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Pet Health Care Guide: How to Pay for Vet Bills

Pet Health Care Guide
Nancy Bilyeau
Nancy BilyeauUpdated April 4, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Our pets deserve top-notch medical care. That’s why when the veterinarian bills are sizable, it can be stressful. How to pay for this on top of all the other expenses you’re juggling?The need is starkest when it’s for a necessary surgical procedure. While costs vary widely depending on the animal's age, the type of surgery, and the severity of the condition, the average costs of surgical procedures for dogs and cats ranges between $500 and $3,000. Moreover, a tumor removal can run as high as $5,000, and repairing a fractured bone can cost twice that, depending on the complexity of the surgery.There are ways to cope with serious expenses for your pet. Read on to learn about how to afford your pet’s vet bill.

7 Ways to Pay for Pet Surgery & Urgent Care

America definitely loves animals. Seventy percent of U.S. households, or about 90.5 million families, own a pet. The ideas and strategies on this list are not meant to cover check-ups and best-practice preventive care for your pet. It’s for the unfortunately necessary surgeries and treatments. When a major expense hits unexpectedly, these are the paths to find payment, even if you’re stretched on funds.

1. Pet Insurance: Sometimes Overlooked?

Some people may not realize that insurance exists for animal companions just as it does for humans. These policies can help save you from surprise costs when your cat or dog has an emergency, whether it’s an accident or an illness.Pet Insurance typically provides reimbursement (up to a certain percentage) for health expenses that are covered by the policy. It’s important to study the plans carefully — some cover illnesses and accidental injuries, while others reimburse for injuries only. And not every policy covers vaccinations.The average cost of a health insurance policy for a dog, injuries and accidents, is from $40 to $60 a month. For a cat, the average policy runs from $20 to $35 a month.

2. Loans for Vet Bills 

What if it’s too late to sign up for insurance with the crisis already arrived? If you need a specific amount of money in a lump sum — and quickly — to pay for a costly procedure for your pet, a personal loan is an option. There are no bank loans specifically set aside for pet surgery or emergency vet loans per se. A personal loan can be used for many things, medical care for pets included. And the amount of a personal loan can differ widely, from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands.One of the pluses of a personal loan is, if you are approved, you can receive the money quickly, even within hours.To be approved, lenders typically require a strong credit score, income history, and, if necessary, collateral for the loan. Interest is part of the repayment for a personal loan.Recommended: Guide to Pet Financing

3. Charities for Pet’s Urgent Care

Some people may be wondering, “Fine, but what am I supposed to do if I can’t afford pet health insurance and I’m in no position to get a personal loan?”There are charitable organizations that provide financial assistance to pet owners in urgent need of help. Some organizations focus on specific breeds or medical conditions. A few that provide assistance are Paws 4 a Cure, the Pet Fund, the Brown Dog Foundation, and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. Also, the Humane Society website has a state-by-state “Pet Help Finder,” in which you can search for low-cost care.These charity groups may work to match pet owners with veterinarians who will treat the animals no matter the fee. With some research, it is possible to find low-cost or even free veterinary care for low incomes. If possible, contact nonprofit organizations after your pet’s diagnosis, but before any procedure takes place. Most organizations will decline to reimburse you for bills that have been paid.Another option: the Humane Society says, “If your animal requires emergency veterinary care and you can't afford treatment, contact nearby veterinary colleges to see if they have any emergency assistance programs.”

4. Credit Cards for Pet Surgery

Most vets will accept credit cards for payment. Some people might want to set aside a credit card for their veterinarian bills, particularly a no annual fee credit card that comes with a 0% APR.Another approach is to obtain a credit card created specifically for animal care. The CareCredit card, which is for pets, includes medical expenses. This card can be used for routine veterinary appointments, grooming services, and emergency pet care, which covers a variety of surgeries and treatments. Not every veterinarian accepts it, so that will need to be researched. Also, stay on top of when the intro period ends for the card and make timely payments.Recommended: What Is APR for a Credit Card

5. Crowdfunding for Animal Emergencies

It is very possible to use a crowdfunding platform to pay for hefty veterinary bills. Donation crowdfunding relies on numbers of people to contribute money to a cause they believe in or a need that they want to help meet. Friends could pitch in to help, but this might be a cause that resonates with strangers too.You can create a fundraiser page for your pet on GoFundMe or another website and then spread the word on social media. There is even a crowdfunding platform called Waggle that is specially for “pet families in need.”

6. Savings Account for Pet Care

To set aside a savings account for possible pet surgeries requires a certain amount of planning. However, it’s an unavoidable fact that as our pets age, they will require medical care. Money that’s kept in a high-yield online savings account, growing in size over the years, could come to the rescue. And it would be preferable to taking out a loan because you won't have to pay interest or fees.Recommended: 25 Ways to Save Money Fast

7. Negotiate With Your Vet

It's worth a shot to ask your vet if they can work with you to reduce the cost of your pet's surgery. If you're a client in good standing, your vet may be able to work out a weekly or monthly payment plan. Some veterinarians also work with third-party billing services, such as VetBilling, which allow you to pay over time.Recommended: Is Becoming a Veterinarian Worth It?

The Takeaway

An unexpected medical bill for your pet’s surgery or urgent treatment can be a shock to your budget. But there are more than a few ways to finance health care for your pet, from a credit card to a personal loan to a crowdfunded appeal, if your budget is stretched thin. And there are charities that exist specifically to help pet owners in need.If you’re interested in exploring a personal loan, you can compare personal loan interest rates with Lantern by SoFi. Fill out one simple form and, in just minutes, you’ll have the details you need to make an educated decision for your financial situation.Find and compare personal loan rates with Lantern.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is pet insurance worth it?
How do I pay for life-saving pet surgery if I have no insurance for it and am short on money?
Photo credit: iStock/AleksandarNakic

About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau writes about student loans, mortgages, car insurance, medical debt and many other finance topics for Lantern. A veteran of the magazine business, she has edited stories on personal finance for Good Housekeeping and DuJour magazines and has written articles for The Wall Street Journal, Readers' Digest, Parade, Town & Country and Lifetime/A&E, among others. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
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