Having Trouble Paying for Veterinary Care For Your Pet?
By Mary Johnson
If you own a pet and have been to the vet lately, the bill may have taken a big bite out of your budget. Like human healthcare, the cost of vet services is growing several times faster than inflation. But unlike human healthcare, the cost of vet services has been growing even faster than the cost of medical services from your doctor – 68% faster in 2013 alone. And although you may have Medicare or some other type of health insurance for yourself, chances are you don't have health insurance for your pet – meaning you foot 100% of the vet bills.
Sixty-two percent of American households include at least one pet. Mine includes two ––both a dog and an aging cat. New advances in veterinary medicines are making expensive treatments a reality, often putting owners into an emotional and fiscally painful bind. For example, I learned that my dog with paralysis in her hind – quarters from a potentially fatal spinal disc rupture had the option of getting a $5,000 surgery, followed by weeks of physical therapy in a swimming tank. My cat with hyperthyroidism is receiving oral medications costing up to $600 per year including blood tests. Even if your pet is perfectly healthy, vet bills for routine annual check-ups, tests, vaccines and treatments can run about $550 per year for dogs and $435 per year for cats.
What can you do when you have trouble affording your vet?
- Shop around – Learn the going rate for veterinary services in your area. Get estimates from two or three vets, including vets who have been practicing for a long time.
- Get a second opinion for major treatments – You will pay another consultation fee, but the vet may have less expensive ways to treat your pet.
- Comparison shop &nash; You can often save by getting prescription medicines, flea and tick products, and heartworm preventatives through pet catalogs and internet discounters.
- Find low-cost vet services in your community – Non-profit humane societies and SPCAs often organize low-cost vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, and sometimes other services. Call your local animal shelter to find out if there's a program in your area.
- Pet insurance may not be worth the cost – Before taking out a health insurance policy for your pet, carefully read through contracts looking for limitations, service fees, and what you pay out-of-pocket. You may be better off putting aside in savings money you would pay for routine veterinary care and emergencies.
The ASPCA website, ASPCA.org, has information, including a helpful chart that can help you estimate the costs of owning a pet.
The Humane Society of the United States, HumaneSociety.org, maintains a comprehensive list of financial aid-related organizations that can help with pet costs. There are animal welfare organizations that can help out with vet bills, either with low-cost care, loans, or grants.
About.com has plenty of money – saving tips on pet supplies and vet care.