What Do You Do When You Can't Afford Medical Care for a Pet?

Updated on April 14, 2011
J.G. asks from Minneapolis, MN
22 answers

We have an 8 year old dog and I've been paying about 100.00/ month in care for her (pet insurance, food, medications). Her conditions, though not life threatening, are now at a point where they need to be addressed before they begin to really affect quality of life. (She has a benign tumor on her rectum, she needs a tooth pulled, and she has a bad hip). We have some some complicated and pressing financial matters ourselves where 100% of our financial resources are spoken for for the next 3-4 months.

Her conditions need to be addressed in the next 2-3 months (3 months max). I've looked at our budget, shifted some things around, but it doesn't even make a dent in the cost (even with the discount from the pet insurance on the surgeries). I've cut things out like: dry cleaning (will just launder and iron at home), 50.00 from our grocery bill (going to have to clip more coupons!), and negotiated 30/mo off our cable bill, but still doesn't come close.

Anyways, I'm not really looking for financial advice here since our situation is more complicated than I can begin to explain. What I really want to know is--what would you do, what have you done, what do you do when you are faced with the dilemma of pressing family financial needs and the needs of a beloved pet?

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So What Happened?

You have all been so tremendously helpful and kind. I will reach out to the resources you provided and take comfort in the fact that I, as a pet owner, am not alone in this struggle. I am so encouraged by your well wishes and empathy. Thank you, thank you.

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answers from San Antonio on

My 10 yr old boxer has been slowly 'acting his age.' He has a little bit of a limp - I think hip issues - and he has a small tumor on his back. I cannot afford to take care of either issue with such an old dog, that we are just kind of waiting for him to show signs of pain. When that happens, we will put him down. It's very sad to think about, but I cannot justify taking a few thousand dollars away from my family (we're on one income) to help my dog live another 1-2 years. The way I see it, he's lived a good life. He is my baby, but when it's his time it's his time.

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answers from Visalia on

I've never taken my pets to a Vet only for spayed and neuter and rabies shots... other than that, I dont take them, way too expensive for us. i did call a vet office and asked for advice a couple of times. if they get cut, its usually peroxide and anti-biotic cream. so far my animals have passed on from old age.

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answers from Seattle on

I am a LVT, and our clinic has compiled a list of organizations that aid people in your situation. I do not know the inner workings of each group, so I do not know how each one functions, but they are worth contacting to find out more. That list is below. Most clinics also accept care credit, which is an indepenent company offering credit for health care with no interest for up to a year. Good luck!!!!

AAHA Helping Pets Fund: http://www.aahahelpingpets.org

Angels 4 Animals: http://www.angelsforanimals.org

Animal Cancer therapy Subsidization Society: http://www.actss.ca

Their website has not been completed however they are a registered Charity in Alberta Canada that is devoted to making cancer treatment for pets a reality. Their fund is The

Lucky Moffat Memorial Fund. Their telephone number is: ###-###-####

The Assistance Dog United Campaign: http://www.assistancedogunitedcampaign.org

Canine Cancer Awareness Organization: http://www.caninecancerawareness.org

Cody’s Club: http://www.dogdoggiedog.com/pwcAcodysclub.htm

Handicapped Pet Help Fund: http://www.handicappedpets.com/Articles/help

Help-A-Pet: http://www.help-a-pet.org

iGive.com: http://smtp.igive.com/welcome/warmwelcome.cfm?c=36665

“In Memory of Magic”: http://www.imom.org/

Kitsap Humane Society for low cost spays and neuters: http://www.kitsaphumane.org/lowcostfix.php

The Magic Bullet Fund: http://www.themagicbulletfund.org/VetsTreatingFundDogs.html

OSLF fund for Orthopedic Cases: http://www.oslf.org/petsneed.htm

Progressive Animal Welfare Society: http://www.paws.org/

R.U.F.F.-Rescuing Unwanted Furry Friends - http://www.911ruff.org/

The Pet Fund: http://www.thepetfund.com/

United Animal Nations Lifeline: http://www.uan.org/index.cfm?navId=163

14 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

if you have good credit, look into care credit. many times, you can get 12-24 months with zero interest. also, if you have a long term and good relationship with your vet, ask him/her about a payment plan. be honest about your finances, and also about the fact that you are concerned about the quality of life of your pup - vets don't like to see animals go without care either and many are willing to work with their clients. good luck, i KNOW that's a tough one!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from State College on

Have you looked into or tried to apply for care credit? It works for vet bills too and when I worked at a vet's we had many clients that used it for unexpected and/or large expenses. I believe it usually is zero interest for several months too. Also talk to your vet about payment plans if you haven't already, many will work with clients when possible. especially if they know you well. I agree the tumor and tooth probably need to go and in the long run it is probably cheaper to do both at once since she will be under anesthesia. Depending on how bad her hip is talk to your vet about different medication options, some may be over the counter or cheaper if you buy a larger quantity at one time, or a bigger pill and split it if she is on joint meds. Sometimes the foods with glucosamine can really help too. That is really hard especially when you have the pet insurance already and it only covers so much.

