My 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.
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.