d share these tidbits for other pet parents because I can empathize with people who love animals, but are on a budget!
With chewable medications there’s no way to know if the active ingredient is distributed evenly throughout the serving, so cutting it in half could get some or none or all of the active ingredient in one half. This is not a very reliable method of medicating pets.
This is awesome! Thank you so much for letting us know!
Thank you so much for this post. So important. This comment functions as a -1 against any threats in the comments, cancelling it out, because you are awesome <3
Thank you! This will be helpful as I own multiple pets and can add up real quick. 🙂
Emily is correct that you can’t be sure the medication is distributed evenly through the chew. Pharmacists spend time figuring out exactly how much they have to stir a mixture for it to achieve a uniform dose of medication in each tablet or capsule. It’s not safe to assume that any given medication has been mixed thoroughly enough that halving the table will reliably halve the dose. It *probably* is, sure, but you can’t assume.
Underdosing heartworm medication is worse than not doing it at all because not only is your pet not protected, but you’re selecting for the strongest worms to survive. That is how resistance to parasite control drugs develops. Drug resistance is bad. People with medical training know this.
People without medical training should not confuse a Google search with a medical or pharmacy degree. That is how people end up giving themselves ineffective and/or poisonous treatments. Like, you know, ivermectin for COVID.
If the cost of medication is burdensome, tell your vet you need them to prescribe the cheapest kind available, pay them to do the research, and understand that it won’t be anything fancy. I also know a reliable way to cut pet care costs to the absolute bone: don’t own pets you can’t afford to provide for. (If you have to save up to purchase the cute puppy you saw on the net, you can’t afford to care for it.) At least don’t get a big dog, or multiple dogs, and then whinge about the cost of medication.
This sounds like a no brainer! As an Aussie I’m sorry to hear that pet medications are so expensive over there.. must put a huge financial strain on responsible pet owners trying to do the best for their pets. Just to reassure people as well – the manufacturing sites over here are world class and just as strictly regulated as for human medications so the quality is excellent.
I used to get some of our senior dog’s medications from Costco pharmacy for a small fraction of the cost it would have been at the vet. You don’t have to be a member to use their pharmacy for pets! Also, sometimes, some incredibly expensive meds can be made at a compounding pharmacy for a very reasonable price if you have a local one. Your vet should be able to advise on whether that’s a good idea for your particular situation.
I just wanted to say thank you for this. It’s great to know for those in the U.S. (even if I’m not) and I got really lucky with a vet clinic near me that sells monthly spot-on medications (Advantage Multi in the U.S., known as Advocate elsewhere) without a visit and is affordable enough so I could give it to them every month. Knowing things really makes a difference
I used to get some of my dog’s medications at Target. It wasn’t heavily advertised but I noticed that my vet prescribed a medication that is also used by people. Target pharmacy even put my dog in their system with my last name!
I wish. I remember more details but it was huge savings!
Please edit this article Bitches! This is unsafe advice.
Specifically, splitting a chewable medication. Those medicines are not evenly distributed through the chew. Source: I just asked my vet today at Banfield Pet Hospital.
Your pet will not get the correct dosage, which of course has health complications.
Pills and tablets that are “notched” with a clear split line, can be split there, but not chewable medications.
Thank you for reading. I hope you update this article soon before readers follow it. Also to protect your own dogs!
An additional tip, for some medications, is that a prescription can be used at any pharmacy (if the medication is also available for humans). This means that you can call around to several local pharmacies (Costco included) and get an estimated price for the dosage you need. This also means that you can use any coupons or discount programs your pharmacy normally accepts.
Not helpful for heartworm, but for animals that need specific medications on a regular basis, this can be incredibly cost effective and helpful. Just talk to the pharmacist about the dosage you need and the animal you’re providing care for- we’ve had prescriptions filled this way for several animals including horses. (It’s also kind of fun when you get the reminder call that “Fluffy Smith’s prescription is ready for pickup”).
Checking with the local animal protection society (ASPC, Animal Protection League, Snippit Clinic, etc.) could get you those recurring name brand medications precisely dosed for your pet at significant discount to your local vet or pharmacy cost. Exact items vary but between my two local agencies I can get the two major brands of flea treatment and dewormer at 1/3 retail costs. You can usually find your local agencies via the local spay/neuter services (check surrounding communities as different agencies have different costs and programs!) Your local shelter will have info on those if you are having trouble finding them.
Don’t forget those vaccinations, which the same clinics will have at lower cost than a vet! You will still need a vet for urgent services, prescriptions such as antibiotics, and disease treatment, but those ongoing preventives have huge savings.
Just wanted to reiterate the point about not doing cross-species medication. Some flea treatments for dogs for eg are toxic to cats. Not worth the risk to save a few dollars, unless you are a biochemist or similar and fully research and understand the role of each ingredient in the medication.