Let’s face it, there is never a convenient time for your pet to become ill. Many times the major reason behind the inconvenience is due to finances. Having an ill pet can be expensive, and since many of these illnesses come up as unexpected, most people are not prepared for the costs. So can anything can be done about this? I touched on this subject a little bit in a previous post “If you can’t Afford the Vet, you can’t Afford the Pet” Let’s look at what options are available to help deal with unexpected costs.
Veterinarians can reduce or discount their costs
This option would be the most helpful for cash-strapped owners but it is not that simple. Veterinary clinics set their prices for different reasons. The main reason is due to overhead. Overhead can include the amount of staff present, and what type of equipment they have. Clinics with a large staff to support and expensive equipment will have higher costs to maintain. Unfortunately, these costs are passed on to the clients. So reduced or discounted costs are less likely due to these factors.
Veterinarians offering payment plans
There are some clinics that are gracious enough to offer payment plans to clients. Terms of payment plans can vary greatly from clinic to clinic. Many times whether a payment plan is offered depends on history of repayment. If a clinic has been burned a few times by clients who have not re-payed their debt, then they are less likely to offer this option. Also, many clinics will only offer this option to their “good” clients (clients who regularly bring their patients and make timely payments) vs a first time client.
Veterinarian Endorsed Crowdfunding
Veterinary endorsed fundraiser programs are becoming more popular. These programs have a relationship with participating veterinary clinics. This allows an owner who faces an unexpected medical bill to submit an estimate and create a fundraising campaign. Pet owners bear the responsibility to share the campaign with friends and family. Once funds are received the veterinarian is paid directly. Once example of one such program is the pet lovers program. http://www.petloversprogram.com/
The above were options for the veterinary clinics but now let’s look at options for pet owners
Owners applying for Care Credit
Care credit is a form of an unsecured loan or credit card that can be used exclusively for health care. You can apply online to see if and how much you can get approved for. Care credit offers several financing options including a period of time which is the same as cash.
See your veterinarian regularly
As was previously mentioned, veterinary clinics are more likely to offer payment plans to their regular clients vs a first time client with an emergency. Therefore it is important to establish a relationship with your veterinarian. Having regular visits with your veterinarian not only helps establish a relationship, it also can help detect any problems before they become too serious.
Look for family or friends to help with bill.
To help to expedite the care for your pet if possible try to contact friends or relatives that may be reliable to assist you financially.
Put money aside or have a credit card reserved only for emergency veterinary bills.
This may not help at the time of the emergency, but one can never be too prepared for future potential emergencies. If you have or plan to get a pet, it would be a good idea to have money put aside just in case of an unexpected emergency. Another idea is to apply for a credit card that would only be used for pet emergencies.
Get in touch with rescue groups
If they are not overwhelmed with their own rescue efforts, some rescue groups can be of great assistance to help in these situations. Some groups are great at creating fundraising opportunities, others may decide to take over a bill and make payment arrangements with pet owner themselves. There are some who are willing to take ownership of pets whose owners are not able to afford care.
What to and not to do when faced with financial stress
Be up front with the veterinarian regarding your financial concerns. This is important because sometimes your veterinarian can adjust treatment plans based on budget. This could involve using donated medication, referring to less expensive clinics, and offering a less expensive (but likely less effective) treatment.
Avoid getting angry with the veterinarian about finances. The veterinarian you are seeing may not own the clinic and therefore offering discounts may be considered theft based on their company policy. Also once intense emotions become involved it can take away attention from your pet and become more focused on your emotions.
Avoid home remedies especially if you don’t know the specific diagnosis of your pet. With financial stress it can be very tempting to use home remedies, but not all human medications are safe for pets. So you may cause more harm than good.
Look at an online veterinary consultation option. This option can never replace having your pet being seen by a veterinarian in person but it may be the next best option when compared to googling home remedies. There are a couple of options for online veterinary consultations with the most popular being the website JustAnswer. With an online veterinary consultation you will have the opportunity to have a live conversation with a qualified veterinarian. They may be able to direct you on what the best options are for your pet.
This is one of the least desirable options but may be necessary for the best care of the pet. You may consider this as the best options if your pet has a condition that may require long term treatment. This involves signing all rights of your pet over to somebody else, typically a clinic employee or a rescue group.
Having a pet that is ill cannot only cause emotional stress, but financially can be devastating as well. The goal is not to let emotions distract from the primary goal which is to help your pet. Your financial situation may not allow you to make the ideal decision for your pet, but with some effort there is always an option to help your pet.