I was unemployed and Spice, my husky, sat there with tubes sticking out of her nose and her legs. The emergency vet told me the cost was now up to a thousand dollars and I was faced with thousands more to come. I couldn’t afford it and I had to tearfully make the choice to put her down. It was the most agonizing decision and one I hope to never have to make again.
If you’re a pet owner facing this crisis, the above nightmare is all too familiar. Right now, you’re wondering where to turn to when you don’t have the money to care for your pet.
Life’s Wakeup Call
As pet owners, the reality is we’re likely to be faced by some inevitable crisis with our pets sometime in the pet’s life. Despite our best efforts to care for them, accidents happen and illnesses occur. Younger pets get illnesses and injuries. Cancer is the number one killer of pets over the age of 10 years old. Emergencies are going to happen and we need to be prepared.
While logically it makes sense that to have money stashed away in an emergency fund, reality often falls short. We lose our jobs, we have several emergencies crop up or we need to make the rent and we use up what little cash we have on hand. Our credit is maxed and there’s nowhere to turn. Or is there?
Talk With Your Veterinarian
Once you get the bad news that your pet needs an expensive operation or procedure, the first thing to do is talk with your veterinarian. Tell him or her the truth – that you can’t afford big bills and you need some options other than putting the dog or cat down. Many veterinarians are sensitive to their client’s issues and are willing to work with them. Sometimes there’s a less costly treatment that you may be able to afford. If your veterinarian wants to perform diagnostics, ask what is really needed. Some veterinarians will perform diagnostics to confirm their observations but the treatment is the same, so you might be able to have the veterinarian treat your dog or cat without the diagnostics. Lastly, some veterinarians have payment plans or even credit plans that will enable you to have what needs to be done.
Apply For a CareCredit Card
If you have good credit, you may be able to apply for a CareCredit Card that offers a low payment plan to pay for veterinary expenses. In some cases, they offer no-interest for 24 months. The downside of this plan is that if you’ve lost your job, have bad credit or you’re already strapped with debt, this may not be a viable option.
Look for Help
If are turned down for the CareCredit card and your veterinarian is unable to help you, you may be able to find out what assistance is available for pets on a local level. Ask your veterinarian if he or she knows of any funds and contact the local humane societies to find out if they know of any funds set up for animals. They may or may not, but it is worth a few phone calls.
There are local and national organizations out there to help pet owners in need, but in many cases, you need to apply for grants. Several national organizations are available, even in emergency situations, regarding helping pay your pet’s veterinary bills. Some, your veterinarian may have to contact directly, but if you’re faced with the possibility of putting your pet down, this may be an option. Check out the list of websites below and contact the organizations directly for help. The United Animal Nations also has an extensive list of local and breed-specific organizations that may be able to help.
Whatever happens, don’t lose hope. No one should have to face what I had to with Spice and make a decision between caring for your pet and money.
Cancer and Your Pet, Debra Eldredge DVM and Margaret H. Bonham, Capital Books, 2005.
Organizations That Help Pet Owners in Need
AAHA Helping Pets Fund
Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance
In Memory of Magic
Shakespeare Animal Fund
The Pet Fund
United Animal Nations (Lifeline Grants)