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Vet visits are inevitable when you own a pet, but these visits can be very expensive — especially during unexpected emergencies. There are several financial assistance options to help you afford expensive vet bills so you can take good care of your furry, feathered, or reptilian friends.
Highlights/ Key Takeaways
- Routine vet care can cost anywhere from $700 to $1500 every year for a dog, while the average cost of vet visit for cat is $80 to $120 every year.
- Emergency visits to the vet or animal hospitals cost an average of $800 to $1500.
- For low-income pet owners, financing options include pet insurance, payment plans, crowdfunding, grants, and more.
Consider Pet Insurance
Purchasing a pet insurance policy can help cover not only routine visits to your vet but also unexpected vet bills during emergency times.
Some of the benefits of pet insurance include:
- Saving money
- Focusing less on vet costs and more on caring for your pet
- Having more treatment options, such as life-saving procedures
- Having coverage for expensive treatments
- Enjoying vet options — you can choose a vet that both you and your pet like and are comfortable with
- Having better peace of mind knowing you have coverage in the event something happens to your pet
- Budgeting more easily since pet insurance allows you to spread out pet care costs over the course of several months vs. an emergency lump sum
Every pet insurance policy is different, so you should note what expenses are covered under the policy, as well as the deductible, reimbursement rate, and annual limit.
It’s important to note that most pet insurance plans reimburse the policyholder rather than the vet’s office. This allows you to see virtually any veterinarian you prefer, rather than having to find ones who are considered “in network.”
Of course, if you would prefer that the insurance provider pay the vet directly, you can find insurance plans that work that way.
How Pet Insurance Works
With pet insurance, you pay monthly (the insurance premium) for coverage. When you go to the vet, you pay the bill during the visit.
After the visit, submit a claim to your pet health insurance company. Reimbursements normally take between five to nine business days after you’ve submitted the claim. Depending on your policy, you will be reimbursed for anywhere from 70 to 100% of covered expenses.
Costs for pet insurance differ widely depending on the type of pet you have, but on average dogs can be covered for around $47 per month, while cats can be covered for around $29 per month. Service dog costs can be even higher depending on the unique needs of your service animal.
Types of Pet Insurance
Three common types of pet insurance include:
- Accident-only insurance: coverage for your pet in the event of accidents
- Accident and illness insurance: coverage for not only injuries from accidents but also illnesses
- Wellness insurance: coverage for routine care procedures, like vaccinations
When determining the right type of insurance policy to purchase, you should consider any risk factors of your pet, such as age or genetic predispositions. If you are unsure which type of insurance is right for you and your pet, talk to your vet.
Look for Less Expensive Care
There are options for low-cost vet care. Just because the care doesn’t cost as much as the average vet doesn’t mean the care isn’t just as good!
Some options include:
- Veterinary schools
- Teaching hospitals
- Apprenticing vets
These options offer low-cost vet prices because the procedures are being performed by affordable vets: i.e., veterinary students. Of course, the procedures are supervised by a licensed veterinarian.
You can find a list of accredited veterinary schools through the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Talk to Your Vet
Another way to manage vet bills is to simply talk to your vet. Many veterinary offices offer the following:
- Payment plans
- Other helpful resources
Your vet may offer customers cash discounts so you can pay a lower bill overall if you pay with cash vs. with a credit or debit card. This is a business practice used to help vets avoid high administration costs for processing credit card transactions.
Alternatively, your vet may be willing to set up a payment plan for you, allowing you to spread out the expenses over several weeks or months vs. having to pay the bill all at once.
Emergency vet care is expensive, but vets are passionate about helping animals. Without taking advantage of your vet, you can talk to them to see what options are available for low-income vet care.
Explore Financing Options
If you are stuck between a rock and a hard place and your pet needs critical care, you can try exploring financing options, including:
These options aren’t going to take the expenses away, but they can help you afford costs by paying lower amounts every month vs. having to pay the full vet bill at once.
CareCredit is a popular financing option for human healthcare needs, but it also offers veterinary financing.
