The Resources at Your Disposal When You Have Sudden Veterinary Bills
Here's how to find assistance through insurance, financing, and charities.
Our pets are family members that we hope will stay healthy for years to come. But the unexpected does happen. How can we be prepared for emergency veterinary care for our animal companions? "First of all, it's important to think of the best way to budget for the unexpected when it comes to our pet," says Dr. Steve Weinrauch, chief veterinary officer at Trupanion. "None of us has a crystal ball so while it's helpful to do the research on costs—at the end of the day, you just don't know if you have a lucky or unlucky pet." The costs of veterinary procedures for the diagnosis and treatment of vomiting and diarrhea, a common occurrence, ranges "anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the cause," he explains. It can be tough to budget for either end of the cost variance.
So, what can you do if you won't be able to afford unexpected veterinary care for your animals?
Pet Medical Insurance
If the unexpected emergency hasn't happened yet, you can look into pet medical insurance options. The sooner you enroll your pet in a plan, the better chances your pet will be covered for many veterinary services. Pre-existing conditions are not covered. There's also a waiting period for most insurance plans. "The benefit of having high-quality medical insurance means you can take care of your pet for the same amount each month, knowing that if the worst was to happen, aside from paying the deductible or maybe a co-pay, the bulk of the cost can be paid for by the insurance provider," says Dr. Weinrauch.
What if your pet has a medical issue or emergency before you get medical insurance? Many veterinary offices have financing options available. The financing could be through a credit card like CareCredit or a payment plan from Scratchpay or through the vet's own office. Always ask your veterinarian what options are available—they want you to be able to help your animals.
You may be able to receive assistance from charities that help pet owners cover unexpected vet bills or care expenses. Paws 4 A Cure, a non-profit, offers financial assistance for cats and dogs regardless of breed and covers anything from ear infections to cancer. The Diabetic Cats in Need charity provides financial assistance for diabetic cats. All you have to do is apply to the charities, share your story, and you may be approved for financial help. Some other charities that could help include: RedRover Relief, Handicapped Pets Foundation, Magic Bullet Fund, and Brown Dog Foundation.
If you have time to raise the funds for a medical procedure, then a fundraiser through GoFundMe, Waggle or CoFund My Pet. Set up a page on the crowdfund site, share your story and spread the word. Waggle, for example, will even go the extra mile and let your vet know that you are raising money to save your pet. Fundraisers may help you to cover most, if not all, of your vet bill. There is no guarantee that you will receive enough donations, however, so it's a good idea to utilize as many resources as you can to cover the cost of an expensive treatment or procedure.