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What to Do when You Cannot Afford Emergency Veterinary Care for Your Pet

What to do if a pet is sick or injured and you cannot afford to take it to the veterinarian. How to get money to pay for emergency care for a pet.

If your pet is sick, injured, or in pain, you need to have it cared for by a veterinarian. Sadly many people have pets, and find themselves short of cash when their pet finds itself in need of veterinary attention. Learn what to do when you do not have money for a veterinarian.

This article will give pet owners some ideas of the options for them if they find they have a sick, or injured pet, and cannot afford proper veterinary attention for the pet. Be sure to note that in most areas failing to provide care for a suffering animal can be considered as neglect, which can be a legal issue.

Save Money by Calling the Vet Right Away

One mistake many people make is not calling the veterinarian right away. Waiting can put the animals health in a worse condition and actually inflate the veterinarian costs. If your pet is sick on a Friday it is better to call the veterinarian then, rather than waiting to see if the pet gets better, because if it does not, many veterinarians charge more for weekend visits, or visits that are after hours.

Payment Plans

Most veterinarians do not allow people to make payments. Although this may seem unfair it is because veterinarians have a difficult time collecting payment after the animal has left their facility. An exception might be made if a client has a good relationship with their veterinarian. This would be more common for somebody with livestock, which can be seized and sold when a person does not pay their veterinarian bills.

Sell Stuff

Although many people seem to think that the only option for paying for their pet's care is cash, they often fail to think of ways to get cash that they do not have. We all have things in our homes we can sell for cash, although many times these are things we don't “want” to sell, however if a person did not have money saved for emergency, selling something may be their only option. Pawn shops, antique shops, and so forth offer cash on the spot, or a check you can cash. The other option is to return something you recently purchased for a full cash refund.

Money from Friends and Family

If your pet is ill, or injured, asking for money from friends and family, or collecting money owed to you from others, are other options.

Emergency Funds

Contact your local animal shelter. Some have emergency funds available for certain emergency situations. These funds are not for people to take advantage of in terms of getting their pet vaccinated, but may be available if a pet was hit by a car. Not all shelters have emergency funds, and a person would have to apply.

Surrendering the Pet

If your pet is in dire need of help and you absolutely cannot pay for it, you should surrender it to the local animal shelter, or humane society. The shelter will become the owner of the pet and will be able to make decisions in regards to its care. They may decide to euthanize the pet humanely, or to invest in saving it.

It might seem harsh to let the animal shelter or humane society decide on the fate of your pet, however, by not having funds to care for it yourself the animal will suffer more if you keep it. A responsible owner, who is short of funds, would be able to admit their own financial situation, and perhaps lack of planning, is ultimately to blame, and would do the right thing for the pet.

Remember, failing to provide care for a suffering animal can be considered cruelty or neglect in some areas. This means you could be charged with cruelty or neglect if you fail to take your pet to a veterinarian. *Note letting an old pet die a natural death is not included, but letting an injured pet suffer is.

cats in cat enclosure

Above, these cats are in an outdoor cat enclosure which will keep them safely off the road.

Planning for the Future

There are steps pet owners can take before getting into a wreck where they cannot pay for veterinarian care for their pet.

  • When getting a pet, select one that is already vaccinated, and spayed or neutered, thus avoiding some required expenses, and also avoiding the risk of having to pay for an expensive caesarian section should the animal become pregnant.
  • Search out low cost spay/neuter options if your pet is not already fixed and you are short of funds.  Spaying or neutering greatly reduces many health risks in pets and will save money in the long run.  You may note most areas also have cheaper licensing rates for "fixed" pets. 
  • If you cannot afford a pet, simply do not get one. You need to consider emergency expenses as well as day to day costs.
  • There are some companies that offer pet insurance, in most cases this insurance is only for emergencies, not regular things like vaccinations, and in some cases it is void if the owner does not keep up with regular vaccinations.
  • Start a savings plan for your pet's care and emergency needs.
  • Do not let a pet become pregnant unless you have $3000 minimum to handle emergency expenses. It is far cheaper to spay a female pet, than it is to do a caesarian, or to bottle feed a litter of kittens, or pups.
  • Pets who are properly cared for, kept in a fenced yard, or cats who are indoors only (or have access to an enclosed cat section) generally have fewer problems. Vaccinations and regular parasite control (using proper medication) also reduce risk of health problems.

Note: The author was prompted to write this after receiving a question from somebody who got a new puppy only days ago and could not pay to take it to a vet when it started vomiting blood.

Anyone who is short on funds should not even consider getting a pet.  Once a person has a pet they must make day to day decisions in regards to how they spend their money.  Would you rather have a $5 coffee, or should you make your own coffee at home and put that money aside for emergency vet care?

Further Reading

Diagnose Health Problems in Cats

What to do with a Sick Dog

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Comments (8)

Informative and useful ideas.thanks

Your wisdom can help people be directed to be intelligent pet owners. So glad to read your help for pets in this well written article.voted up.

Vets charges high here, great to know these advices, thanks.

well articulated!

Ranked #3 in Pet Health

I dont know anyone who would have a 5 dollar coffee over getting their animal care, though I agree that animals should always have proper care, I do not agree that the poor cannot have animals.

Also, don't let your love of a pet be exploited by a vet. If the injury or condition is beyond medical help, no amount of specialists and expense is going to keep your animal alive without suffering. It is a very difficult decision to let go.

In response to carols comment.. the poor can have pets, however it is better to adopt a pet that is already vaccinated, and fixed, rather than getting a new kitten, or pup, that will still require these costly expenses. In many cases it is cheaper to adopt than to take a "free" pet to the vet and have this done, plus what if the "free' pet turns out to have a serious health condition - at least adopted pets from shelters come with health guarantees. Even the poor can afford to have pets IF they are smart about where their money is spent. I had cats when I was living on less than a welfare person would make (I worked part time for minimum wage and had a daughter), but I was very frugal and always had savings in the bank in case my pets needed emergency care. If people spend money NOW on the 5 dollar coffee, they wont be saving money for emergencys. Sadly many people do make the choice every day if they want to save up money to help their pet if needed later, or to spend.. and decide to spend... I encounter nearly daily people who beg for help because they cannot afford basic pet care.

This is such a sad situation. I've had to take my dogs to the emergency vet a few times and it's incredibly costly, but at least I had credit cards I could put the bills on. I cannot stand when people neglect or do not care for their pets properly. I also cannot stand when they get a pet and then decide they don't want it any longer for whatever reason... I will stop here because I can write a book on this subject! Anyway, excellent article and I voted it up.

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