What Do I Do If I Can’t Pay My Vet Bill?
Here are your options 🧾
Vet services can be really expensive, and many people aren’t prepared for the costs — especially if their pet gets sick unexpectedly.
“Sadly, many owners find themselves in a situation when their dog becomes unwell, and they cannot afford their treatment,” Dr. Simon told The Dodo. “This often happens in an emergency setting and when their pet is very unwell.”
If you ever find yourself in this situation, it’s important to know what your options are so you can take care of your pet.
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and a veterinary consultant for FiveBarks, and Dr. Chyrle Bonk, a veterinarian from Hepper, to find out how you can get help with your vet bills.
What do vets do if you can’t pay your bill?
Luckily, it’s a myth that vets will take away your pet if you can’t pay your bill. “Let’s bust a common misconception that pet owners have: Vets can not seize animals for unpaid vet bills,” Dr. Bonk told The Dodo. “So, if you can’t pay your bill, the vet can’t keep your pet.”
If you can’t afford what you owe, your vet can send your outstanding payments to a collection agency, however, “which can negatively affect your credit,” Dr. Bonk said. “They can also refuse services to you the next time you need them or until payment is received.”
Luckily, some vets will allow you to set up a payment plan with them so you can pay off your bill in installments. “If a vet can offer a discounted rate or payment plan, this will be at their discretion,” Dr. Simon said. “Most would only consider this for a long-term loyal client to avoid large bills going unpaid and owners disappearing into the sunset.”
Unfortunately, in worst-case scenarios, some pet owners will end up having to surrender their pets to shelters or even have them euthanized if they’re unable to pay for veterinary care, Dr. Simon said. That’s why it’s extremely important to have a plan in place to pay for vet services.
Options for helping pay your vet bills
Here are some options to help you pay for expensive vet bills.
Ask about a payment plan
You can ask your vet if they offer payment plans to help with the costs of an expensive bill.
Payment plans will differ depending on the veterinary office you go to and the type of treatment your pet is getting. “Some will accept payments on emergency services but not on elective services, such as vaccinations or spaying and neutering,” Dr. Bonk said.
You may have to pay part of your bill right away as a deposit and then pay the rest off in installments. “Most will ask for a percentage up front, anywhere from 10 to 50 percent, depending on the total bill,” Dr. Bonk said. “They may then set up weekly, biweekly or monthly payments until the balance is taken care of.”
Keep in mind that corporate-owned vets don’t usually offer payment plans. You’ll be more likely to have payment flexibility at small practices.
Look for places that provide discounted vet services
Some organizations provide discounted veterinary services, such as animal shelters. “Some clinics or animal shelters may provide discounted vaccinations or spay and neuter clinics for people that qualify, usually based on income,” Dr. Bonk said.
These places provide the same level of care that you would receive at another vet clinic but manage to cut out unnecessary procedures in order to provide a discount. “This won’t mean your pet receives substandard care, but it may mean that less diagnostic tests are run, and there is a concerted effort to keep bills low,” Dr. Simon said. “Oftentimes, charity clinics do not have access to expensive diagnostic equipment or specialized surgeons.”
Lots of veterinary schools have clinics that are less expensive than regular vet clinics as well, so you can search for some in your area.
Research organizations that help pay vet bills
There are tons of organizations, rescues and shelters that provide financial assistance to pet owners struggling to pay their vet bills. “Some rescue organizations or vet clinics may have a Good Samaritan fund that is used to help pay bills for people that apply,” Dr. Bonk said.
You can also search on Petfinder for animal welfare groups that can provide assistance.
For even more resources, you can visit the Humane Society’s website.
Use a credit card
You may be able to use a credit card to pay for your bills so you can pay later. “Vet clinics may also accept credit cards and let the credit card company deal with the payments,” Dr. Bonk said.
The company CareCredit offers veterinary financing with monthly payments.
You can also consider crowdfunding for help paying vet bills. “Some owners turn to family and friends to help them at their time of need,” Dr. Simon said. “Many will set up crowdfunding pages, such as [a] GoFundMe, in an attempt to cover the cost of expensive vet bills.”
Waggle is a pet-specific crowdfunding platform that a ton of pet parents use to help with expensive vet bills.
While pet insurance won’t help if you’re already in a situation where you have an expensive bill that you’re struggling to pay, it can help you be prepared for future emergencies since pet insurance pays you back up to 90 percent for unexpected vet bills. So it’s a good thing to consider as soon as you get a new pet.
Plus, it can even help you afford regular vet checkups. And if you take your pet for regular vet visits, you’ll also be more likely to catch any health issues before they become an emergency. “Pet insurance is a good idea for owners who think they would struggle with paying an emergency vet fee up front,” Dr. Simon said.
If you're looking for pet insurance, you’ll want to check out Fetch by The Dodo because it's made by and for adoring pet parents, and because it's the most comprehensive coverage in the US and Canada, covering things that other providers don't or charge extra for.
Even if your pet is young and healthy, it’s important to be prepared for any unexpected veterinary costs so you don’t wind up in a situation where you’re unable to pay.
If you don’t have pet insurance and end up with an unexpected vet bill, there are options to help pay it off. It’ll take some research on your end, but it’ll be worth it to make sure your pet gets the care she needs.