Emergency Expenses: Ready or Not?

Every pet owner’s worst nightmare is a serious illness or medical emergency and inadequate funds to cover it.

With veterinary bills ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars, what’s a caring but cash-strapped owner to do?

If paws-ible, don’t panic. Instead, be prepared. Plan ahead.

The easiest first step is to open an “emergency expenses” savings account even BEFORE your chosen companion puts one paw inside your home. Decide on a given amount to be set aside – whether daily or weekly – and build it into your budget. Example: By setting aside only $10 a week, you’ll save $520 a year. Within two years, you’ll have saved enough money to cover most medical procedures. But should your pet need a sudden and more costly procedure, you’re more likely to receive help from others when they know that YOU’RE paying most of the bill.

A second option is purchasing pet insurance. An increasing number of insurance companies now offer specific plans for pets, ranging from the most basic to the most inclusive with monthly premiums to match each plan. Caution: Make certain to “read the fine print” and to learn whether or not the company will work with the vet of your choice.

For those unable to either save in advance or purchase pet insurance, being faced with the possibility of a medical bill they can’t pay is devastating. And this, sadly, is one of the reasons so many much-loved pets are euthanized. But there are solutions.

  1. Speak with your vet and discuss the arrangement of a payment schedule until the bill is paid in full. Many vets do offer payment plans to their regular and trusted clients.
  2. Contact local animal rescue organizations and ask for the names of any low-cost veterinary clinics they might know.
  3. Many veterinary schools offer medical services at discounted rates, and if you live near a college or university, contact them to see if they have just such a program.
  4. If it’s feasible, apply for a line of credit from your bank. There are also reputable companies that offer loans to help cover medical emergencies, including those of pets. (Note: Interest is charged in both cases and rates will vary).
  5. Ask your family members and friends for help.
  6. Use one of the more popular online fundraising platforms and start your own fundraiser, bearing in mind that the more people you reach in your own social, work and community circles, and the more original you are in drawing attention to your plight, the greater your chances of success.
  7. Apply for financial assistance from the specific funds, charities and pet assistance organizations across the country. While their organizations’ budgets are limited and their grants small, your chances of getting help increase if you’re disabled, a senior or a veteran, or are living solely on pensions or on a low, fixed income.