Pets bring so much to our lives, but owning a pet comes with responsibilities. Among those responsibilities is the commitment to provide health care for your pet, and health care comes at a cost. Although veterinarians are compassionate and dedicated to protecting your pet's health, they charge fees to be able to provide the best care for all their patients, to keep their clinics running, and to make a living.
Good preventive care (e.g., vaccination, control of parasites, weight management, etc.) is essential to reducing long-term pet health care costs because it prevents many diseases. Regular exams also help detect problems earlier, when they may be less expensive to treat and treatment is more likely to result in a good outcome. If available, wellness plans allow pet owners to spread out the costs of preventive care over a longer time period. Some pet insurance plans may also provide for regular preventive care.
But emergencies, injuries and illnesses can happen, and they can be associated with higher costs for diagnosis and treatment. Ideally, pet owners should plan for these expenses and set aside money to cover them. Pet insurance may be a good option for many pet owners because it can reimburse you for unexpected expenses and reduce the stress of decision-making during an emergency situation.
In some areas, there are low-cost clinics designed to provide basic care for the pets of low-income households or those belonging to the homeless. These clinics may not be able to offer advanced diagnostics or treatment and may not be able to provide emergency care.
Be honest and upfront with your veterinarian, and let them know when you have financial limitations. Knowing this in advance can help your veterinarian make recommendations that will provide the most efficient use of your financial resources. For example, your veterinarian might reduce the number of diagnostic procedures they perform and focus on treatments aimed at treating what they believe to be the most likely problem. There are trade-offs to this approach, however, because a skipped diagnostic procedure might have provided an important piece of information. It can be a challenge, but your veterinarian will do the best he or she can to provide your pet with the best possible care within your financial limits.
Talk to your veterinarian about payment plans, deferred payments and financing options or credit plans such as Care Credit that are available to you for your pet’s care. Some clinics are unable to provide payment plans and deferred payments because, unfortunately, clients promised to make payments but never did, resulting in financial hardship for the practice.
If you are unable to make arrangements to pay your pet's bill, there are some organizations that may be able to help you. Your state veterinary medical association may also have a list of local organizations that can help. Some veterinary medical colleges also have programs that provide financial assistance for pet owners who can demonstrate a need.
The AVMA does not endorse any of these programs and cannot recommend one over another. We also cannot assist you with securing financial help for veterinary care. Below is a list of organizations of which we're aware (please be advised that it may not be a complete list) that help owners with financial needs. If your organization is not listed here but would like to be, or if your organization wishes to be removed from this list, please notify us. Many of these organizations are funded by donations, so some programs may be discontinued without notice when funding is no longer available. Help is often offered on a case-by-case basis. Before applying for aid, make sure to read the organization’s eligibility guidelines, which are available on their website. Also, carefully read the application and provide any necessary documentation that would show you meet the eligibility requirements for assistance.
Red Rover Relief
Best Friends Animal Society
Cat Emergency Assistance
Actors & Others for Animals – in Southern California only
The Pet Fund – for domestic animals
Guide, hearing & service dogs – emergency financial assistance
Banfield Charitable Trust — assists struggling pet owners with pet care needs
Elderly, disabled, handicapped pets
Cancer treatment support
Veterinary Cancer Society
Magic Bullet Fund
There are organizations that provide breed-specific financial assistance; to find one, search online for organizations dedicated to your particular pet's breed.