If you can’t Afford the Vet, You can’t Afford the Pet!

affordable veterinary care


Okay, I can admit this title can be a little misleading. This article is not meant to berate people who have financial issues when it comes to taking their pet to a veterinarian. The purpose is to offer tips to future and current pet owners on how to minimize your financial burden for your pet’s veterinary care. When I was a veterinary student, I would take part in a popular online Q & A forum about pet care. I admit I am being a little dramatic here, but people would ask questions like “ My pet is bleeding from all of it orifices and I can’t afford to take my pet to the vet. What should I do?” A common response from forum participants would be the title I chose for this post. So it made me think of these following questions. What does it mean to afford a pet? What is needed to afford a pet? How can you keep veterinary care affordable? Below are what “matters” for keeping veterinary care affordable.


Finances do matter

If you don’t currently own a pet or you are thinking about adding a pet to your household, you need to look at your financial situation. Just because you are not rich, it does not mean you cannot care for a pet. However there are certain financial situations where pet ownership is not beneficial. If your only source of income is government subsidized sometimes you may have to choose between your pet’s care and your own family needs. A recent loss or underemployment is also not the best time to think of getting a pet. Remember having a pet is a privilege, so it would be unfair to take care of it under those restrictive circumstances.

Vaccines matter

Illnesses from unvaccinated animals can be one of the most costly in veterinary medicine. Therefore it is important that pets receive vaccines on time and at the right frequency. A common illness in unvaccinated dogs is Parvovirus and unvaccinated cats suffer from upper respiratory disease. Treatment usually involves days of hospitalization with intravenous fluid therapy and can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Though vaccine protocols can vary, it is recommended that they are given as early as 6-8 weeks of age and repeated every 2-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Then vaccines should be repeated at least in one year. A one year or three year protocol may be implemented after that depending on risk of exposure. Whatever protocol your pet adopts, it is important that vaccines are given on time.

Heartworm Prevention matters

As I mentioned in a previous post Heartworm disease in dogs, heartworm disease is one of the most preventable disease in dogs. It can also be one of the most costly and risky to treat. Therefore it is important that your pets remain on monthly heartworm prevention to keep veterinary care affordable. Check reviews on some of the popular Heartworm Preventatives.


Flea and Tick Prevention Matters

Fortunately there are not too many deadly diseases that fleas can give your pets. But they can cause health problems. Flea allergy dermatitis is one issue that can lead to a necessary trip to a veterinarian. This results in needing costly steroid injections and antibiotics. Also fleas are a source of intestinal parasites called tapeworms. The treatment for this is a dewormer called praziquantel which can be pricey depending on the weight of your pet. However ticks are a different story. They are well known in veterinary medicine for their tick borne diseases. The most common ones include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichiosis. Most of these involve long term treatment that can become expensive. Keeping your pet on monthly flea and tick preventative can keep veterinary care affordable.



Spaying and Neutering matters

If you are not planning on breeding your pet please spay and neuter. If you plan on breeding your pet please read my article “Should I breed my dog?” to see if you are truly ready to breed. There tends to be more issues with females then males concerning this matter but both can still lead to a high veterinary bill. With intact females you may deal with mammary tumors, a pus filled uterus “pyometra”, and an “accidental” pregnancy. With intact males the main issue is prostate disease. Other issues also include tumors of the testicles and behavior wise males tend to roam more leading to an increased risk of being hit by a car.


Nutrition Matters

Not every pet owner can afford a premium diet. So it is most important that your pet is fed a well balanced and consistent diet. Most common errors that can make veterinary care less affordable are the following.

  • Changing the diet frequently which leads to common issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, and allergies.
  • Overfeeding pets which leads to obesity resulting in further health problems.
  • Feeding table scraps as a “treat” which can lead to conditions such as pancreatitis and even possible toxin exposure. Many human foods have a high fat content that can over stimulate the pancreas and some ingredients are not metabolized well by pets so they mimic toxins. (e.g onions, chocolate, grapes)

Though I cannot recommend a specific brand of food, I will say higher quality pet food tends to be in the pet specialty stores (e.g. Petsmart, Petco, Tractor Supply stores) vs the brands offered in grocery stores.



