How do you pay your pet's vet bills? If you're like I used to be, it's with trepidation, asking myself "How am I going to pay my rent next month?"
1. Pet Insurance
I'm a big fan of pet insurance if you start contributing early in your pet's life - at the latest by five or six years old. This will stave off the 'fear of vet bill' somewhat. But pet insurance may not be right for you, especially if you can't afford to make the monthly payments, and some analysts write that pet insurance is not always the least expensive way to support health care costs for your pet.
Even if you have pet insurance, most insurance companies don't make payments directly to your vet. If not, you will need a credit card or some means of payment before you get reimbursed by the insurance company, unless your vet is willing to wait for payment. Make sure you research available pet insurance plans carefully. Word of warning: Check out pet insurance companies before you join. I chose Healthy Paws, which has been rated the top health insurance company by pet parents for many years, but Healthy Paws does not cover dental costs and dental issues are the most prevalent veterinary problems in dogs and cats.
Keep in mind though, that dental issues are generally less expensive than, say, cancer treatments or other major illnesses; weigh everything before you choose. One company's coverage will be better in some areas than others, so you will have to research all good programs carefully.
2. Veterinary Office Loans
Your own vet's office may offer payment plans to good customers. Be careful though; make sure the plan comes directly from the vet and not from a lending agency through the vet.
Vets don't tend to wait for payments; they want to be paid right away. That's why many veterinary offices are affiliated with loan programs. One popular program with vets is called CareCredit®; another is called Scratchpay. If your vet doesn't have an affiliation with one of these services, you might ask them if they are willing to accept these payments. Some vet-affiliated services require the veterinarian to pay a percentage of your bill to the service, with the idea that having the service available to pet parents makes the vet service more desirable to the pet parent.
Vet-affiliated services use proprietary methods to determine your interest rate based on your credit score and other factors related to your ability and reliability to make payments. Check out the vet-affiliated loan to learn if they will affect your overall credit rating.
3. Friends or Relatives
If you can borrow from a friend or relative, you can arrange payments, including any interest, without the loan affecting your credit score. If you are so lucky, pay back on time and in full, or you will lose that friend or relative's trust.
4. Bank or Personal Loans
- You could finance your pet's vet costs through your own credit card, if your rate is not too high or you can pay it back fairly soon.
- If your credit is good, you could open a new card with a special rate like Ø percent for the first year.
- There are still many loan plans available if your credit is fair to bad, but be prepared to pay a high percent. Shop around for the best credit rates you can find and make sure the rates are current.
5. Pet Financial Aid
The Humane Society of the United States is the place to start if you are looking for help caring for your pet. It lists veterinary schools that typically have lower costs for veterinary services, financial aid through breed assistance programs, national organizations that provide financial help for pet medical issues, and state resources for financial aid. It also suggests that you contact your local pet shelters to see if they provide veterinary assistance at lower costs than your regular veterinarian.
The last thing you want to do, if your pet needs medical attention, is neglect that attention because you don't have the resources, or to put your pet down because you can't afford to save him. If his medical issues can be cured or remediated to give him a longer life, try to find a way to pay for them.
If you know of other sources of financial aid, please share them with our readers in the comments section below.