If you’ve ever had a sick pet, you know exactly how quickly the cost of a trip to the vet and medication can add up. And even if your pet has never been sick, mere regular health maintenance, such as heartworm prevention, can be a draining part of a family’s budget.
Barbara Trulio recognized this as a pet owner, and when her dog became sick, she lived it. That’s when she decided to start the company, Advocacy for Pets and Affordable Wellness (APAW). This national coalition of pet owners and advocates are “dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of America’s pets and empowering pet owners everywhere to demand affordable, quality health care and medicine for their animals.”
Their main goal is to inform pet owners that they can find cheaper alternatives in pet healthcare, including filling your pet’s prescription at a pharmacy instead of buying it directly from the vet. The savings can be quite large. The website, has a pet app where you can calculate your savings, personal tales from people who saved money, and a list of stores which accommodate pet owners with big savings.
APAW believes that “the human-pet bond is unlike any other experience and the joy of owning a pet shouldn’t be just a right of the wealthy.”
I asked Barbara Trulio how it all began, and what inspired her to take a leap from the corporate world to work for the advocacy of pets and pet owners. Her answers were inspiring:
When did you found the organization?
APAW was founded in 2012, so it’s still very new. Right now, the organization’s primary goal is to educate pet owners about the availability of accessible, more affordable pet healthcare. Unfortunately, due to the high costs of pet care, many pets go untreated, so it is very important that there is place that pet owners can formally come together as a community of pet lovers and advocates for healthy pets.
How did the idea come to you?
The idea came to me because of my own experience as a pet parent. A couple years ago, my beloved Chocolate Lab, Bear, was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes, among other medical concerns, and my husband and I literally spent our retirement funds on the pricey pet medications and daily injections. At the time, there wasn’t easy access to affordable pet medications beyond the vet, so we did what we had to do and didn’t think twice about it. But, now that I’m aware of the availability of pet medications from other, less costly sources, such as at local retail pharmacies and retailers like Walmart, Sam’s Club and others, I want to make sure that other pet owners know what’s available to them. No pet should go untreated for a medical condition because the medication cost is too high for their owner. With APAW as an available resource for pet owners to find these affordable sources, I hope we will see this happen less and less.
Do most vets object to pet owners obtaining medications from anyone other than themselves?
I am lucky to have not experienced this, as I have a wonderful relationship with my vet and feel it is important that all pet owners establish a healthy relationship with their veterinarian. I joke that I helped put my veterinarian’s children through college, but the truth is, vets are there to ensure your pet is healthy, so if that means helping you find the right medications at a price you can afford in order to care for your pet, most vets are eager to do so. Until recently, veterinarians single-handedly regulated the cost of pet prescription medications, which was sometimes marked up by upwards of 80%. However, now many vets have lent their expertise to manufacturers who have created more affordable options, like generic medications at local retail pharmacies as well as over-the-counter pet medications. That is why you can find “veterinarian-recommended” or “vet-grade formula” marked on the packaging. Many of these over-the-counter and generic pet prescription medications are actually bio-equivalent to name-brand medications (meaning they have exact the same ingredients in them), but are available at savings to the consumer. In most cases, it is truly the vet’s first duty and priority to ensure that your pet receives the treatment that he or she needs, and whether you purchase the medication from the vet or from the local pharmacy should not matter. For pet owners who are nervous about asking the right questions or unsure of what to ask their veterinarians, APAW.org provides a list of questions to ask your vet and retails pharmacist in order to equip pet owners with the information they need to seek the best pet medications for their pet.
What made you decide to leave your corporate job to help animals?
I actually originally left my corporate job to start a pet service business in Huntington Beach, Calif., called Pals and Paws Pet Services. When Bear was first diagnosed, I realized that there was a lack of pet professionals who could provide care to pets with special medical needs in addition to healthy pets. A friend and I decided that we could use the skills we learned in the corporate world to create a business that we were passionate about to assist other pet parents with pet sitting, dog walking, puppy socialization and other pet care needs, including medical needs when their owners were away. As I built relationships with clients, I learned that many of them also faced financial challenges with pet healthcare, and I was inspired to take action, which ultimately led to my involvement with APAW as a way to educate pet parents and improve quality of life for their pets.
What would you suggest to others who want to work with or for animals but don’t quite know what to do?
I would advise them to volunteer! If you have a passion for animals, it’s amazing how fulfilling it can be to spend a Saturday afternoon helping at the local animal shelter or assisting a pet owner with pet care duties. Volunteering at animal rescues is a great place to start, and an ideal way to gauge your strengths in the pet-sphere maybe you’re great at fostering, training or caring for pets when their owners are unable to. Once you find your niche, it’s easier to decide if you want to devote your career to pets, or if you’ll be satisfied as a dedicated volunteer.
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