Yearly Veterinary visits matter

This is probably one of the most important matters to keep veterinary care affordable. Some of the most expensive conditions I have seen are in pets who haven’t seen a veterinarian in several years. Opportunities that are missed is a mass that if it was first detected earlier would be a simple surgery. Now it is an expensive, complicated surgical procedure. A heart murmur could have been managed with medications, but now is a congestive heart failure case which requires intensive care. A urinary tract infection that could have been easily treated with antibiotics now requires expensive surgery because the pet has bladder stones. I could go on and on with different scenarios of why yearly veterinary visits are important but I am sure you get my point. It is even recommended that once your pet turns 7 they are seen by the vet at least twice yearly to help keep veterinary care affordable.


Love Matters

If I were to change the title of this post it would be “If you can’t afford to love your pet, then you can’t afford a pet”. There are too many people who get a pet just because they “like” the idea of having one but are not ready to “love” the pet. At the risk of sounding like I am preaching, I would like to quote excerpts from my favorite bible scripture concerning love: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast …….. It does not insists on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; ……..Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends ……” 1 Cor 13:4-8 ESV. The purpose of the quote is to demonstrate that having a pet is a life- long loving commitment. No pet can be perfect, no matter how much you pay for one. Love is required above all things to provide the best care for your pet even when unexpected health issues come up. Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your comments.


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5 thoughts on “If you can’t Afford the Vet, You can’t Afford the Pet!

  1. We saw your blog post and were super-grateful that your opening sentences clarified your intent. Yes, it’s a common sentiment that people shouldn’t own pets if they can’t afford them, but it’s also entirely true that many, many people who currently cannot afford care were not always in that position. Further, pet ownership is therapeutic and has been proven to have significant benefits on the lives of people – particularly aging people, and not all of those people have full financial means to handle all pet-related situations.

    So then – we love the advice you’ve given here overall – it’s super important to think about and understand the actual costs of pet ownership, for sure.

    And for those who run into difficult times – instead of allowing the pet to suffer, we hope you’ll check out http://www.petchance.org – our national 501(c)(3) charity that helps pet owners raise money online for veterinary expenses when money is tight. We pay the veterinarians directly to avoid fraud and we help you throughout the entire process. (Note – a number of our homeless, stricken clients have come back to us, even years later, and told us they found a home and are in a better place. We’re delighted to help people who temporarily can’t afford pet care to stay afloat and return to better lives!)

    • I appreciate your input on my blog post. Also thanks for sharing your information about your charity. I am sure it will be helpful for those who find themselves in a difficult situation. I wanted to add financial resources like yours to the post but I was afraid the article was becoming too long. I do plan to add a resources pages to my website which includes financial options for those who truly need financial assistance for their pets. I will make sure I include your organization among those sources. My veterinary practice works closely with an organization similar to yours and therefore we have been able to help many pet owners. It is always great to see the gratitude from pet owners who have benefited from this service. They otherwise think they would have to put their beloved pet down or continue to watch their pet suffer.

  2. Dr. Alleyne, I think your article is spot on. I come into contact with many people while volunteering with Angels Among Us Pet Rescue who are unable to properly care for their pet. They call or email us to see if we can take their pet and get it the veterinary care that it needs. A good example is my cat Kringle that you have treated for allergies now for a couple of years. His owner became frustrated with his allergies and because he was so miserable he was going potty outside of the litter box. She said she did not have funds to continue treatment and just put him outside. Fortunately, another Angels foster/volunteer lived in the same neighborhood and came to his rescue. She visited his former owner and got her to surrender him to AAUPR so that we could get him the vetting that he desperately needed. Kringle in doing great now other than some nasal allergies. As a Happy Tail Ending I adopted him a couple of days ago.

  3. Hello,
    I think you are absolutely correct. If you can’t afford the vet you can’t afford the pet.
    They go hand and hand or paw and paw for that matter.
    Also there are exceptions when people might have financial difficulties and can get vet care a a low cost clinic until they get on their feet. But to leave an animal with no yearly check ups or medical care is as cruel as abuse, just in another form.

    • Yes Jean
      I agree that it is cruel when people fail to make sure that their pets receive some type of routine medical care. The worst illnesses I see are from people whose pets haven’t seen a vet in years. A lot of times these are the same people who expect to either receive my services for free or at an substantial discount. Go figure.

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