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April 18, 2014

Having Trouble Affording Veterinary Care?

Help is out there

It could happen to anyone with a pet: You've always managed to give your pet the medical care she deserves, but because of unexpected circumstances, you're faced with vet expenses that are far beyond your ability to afford them.

No owner wants a pet to suffer because medical care is out of reach. Financial aid is out there, and there are steps you can take to cover an emergency vet bill.

Please remember that, depending on the severity of your pet's illness or injury, you may still lose your pet even after great expense. Discuss the prognosis and treatment options with your veterinarian, including whether surgery or treatment would just cause your companion discomfort without preserving a life of good quality.

Pet health insurance

It may not help in the current crisis, but you should consider purchasing pet health insurance for future medical needs. We recommend PetPlan.

Check your own state first

Check our list of groups nationwide that are offering veterinary care assistance.

Find a free or low-cost spay or neuter »

Work with veterinarians

Be proactive. 

  • Negotiate a payment plan with your vet. If you're a client in good standing, she may be happy to work out a weekly or monthly payment plan so that you don't have to pay the entire cost of veterinary care up front. However, don't expect a vet you've never been to before to agree to such a plan; she doesn't know you and understandably doesn't want to get stuck with an unpaid bill.
  • Offer to perform a service for your vet like cleaning kennels, answering phones or other work in lieu of actual cash.  
  • Get a second opinion. You'll pay a consultation fee, but another vet may have other, less expensive ways to treat your pet.
  • Use a vet in a less expensive area. Vets in smaller towns tend to charge lower fees.
  • Check out local veterinary schools.  Many run low-cost clinics for limited income clients. The American Veterinary Medical Association's website and VeterinarySchools.com have lists of veterinary schools by state.

Cash in

Explore ways to bring in some extra cash.

  • Have a yard sale. One's man's trash is another man's treasure.
  • If your birthday or a holiday is near, ask for cash in lieu of a present.
  • Sell things on an online auction site such as eBay.
  • Consider getting a second or part-time job or working for a temp agency.
  • Ask your employer for a salary advance.

Raise your own funds or get temporary credit

If you have a credit card, ask for a limit increase or talk with your bank about loan options. Many veterinarians accept Care Credit, which is a credit card specifically for health care expenses, including your pet's. Care Credit offers multiple payment options that may help you through your pet's crisis. You can find out more information about Care Credit and fill out an application on their website. Consumers should take care to understand the terms of any credit they accept.

Groups like IMOM and RedRover also allow you to apply for financial aid if you can't afford veterinary care for your pet.

Or, raise your own funds! Fundraising platforms like GiveForward enable you to create a personal fundraising page to raise funds for pet medical care. They charge a small percentage of funds raised.

Financial assistance

There are many animal welfare organizations that can help out with vet bills, either with low-cost care, loans, or grants. Here are a few:

Dog breed-specific veterinary care assistance programs

CorgiAid
Special Needs Dobermans
Labrador Harbor
LabMed
Labrador Lifeline
WestieMed (West Highland White Terriers)
Pyramedic Trust (Great Pyrenees)

Veterinary care assistance for working/service dogs

Helping Harley Cancer Treatment Grant
Assistance Dogs Special Allowance Program

More resources

Still looking for help?

  • Contact your local animal shelter. Some shelters have onsite low-cost veterinary clinics or work with local vets who are willing to reduce their charges. Some also have veterinary loan or grant programs.
  • There are some organizations that may offer assistance locally (by state or community). See our state-by-state (including Canada) listings »
  • If you purchased your dog from a responsible breeder, check your contract to see if there is a health guarantee that covers your pet's ailment.
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