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Affording Veterinary Care

By The Humane Society of the United States

Many pet owners, at one point or another, are faced with unexpected veterinary bills. Veterinary medicine has progressed so far that now pet owners have new, and often expensive, options for the care of their ailing pets. Although the cost of veterinary care is actually very reasonable in comparison with the much higher cost of human health care, an unexpected medical emergency can present a major financial dilemma for an unprepared pet owner.

The Humane Society of the United States recommends that, in addition to preparing for routine pet-care costs, you regularly set aside savings to cover for unexpected veterinary bills. Create a special "pet savings account" and contribute money to it on a regular basis.

If, despite your planning, your pet incurs major veterinary expenses that you have trouble affording, consider these suggestions:

  • Ask your veterinarian if he or she will let you work out a payment plan. Many veterinarians are willing to work out a weekly or monthly payment plan so that you do not have to pay the entire cost of veterinary care up front.

  • Contact your local shelter. Some shelters operate or know of local subsidized veterinary clinics or veterinary assistance programs. You can find the name and number of your local shelter in the Yellow Pages of your phone book under "animal shelter," "animal control," or "humane society," or by calling Information. If you have a specific breed of dog, contact the National Club for that breed. In some cases, these clubs offer a veterinary financial assistance fund.

  • Use your credit card. Ask for a higher credit limit or a cash advance.

  • Call your bank. Ask about loan programs, second mortgages, or other options. Consider borrowing from your life insurance policy, vacation savings, kids' education fund, or retirement program.

  • Ask your employer for a salary advance.

  • Alert family and friends and ask them each for a $25 loan.

  • Pawn your stuff. TVs and VCRs can be replaced. Your pet can't.

  • Consider taking on a part-time job or temping.

  • Contact the regional office of The HSUS that covers your state. Our regional office staff is often familiar with organizations and personnel within their territory and may be able to direct you to programs in your area.

Please remember that, depending on the severity of your pet's illness or injury, you may still lose your pet even after great expense. Discuss the prognosis and treatment options thoroughly with your veterinarian, including whether surgery or treatment would just cause your animal discomfort without preserving a life of good quality.

Also remember that a little preventive care can go a long way. Having your pet spayed or neutered, keeping her shots up to date, and keeping your pet safely confined can prevent serious and costly health problems. If you have trouble affording the cost to spay or neuter your pet, contact your local animal shelter. They may operate a clinic or know of a local clinic that offers subsidized services. You can find the name and number of your local shelter in the Yellow Pages of your phone book under "animal shelter," animal control," or "humane society," or by calling Information.

Unfortunately, due to our limited resources as a nonprofit animal protection organization, The HSUS does not provide direct financial assistance to pet owners for veterinary or any other expenses. If you know of any veterinary assistance services, funds, or low-cost veterinary clinics, please let us know by calling 202-452-1100.

Copyright © 2002 The Humane Society of the United States. All rights reserved.

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