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Can’t Afford Vet Care? Here Are Some Solutions

September 16, 2013

A few years ago I needed to take CG to the ER. They told me he would need to stay a few days, and before I left for the night, they presented me with a bill. Part needed to be paid then, the rest was an estimate for the total cost of his care and stay.

That was the moment when I literally had to put a price on CG. I went home that night thinking about my limit — the total amount I was financially and emotionally OK with spending on him. The estimate was within my comfort zone, but it easily could have been much more.  Fortunately, I had enough to cover all of his bills, but that’s not always the case.

Photo courtesy Madame Meow.

None of us wants to think about putting a price on our pet’s life, but there’s always the possibility that at some point or another we’ll have to do just that. No matter if times are tough financially or if an unexpected situation results in a huge vet bill — or several — we may be faced with the inability to pay for vet care.

And that’s when things get really tough — we don’t want to deny our pet the care it needs, but sometimes we just don’t have the money to cover certain expenses.

If you’re facing a situation like that, you may have a number of options. The Humane Society of the United States has a number of recommendations for those who may have trouble paying for a vet’s bill.

Pet Insurance: Granted this is a preventative measure, but it may be one that you want to consider. (Note: Some pet insurance companies may not cover certain conditions like cerebellar hypoplasia; others may cover CH cats, but the plans may not cover any situation that was caused by the CH.)

Helpful Groups: There are groups around the country that offer veterinary care assistance. Others provide free or low-cost spay or neuter services. You can check out this list of groups that offer help, this list may help you find a free or low-cost spay or neuter

Work with Veterinarians: If you’re facing hard times, be honest with your vet. You may be able to negotiate a solution that works for the both of you. For example: 

  • If your vet is familiar with you, they may be OK with negotiating a payment plan. This may not work if you’re at a vet you’ve never visited before.
  • Ask if you can exchange a service, such as cleaning kennels or answering phones, to help pay off some of the bill.
  • Photo courtesy Sung Sook.

    If you’ve been given an estimate for a necessary procedure, consider going to another vet to get a second opinion. You’ll pay a visit fee, but the service or solution may be less expensive.

  • Visit smaller towns, veterinary schools, or your local shelter (if it has a clinic). They may charge lower fees.

Make Some Cash: You may also be able to take proactive steps in your own life to raise some extra cash. Some ideas include having a yard sale, asking for cash instead of birthday or holiday presents, selling things on sites like eBay, taking on a second job, etc.

Raise Some Funds: They also suggest that you look into a credit card or bank loan that can help you during your time of need. One, Care Credit, is intended specifically for human — and pet — health expenses. It’s accepted by many veterinarians, so you may want to check if it’s accepted by yours. They also suggest looking into self-fundraising platforms like GiveForward, where you can raise funds for your pet’s medical care.

Do you have any other recommendations? Please share in the comments. 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2013 3:51 am

    Thank you for all of the helpful advice and suggestions on this topic. Much better than “People who can’t afford to take their pet to the veterinarian should not be allowed to have pets”, which I just read elsewhere. I take my cat to the vet, but it’s not easy for me, and there is a limit to what I can afford. If it’s something non life-threatening, I simply cannot afford things like DNA tests and MRIs for the cat. There are limits.

  2. Monika permalink
    September 17, 2013 10:09 am

    We’ve been there, done that. When our dog was dx’d with cancer of the jaw and then one of our older cats with renal failure we were frantic (over and above the depression). We learned about CARE CREDIT through the veternarian clinic that was treating our dog.and we signed up for that. Depending on the plan and the amount borrowed it is interest free if paid back within the time frame contracted. That year we had over $25,000.00 in vet bills, we opted to try to do everything we could to save our beloved friends. Our dog survived for another five years before he succumbed. We do not regret any of the money we spent because he was part of our family. Our cat howevertook a turn for the worse and she did not make it. But we still use Care Credit for spaying and neutering as it helps us stretch out the payments and it makes it easier to budget in.
    The point I am trying to make is that there are “credit” companies that a lot of vets will accept,this particular company also is accepted by dentists and other human doctors.
    This at least gives you an option to make an informed decision.

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