We have a dog named Maribeth. Today we had to take her for a veterinarian examination due to an infection my wife found that looked pretty serious. Glad she found it! Without treatment, the infection could have entered the bloodstream and become fatal. How are we going to pay for these emergency vet bills? Here’s how – along with some additional tips on how you can save money on vet services.
Two Lines of Defense Against Unforeseen Vet Bills
The care we need for Maribeth costs multiple hundreds of dollars, even at the regular (non-emergency) vet! Many people would not be able to immediately pay for these costs, but thankfully we’re able to do so. We’re blessed, but we also planned for situations like this. If you have an older pet like Maribeth, you might want to consider both of these lines of defense against high veterinarian bills.
1. The Pet Care Fund
Our regular monthly budget contains a category called “pet care” in which we save for several expenses:
- Dog food
- Cat food
- Veterinarian checkups
- Pet surgeries
- Pet items (like toys and cat sand)
- Pet services (like grooming)
- Dog licensing fees
Obviously, some of these expenses are more predictable than others, but we estimate how much money we need to save in the pet care fund based on our historical spending (goes back several years).
The pet care fund is our first line of defense against emergency vet bills, but sometimes it isn’t enough due to several pet expenses sabotaging one particular month (like when all three of our pets need to see the vet in one month). When events of this nature occur, something greater is needed. And no, it’s not a credit card – we’re PerkStreeters thank you very much.
2. The Emergency Fund
This is why Dave Ramsey says you should have an emergency fund – for things like emergency vet services! You never know when your puppy dog (or your spouse for that matter) will need expensive medical treatment.
We’ve always leaned toward keeping our emergency fund at six-months-worth of expenses – that’s a lot of money, but if you’re going to be responsible and own a pet you’ll need the extra cash. Some savers (hoarders?) even push their emergency fund up to a year’s-worth of expenses. Many experts think that’s a bit much.
When do you consider your pet worthy of using your emergency fund? It’s difficult to put a price on a pet, and that will vary from household to household. Many times it depends on how much money you have in your emergency fund. Another thing to consider is the success rate of the treatment being provided. If it is low, you may opt out of the surgery and consider alternatives.
How to Save Money on Vet Bills
Before you have any procedure done on your pet, you need to obtain an estimate of the costs. If you’re married, be sure to communicate with your spouse about the estimate before giving the vet the go-ahead (my awesome wife sat down with me to explain everything and we made a decision together). If you can’t afford the price on the estimate, save some money with these suggestions (you might want to try them out even if you can afford the estimated price):
Low-Cost Veterinary Clinics
There are probably several animal rescue organizations in your area that might be able to offer your pet emergency services at a reduced cost. Give your favorite search engine a look for organizations in your area.
Keep in mind that these clinics usually don’t keep regular hours and might have a full schedule – longer than your pet can wait for services.
Instead of limiting your search to animal organizations, consider other organizations that might be willing to offer a helping hand. Who knows, you might find one that will be willing to offer assistance to a pet owner who can’t afford to pay.
Before you pay for expensive vet procedures, you might want to get a second opinion from another vet – especially if your pet can wait a few days for treatment. You might save a lot of money this way!
Pet Insurance or Loans – Watch Out!
Pet insurance is often not worth the price of admission. While it can help in extreme circumstances, those who have an emergency fund in place should skip the insurance.
Also, beware of veterinarian clinic loans. Some advertise that you won’t have to pay interest for up to 90 days or longer . . . but we all know how that usually turns out – you’ll end up paying more than you bargained for!
Have you had to pay for emergency pet services? How did you do so? Any other pieces of advice you would add? Leave a comment below!