Canadians are used to looking for deals south of the border, and it would appear Winnipeg pet owners have found the latest bargain: healthcare for their pets.
Dozens of Winnipeggers are packing up Scruffy and Spot and driving the more than 200 kilometres south to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where veterinarian services are available at less than half the price than at home.
Dr. Darin Meulebroeck of the Grand Valley Animal Hospital says he sees up to 15 clients from Manitoba every month, and they tell him that the cost of his services is worth the two-and-a-half-hour drive.
"Now, the last three, four, five years, we see more and more, primarily from Winnipeg," he says of his clients.
As the runt of the litter, the Patenaude family's nine-year-old Shitzu, Jackson, requires a lot of extra care. His owners, Theresa and George, would do anything for him.
"He's our child, he's our son," they say. "He's our fourth son."
But the retirees don't have an endless budget to spend on his healthcare costs, which in Winnipeg are "extremely high," they say.
Getting Jackson's teeth cleaned close to home, they say, could cost them as much as $650, including blood work. South of the border, however, the same services came in at $205.
CTV Winnipeg reports that:
a spay or neuter service in Winnipeg could cost as much as $500, while $300 is the top price in Grand Forks.
a physical exam is $75 in Winnipeg, compared to $45 south of the border.
a puppy or kitten package, with exam and vaccines, costs about $250 in Winnipeg, compared to $120.
Winnipeg veterinarian Dr. Ron Worb says many doctors will help clients who need help.
"If you have a nice relationship with your veterinarian and they know you're in a little financial bind, vets are pretty decent people," Worb said. "Some sort of payment plan could be set up for these procedures."
He urges pet owners to do their research to confirm that the savings are as great as they believe before they hit the road.
Dog owner Gary Zurba says the trip south would be a hassle, no matter the savings.
"It costs money to stay down overnight," Zurba said.
But the Patanaudes say the savings are just too good to turn down.
"You know, we don't put a price tag on him. If he needs it, he gets it done," they said. "But there has to be an alternative, and Grand Forks is the alternative."
With a report from CTV Winnipeg's Beth MacDonell