Re vet costs:
Develop a relationship with a great vet who offers good value (i.e., reasonable prices on diagnostics, not pressuring staff to "up-sell" elective services, getting good outcomes with lowest-cost interventions instead of always recommending highest-cost interventions, etc.). By develop a relationship, I mean this: don't "vet hop" constantly, or chase coupon deals on annual exams, or only show up when your dog is very sick, etc. Don't berate the staff over the cost of the bill. Don't let your dog try to bite them. Become a client they all know and like. Take your dog there frequently just to say hi to the reception staff and get a dog-treat from them (and sometimes take a plate of people cookies for the staff, just to thank them for putting up with your frequent visits).
Some vets have "good client" discounts (mine gives 10%), for people who've got multiple dogs, and are "regulars" who've been with them for years. They sometimes also do valuable "extras" for such clients, like stay past closing time on a Friday night, so that you don't have to take a sick dog to the emergency vet that costs twice as much, or even giving you their personal email or cell phone number so that you can call them over the weekend when you've got a sick dog--things you have absolutely no right to expect or even ask for, but that save you a lot of money and stress. Mine even did a house call for me at the end of my senior dog's life, and sent his vet tech to my house to help me (I live close), and he didn't charge anything extra for that level of service, even though they don't normally do house calls at all.
How do you find those kind of wonderful vets? Ask the staff at your city shelter or better yet, ask your local breed rescue. Chances are they know which vets they wouldn't send any animal to even for free (due to a history of incompetence, missed diagnoses, botched surgeries, or harsh handling), which vets are "best of the best" for hard-to-treat cases (high cost, but worth paying extra for when a life is on the line or no one else can figure out what's wrong with the dog), and which vets are trustworthy low cost/high value leaders (and worth having a long-term relationship with for general-practice vetting). If you find out which vets they use for their personal dogs, you'll probably uncover some hidden gems in your community who don't advertise much but are much beloved by clients because of reasonable prices, wonderful staff, and really great care.
Last edited by Magwart; 04-29-2016 at 10:45 AM.