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6 Ways to Get Help with Vet Bills – Lower the Costs of Veterinary Care for Your Dog or Cat

By Angela Colley

dog veterinarianMy dog just needed to have gum surgery. Seriously. The poor thing had to eat wet food for a week, and my poor husband almost had a heart attack when we got the bill: $1,250. To say the least, veterinary services aren’t cheap. There are many benefits to having a dog, but you obviously need to assess how much a dog really costs.

Smart Money reported that veterinarian bills for a dog rose from an average of $172 to $219 between 2002 and 2006. Vet bills for cats rose from $133 to $172. And they keep getting higher. To make matters worse, those averages only account for routine checkups and vaccinations. If your pet has an emergency, like mine did, you can expect to pay well over $500.

So what do you do if your pet gets sick and you don’t have the cash on hand? You can get help with vet bills if you know where to look. Charities, animal welfare organizations, and even your veterinarian can offer assistance when you need it.

Here are six ways to care for your dog or pet, while alleviating some of the costly expenses.

6 Ways to Get Help with Vet Bills

1. Start with Your Vet
If you have a previous relationship with your veterinarian, he may be able to help you out. Vets understand how much our pets mean to us. They also know that people struggle with the cost of veterinary services from time to time. My vet offers a payment plan for existing customers. I can pay off any service, without interest, over the course of 6 months. Your vet may also let you defer the payment for a later date or offer a discount.

2. Look for a Cheaper Alternative
If your pet isn’t facing a life-threatening crisis, take a day or two to do some price comparison shopping. If you live in a metro area, contact a vet in the suburbs. Vets in smaller communities tend to have cheaper pricing than vets in big cities.

Contact the ASPCA and the Humane Society in your area. Both animal welfare groups offer cheaper vet services. For example, the ASPCA has a mobile clinic you can visit for vaccinations and spay or neutering procedures. Both groups can also help you find private funding for expensive procedures.

3. Contact a Veterinary College
Veterinary colleges offer discounted services to people in need. Most of these services include routine checkups, vaccinations, and small procedures such as neutering or spaying. However, they may not be able to help if your pet has a serious illness or injury. The American Veterinary Medical Association keeps a list of vet schools you can search by state.

4. Apply for the Helping Pets Fund
The American Animal Hospital Association offers help for vet bills through a grant program known as the Helping Pets Fund. You can use grants to cover the cost of all veterinary services. But you can’t apply for a grant directly – your vet will have to apply on your behalf.

5. Contact Charities
Countless animal welfare charities exist both nationally and locally. Most charities are breed specific, meaning they only assist certain breeds of dogs or cats. But you can find some that cater to all breeds. Most charities offer low-cost vaccinations and exams. Some offer grants to help cover the cost of emergency vet treatment. For example, the Sula Foundation in New Orleans offers low-cost vaccinations for pit bull breeds, but does not offer grant funds.

6. Get Credit
CareCredit lets you finance veterinary services. The plan includes any service from basic checkups to complicated emergency procedures. Once approved, you will receive a line of credit similar to a credit card. You can use the card for multiple services as long as you stay under your limit. You will pay the financing back in monthly installments. Most vet offices take CareCredit plans, but contact your veterinarian before applying just to make sure. You can apply online through the CareCredit website.

Final Word

Your pets shouldn’t have to suffer unnecessarily, and you shouldn’t have to either under the burden of vet bills. Check out these alternative options to help lower your pet costs and keep you and your animal healthy and happy.

Have you used any special methods to lower the costs of vet bills? Please share in the comments below.

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Angela Colley
Angela Colley is a freelance writer living in New Orleans, Louisiana with a background in mortgage and real estate. Her interests include animal rights advocacy, green living, mob movies and finding the best deal on everything. She blames her extreme passion for never paying full price on two parents that taught her that a penny saved is two pennies if invested wisely.

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  • Kira Botkin

    I have used my CareCredit card for all my vet expenses – you get six months interest free generally, and if the purchase is large enough (currently, $300) you can get 12 months interest free. Sometimes if I was close to $300, the vet’s office would put a credit on my account, or I’d buy some flea medication, in order to get over $300 and get the extra six months interest free.

  • http://www.moneybeagle.com Money Beagle

    We use our vet for services, but my cats have various ailments which require prescription food and medicine. I will shop those around before automatically giving the business to my vet.

  • Stacie Thomas

    Good tips…particularly using care credit to finance medical bills.
    From personal experience though, just be sure to always compare apples to apples…cheaper is not always better. In fact, sometimes it can be much more expensive to fix mistakes than fix the original problem.
    Find a veterinary hospital you trust and discuss any financial limitations with your veterinarian. They are in the best position to help you help your pet!

  • Pam Gamer

    I’m surprised that you didn’t mention pet insurance. My beagle had to have expensive knee surgery, and the doctor told us that the other knee would probably be a problem eventually. We bought pet insurance then, and 3 years later the other knee got the same problem. The insurance covered more than half of the expenses. My other dog developed a chronic illness that required expensive tests and treatment., and again, the insurance covered a lot of it. For us the monthly investment was well worth it. It ensured that I never had to refuse a treatment my dogs needed because of the cost.

  • http://www.rescuecapital.com Dawn

    I have pet insurance and generally it goes unused. With my previous dog it helped a lot. I find that for wellness I paid more for the insurance and I didn’t get enough back to justify the expense. So I just budget for the wellness. But for sudden illness and accidents it can’t be beat. A word of caution you should get the insurance when your animal is a baby so that they do not exclude any pre-existing conditions and it is cheaper.

  • http://TheDoctorConsultant.com Ilan Ferdman

    in addition to Pet Insurance (which i believe all pet owners should at least investigate), there is a new financing option similar to Carecredit. However, this option does not require the pet owners to qualify via a credit application process. It allows Vets to structure a monthly payment plan through a third party collection company that draws money from your checking account just like any auto payment you have set up today. With today’s shaky economy and people’s poor credit scores, I believe it will set the precedence for the future of medical financing.

    • WATTLEYEDEW

      i need this straight away, Ilan, quick, how do i get this in TUCSON ARIZONA for emergency care TOMORROW

    • Bonita Parks

      So what is the new option called? Or will the vet know what I am talking about when I mention it?

    • kathy

      What is this new option, My dog needs dental work done….

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