Help!Even though you make sure your pet receives exercise, proper nutrition, vaccinations and regular veterinary exams, it can still get sick. And in an emergency situation, it’s best to remember that cost-cutting measures could mean the difference between life and death. The best ways to save money on emergency care are to 1) provide good preventive care, so that problems are caught early, before they become more difficult and expensive to treat; 2) prevent emergencies by being cautious and minimizing your pet’s risk of injuries, poisonings or other situations that can be avoided with some forethought; and 3) recognize true emergencies and don’t delay treatment. If you end up at a clinic or emergency facility with a sick or injured pet and you can’t afford treatment, ask the veterinarian about financial options. Dr. Boss said veterinarians are often willing to help clients find solutions.“For most serious problems there is a spectrum of care, and we need to have a discussion with the client as to what their financial status will allow them to do and what they are comfortable with,” she said. “It’s wonderful how much specialty care we have available these days, but we also are fully aware that not everyone can afford an MRI for their dog’s injured shoulder or endoscopy to look for inflammatory bowel disease. We are all very used to coming up with a solution that works.”“I do think it’s sensible to tell your veterinarian when you truly can’t afford something,” explained Dr. Hill. “Oftentimes they can come up with a less expensive ‘Plan B’ that may not be quite as good but is still better than taking your pet home and doing nothing.”Dr. Edward Payne, whose practice is limited to emergency and critical care at Veterinary Specialty Center in Buffalo Grove, Ill., said there are different levels of care and treatment options that veterinarians can offer to pet owners.“We do realize finances are an important consideration. There’s never just one option. First, we’ll offer what’s medically best, and after that there are different levels of what we do and options we can offer,” he said.Dr. Payne also mentioned that many clinics offer financing programs that allow owners to pay over time. Pet insurance is also an option; the AVMA “endorses the concept of pet health insurance that provides coverage to help defray the cost of veterinary medical care,” according to our Guidelines on Pet Health Insurance and Other Third Party Animal Health Plans.
Dr. Boss advised that, in the event your pet gets sick, it’s a good idea to have some savings put away for that rainy day and perhaps even consider buying pet insurance. Insurance, she said, can come in handy in a time of crisis or when a pet owner wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford an expensive surgery or other treatment. It’s important to purchase pet insurance before a problem arises, however, and not to wait until your pet is sick.Still, she said, being proactive about your pet’s health is the best solution to keeping your pet healthy.