With a CareCredit credit card, you can pay for:
- Grooming services
- Routine appointments and procedures
- Emergency pet care
- Critical treatments or surgeries
CareCredit does not discriminate among the types of animals it covers. So whether you need help affording care for your dog, cat, iguana, or horse, CareCredit can help.
CareCredit also partners with Pets Best Pet Health Insurance to provide even more financial assistance to low-income pet owners. With both of these options, you can pay for the treatment your pet needs with your CareCredit credit card, submit the claim to Pets Best, and then receive the reimbursement.
CareCredit also saves you 5% on your Pets Best policy, making them a helpful option for low-income pet care.
Some veterinarians offer Scratchpay to low-income families. Scratchpay is a financing system that offers payment plans to pet parents who need financial assistance.
In order to qualify for Scratchpay, you need to be at least 18 years old. As long as your credit score is at least 580, your odds of approval are good.
To get Scratchpay, you should first check to see if you can use it at your preferred vet’s office since only certain vets use Scratchpay. Then, you simply go online via your computer or phone to fill out the application.
Personal loans are another financing option for emergency vet bill assistance. Personal loans are available through:
- Private lenders
- Credit unions
Personal loans are another useful way to manage high vet costs. However, since interest rates on personal loans can be extremely high (especially if you’re low-income and have bad credit), you should use this option sparingly.
People all around the world use crowdfunding sources to help afford essentials in their lives. You can use crowdfunding as a resource to help afford major expenses to care for your pet.
Some popular crowdfunding platforms to help with vet bills include:
With GoFundMe, you simply create your fundraiser by setting your goal, telling your story, and adding relevant pictures or videos. You’re then responsible for sharing the fundraising campaign through social media, friends, text messages, and emails.
From there, people can donate to your campaign, and you are then able to withdraw the funds to pay the vet.
GoFundMe is a general crowdfunding site for a variety of needs, but Waggle is designed specifically to help with financial assistance for pet surgery and other life-saving procedures.
Waggle operates as a nonprofit and has helped raise over $2 million for critical pet care.
To use Waggle, you will include the estimated cost of medical care your pet needs, your vet’s contact info, and some photos of your pet to tug at the heartstrings of generous donors.
Waggle reviews every case that comes through its platform and posts approved campaigns on the page “Meet Pets in Crisis,” which gets your plea for financial help in front of more people.
Waggle allows you to share your campaign with everyone you know by offering helpful share links for you to post on social media.
Waggle also operates in partnership with other nonprofits, influencers, and even celebrities to provide grants and sponsorships for pets in dire situations.
Your vet sends the care invoice directly to Waggle so you don’t have to worry about the money at all. Waggle pays the vet or animal hospital directly.
Apply for a Grant
Grants can also help you pay for emergent, life-saving treatment for your pet.
Grants are available for a variety of different purposes, including:
- Emergency care
- Cancer care
- Treatments for specific breeds
- Spaying/neutering services
It may feel rather cumbersome to go through the grant application process, but there are several financial aid organizations willing to provide grant money to pet owners who need help. You can find a thorough list of organizations online through the Humane Society of the United States.
Pet Charities and Organizations that Can Help
When all else fails, there are pet charities and nonprofit organizations that can help you afford your pet’s medical bills.
Some organizations include:
- PetSmart Charities
- RedRover Relief
- Brown Dog Foundation
- Frankie’s Friends
PetSmart Charities offers low-cost spaying and neutering options for pet owners. It also helps pet owners get access to affordable veterinary care through its Improving Access to Veterinary Care grant.
RedRover Relief provides grants that average $200 to help pet owners cover costs. Their applications must be submitted prior to the treatment, however, since they do not pay existing vet bills.
Brown Dog Foundation covers pending bills. They do not cover bills you’ve already paid.
Frankie’s Friends administers grants that are as much as $1500! In order to apply for funding with Frankie’s Friends, you need to have an estimated bill since they do not cover past bills.
Vet bill help for low-income pet owners is possible. Just because you are low-income doesn’t mean your pet can’t have access to life-saving, essential veterinary care.
Whether you purchase a pet insurance policy, negotiate with your vet for a payment plan or discount, procure financing options, apply for a grant, or try crowdfunding or working with pet charities, there are many, many options available to help you care for your pet.