Many pet owners, at one point or another, are faced with unexpected veterinary bills. Just like their owners, our pets can suddenly fall prey to the unexpected illness or accident. Although the cost of veterinary care is actually very reasonable in comparison with the much higher cost of human health care, unexpected medical emergencies can present a major financial dilemma for the 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 should incur a major veterinary expense that you have trouble affording, consider the following suggestions:
Ask your vet if she/he will let you work out a payment plan. Though most pet health care providers, just like their human health care counterparts, prefer payment upon services rendered, most will offer agreeable terms to regular customers in good standing. At any rate, it never hurts to ask.
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.
Check out the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) "Helping Pets Fund." In order to qualify, your animal hospital must be AAHA accredited. To learn more about this program, visit the AAHA website.
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. After all, your pet is a valuable part of your family, too.
Ask your employer for a salary advance.
Alert family and friends and ask each of them for a $25 loan.
Pawn your stuff! (It's only stuff, after all. And "stuff" doesn't love you like your pet does!)
Consider taking on a part-time job or temping to help pay your pet's hospital bill.
Contact the regional office of the Humane Society of the United States that covers your state. The regional office staff may be familiar with organizations within your area that may be able to offer assistance.
Above all, remember that a little preventative 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 costs of spaying and neutering your pet, contact your local animal shelter. They may know of a local organization that can help. (In Floyd County, contact SNOOP at (606) 889 -9982.)
Editor's Note: Information for this article was compiled from the website of the Humane Society of the United States, www.hsus.org. Dr. Carol is currently taking a summer break from writing her column due to a high volume of inner-office activity.