What do I do if I can’t afford a vet?

Being in a financial situation that makes it difficult to take care of an animal can be overwhelming, especially when you love that pet like family.

If you’re unable to afford veterinary care for your pet, here are some suggestions:

  • Treat symptoms at home. If your pet is vomiting or has diarrhea, don’t worry too much about it. It’s not uncommon for pets to have a case of mild diarrhea from time to time, and if it only lasts a day or two there’s probably no cause for concern. The same goes for vomiting unless it’s accompanied by other symptoms, such as lethargy or loss of appetite.
  • Use over-the-counter medications. If your pet has a minor illness like a cold or the flu, use over-the-counter medications first before going to the vet.
  • Call around to local veterinarians. Many veterinarians offer discounted services based on income level. They might even be willing to work out an installment plan, so you can pay them over time rather than all at once.
  • Contact local humane societies, animal shelters or rescue groups. Search the Internet for humane societies or animal shelters in your area that can provide assistance paying for veterinary care. For many of these organizations, financial assistance is available through their website or by phone, though you may need to prove that you are financially disadvantaged in order to qualify for assistance.
  • Post on social media about your situation and ask friends and family to help spread the word. It’s possible someone knows of a good vet who does reduced-cost services or has other financial assistance programs available.
  • Ask around. Let your friends and family know what happened and see if they can help. Many people don’t have pet health insurance either.
  • Seek out low-cost clinics in your area. If you have a good relationship with your vet’s office, they may be willing to work with you on payment plans or give you discounts on services not covered by insurance.
  • Consider crowdfunding. Sites like GoFundMe allow people to raise money for medical expenses, and pets are included. You might find that strangers want to help you out.
  • Don’t give up! If you really want your pet, there are people who will help you find a way to pay for the care he needs.
  • If none of these options work, ask for any grants that might be available through the city or county where you live, local animal rescue groups, local churches, community service organizations, your employer or any other resource available to help out people in financial need with their pets’ medical needs.

What happens if you can’t pay the vet?

If you are in a situation where you cannot afford to take your pet to the vet, you have a few options. Veterinarians will not allow an animal to leave their office without being paid in full. They have rent, payroll, supplies, and other expenses to pay just like everyone else. You can try asking for an estimate up front, so you know how much money to bring with you when you go to the office. Make sure you call them beforehand so they are expecting you and let them know if there is an emergency (although they normally do not do emergency care).

If you cannot afford a visit at all and it is not an emergency, many veterinarians will work out a payment plan with you. You can also try looking into low-cost vet clinics in your area. Many people use these clinics if they cannot afford the normal price of an animal’s surgery at a regular veterinary clinic.

You can also try and ask around and see if there is anyone who may be able to help. Maybe someone in your family has a friend who has a pet and maybe they could ask them if they could get the care for their pet for free because they know how desperate you are – this could be worth a shot.

You can use personal credit cards or loans, keep in mind that interest charges applied by lenders may end up costing more than the original veterinary bill did, and that can damage your finances in the long term. If you’re thinking of using a loan, it’s best to pay off the loan with your regular monthly income after you get back on your feet, rather than paying it off over time with interest charges accruing on top of the principal amount.

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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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