There is nothing worse than when your pet is suddenly sick, and they have to go to the vet. The average checkup for an animal just to see the vet and get checked out is up to $35, according to consumerreports.com, and the bill can just go upwards from there if your pet needs emergency surgery, stitches, medication, or an overnight stay. I once paid $800 for a cat scratch my dog received- $180 for the emergency vet visit (after hours) and hundreds of dollars in her 2-day stay for her massive infection. She was sent home with antibiotics that alone set me back over $100. Sheesh!
Since most veterinarians expect upfront pay at the time of service, and make you pay your balance in full, it can be a frightening situation when you just plain can’t afford to get your animal the help they need when something serious comes along. Over the last 8 years I have spent well over $4,000 on my dog in vet visits and shots, 2 emergency visits after hours, and basic ailments like flea allergies and yeast infections in her ears. Luckily, I have a special savings I set aside just for emergencies, so when the next $800 bill arises, it won’t be affecting my pocketbook and I can get her the care she needs. Here’s how I do it.
Only go to the vet if you HAVE to. An annual checkup is usually just fine for the average healthy pet, so you can set aside some funds for emergencies by not taking your pet in for shots every time they need them. My vet told me that once my dog got her puppy boosters and basic shots for her first 3 years, she likely would only need shots every couple years or so. I take the money I would have spent on shots and set it aside, “just in case”. It was the money I used for her $175 vet bill a few weeks ago to extract a weed from her toes. Comes in handy. Plus, my dad vaccinates my dog. Saves me more money.
Set aside money weekly, or even monthly for an animal emergency. Even $20 a month that you set aside for vet emergencies is $240 a year, or $5 a week. That’s doable. I set aside $50 a month for 3 months at a time, let it sit, then after a 3 month lapse I set aside $50 a month again. Over the course of a year I set aside $300, and have only had to dip into my $600 vet savings once. It seems like a lot, but in case my aging dog every really tanks, I have something set aside. When I’m hard on funds (like lately), I quit saving money for her for a while, and let my financial status build. So long as you eventually build to $500 or more, you can relax a little, and save up more when you can.
Pay your vet bills in full when you can. Keeping a great repertoire with your vet will enable you possibly to create a payment plan when and if you need one, and if you stick with the same vet and keep a good payment history with them, you can be able to get away with a small down on your vet bill and easy payments over time. If you have $100 to spare in a vet emergency fund, but nothing more, at least it’s a start so your pet can get the help they need.
Don’t touch the vet emergency fund for other needs unless you absolutely have to! If your pet is a chronic vet visitor (like mine is) you will need that money for your pet sooner rather than later. Leave it alone, because as soon as you dip into it to pay other bills, your pet may become ill, and now what?
If you know someone who works with animals (my sister used to be a vet tech), utilize their knowledge when your animal becomes sick, to get their input. My sister has a great friendship with her former boss, so he will often give her meds for our family pets without a vet visit, and we only pay for medications at cost. Also, my sister is able to diagnose many of my dog’s symptoms that I would have otherwise had to go to a vet for, for the price of a hug. If you know a vet assistant, vet, or even a doctor or nurse, they can often help you determine if a vet visit is necessary and can help you with your animal’s ailments.
No matter what, you don’t want to be caught off-guard when your pet needs to go to the vet. Just like with kids, animals can get sick and hurt out of nowhere, and to be financially responsible with your pet, you have to have a little set aside. Even $100 helps.