You can trust this content. Vet-Approved Content

What to Do When You Can’t Afford Your Pet’s Vet Bills

Try an honest conversation with your vet to see what your options are.

Open and frank conversations are necessary between you and your pet’s veterinarian. By: Austin Kirk

When veterinarians discuss your pet’s care, don’t zone out — listen carefully.

They will go over the tests they may need, the cost of the treatment or the surgery and lots more.

So it’s time to stop nodding your head in agreement and get to the nitty-gritty.

Discussions With Your Vet

When you’re looking at tests or a procedure for your pet, you’ll need to have an honest conversation with the veterinarian.

Let’s break this down into a 4-stage process:

  1. The plan: Your veterinarian will come up with a treatment plan based on the physical exam.
  2. The reasoning behind the plan: Understand what future tests and diagnostics are for and why they are necessary. In other words, know what you are paying for.
  3. The cost: Have your veterinarian generate an estimate on paper that is as complete as possible. If you are worried about the cost, voice your concerns early and ask for a high and low estimate.
  4. The discussion: Unless your pet is in an absolutely critical state and needs emergency stabilization, there is always time for discussion. Even with a seriously sick pet or an expensive orthopedic procedure pending, there is time to discuss options.
If your vet bill is overwhelming, you have a couple of options. By: linuxlibrarian

Your Options

If finances are a problem, tell your veterinarian up front.

There is no point in generating a complete and expensive estimate if you have made up your mind that you have a finite budget of $500. It’s possible your vet can work with the fact that there is a limited budget.

More often, a person has several options to consider when facing a big veterinary bill.

  • Financing: If you do not have or are unwilling to put the charges on your credit card, many veterinary offices offer their own finance plan, the most popular being CareCredit. This is a plan offered at other medical offices, such as your dentist. CareCredit is a great option for many people, but a word of caution: If you have a problematic credit score, you most likely will not be approved. Your vet may offer you private financing, but this is becoming a rarity, particularly with more and more corporate veterinary practices and specialty hospitals in existence.
  • Borrowing: Heartstrings can easily be pulled if someone hears about a suffering animal. Can you swallow a bit of pride and ask a relative or other source, even your boss, for a loan? If you have a legitimate ability to pay this back, you might be pleasantly surprised by the kindness of others.
  • Sacrifice: What can you give up for the next 6 months as you pay off a big vet bill? Do you realize how much you spend on nonessentials, and could you forego these products, restaurants or entertainment for several months?
  • GoFundMe: Is this a worthy-enough cause to use the internet to raise money for your pet? This is a personal and ethical decision on your part.
  • Back to the drawing board: As veterinary medicine has become more corporate and frequently more black-and-white when it comes to medical costs, you can take your pet someplace else for a second opinion, or ask to speak to the medical director or owner of the practice about options, both medical and financial. Or do your own research and return to your vet for another heart-to-heart discussion.

Don’t despair, and above all, do not give up.

If your pet needs care, procrastinating usually puts a happy outcome in jeopardy and definitely makes treatment more expensive.

Here are some more strategies for covering veterinary bills:

YouTube player

Communication Is Key

You should never be in a state of shock when checking out at the front desk after a workup, procedure or surgery performed on your pet.

If that happens, there has been a true failure of communication and breakdown of one of the most important relationships between you and your vet.

It’s times like these that a long-term, good and open relationship with your veterinarian pays off both emotionally and financially.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed Aug. 2, 2017.