Sorry I can't offer much more advice. I hope everything works out. We had lots of vet bills right around Christmas for our dog, so I know how you feel.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My husband and I have lived on the combined income of one schoolteacher for our whole married lives so we can do the worthwhile work we love. There are medical procedures that I have put off for over 20 years for myself because I can't afford them (we have expensive health insurance, but it eats up available funds and won't pay for anything until I've topped $7000 out-of-pocket per year).

So, we have had pets over our 30 years together: several feral cats that I've tamed, a couple of goats, parakeets and tropical fish. With each animal, I consider at the start the simple reality that vet care will be only what I can afford: vaccinations, stitching up wounds or very minor surgery. I ask myself whether I can give this animal a good and happy life within those constraints, and recognize that when the animal begins accumulating "old-age" problems I will probably not be able to accomodate them and will more than likely have to have them euthanized.

The creatures we've adopted enjoy their lives with us, experience what would be a long life-span compared to life in the wild, and die a relatively peaceful death. I love my pets dearly and am grateful for the ways they enrich my life, and I believe I enrich theirs, as well.

And I recognize that they are not particularly troubled by thoughts of death the way people are. They live, they enjoy life, they die. And they all live on in my memory.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

If there is a vetrinary school near you, you might see if they can help you while a student gets experience. Also, talk to your current vet and see what is the most conservative care she needs. She's 8, so somethings may be out or not the only option because of her age anyway. Surgeries are harder on dogs as they get older. You also might ask a local rescue group if they know of any resources. Funds are spread thin, but this is such a common situation for people these days, they should understand and point you to resources if any are available.
All the Best!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

I'm sorry-I can totally relate.

I'll just throw some ideas out there as food for thought.

1-Care Credit. It's a credit card that many vets accept that is specific to vet care, (and some other people care as well)
2.-Check Craigslist-you might be surprised to find some vet that is willing to help for a reduced cost
3.-Talk to your local humane society-often they have plans to help or can suggest willing vets
4.-Talk to your own vet-they may be willing to reduce their cost, pay over time, etc.

Basically I would approach it the same way you would if it was a human family member. Often vets will close the gap a bit on $$ especially since some of it they can bill to the insurance company.

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answers from San Francisco on

Sorry to hear you are in this situation, it is hard. The best case I can think of is if you could find a vet who would let you defer payment or make a payment plan for these surgeries.
if that is not a possibility, than just keep her as comfortable as you can until her quality of life is so bad that she need to be put down :( not fun.
your family obviously needs to come first, and she is a pet.
I hope things work out for the best!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

What we did was signed up for Care Credit.
It's basically a credit card designed for healthcare (pets, too), and it allows you to defer payments for 3mos, interest free. (or you can pay whatever you can in that timeframe, again, no interest)

Interest kicks in after that like a normal credit card.

Might be a good fit if you can free up some $$ after the 3 month mark.

In our case, we put our cat down, as cost of care and rehab would've been astronomical (think...manually feeding through a tube daily...)
But it still cost us $900 with diagnosis and euthanasia. :(

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

I'm really sorry you are in this situation. We just had a tumor removed on our dog, and it wasn't cheap ($500), so I really feel your pain. I'm grateful we had the money in the budget to do so.

Do you have a good relationship with your vet? If so, I would make an appointment and go in and talk to them about options and costs. Let them know you're in a tight bind financially but that you want to do what you can to keep up the dog's quality of life. They may have some suggestions. They may be able to do some work on a payment plan. If your vet won't budget, try another vet (ask friends for recommendations).

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Omaha on

I had to put down my 2 yr old dog because I could not afford to pay for the surgery to fix a relapsed rectum and surgery to open her stomach and examine a pear shaped mass they found upon examination. I was heartbroken, never thinking I wouldn't be taking her back home with me. My daughter was willing to put the emergency care on her credit card and let me make payments, but even she couldn't afford the added costs of surgery (as it was it was over 300.00 for the emergency care and putting her down. I have a second dog and as much as I would love to get another, that whole experience stops me from doing it. I feel horrible and guilty to this day. I have 3 suggestions. Is there someone, friend or family whose finances are not so tight and can pay for the surgery and set up a payment plan with you to pay it back? There is also a place on line called Wish Upon A Hero. You can make a wish there (explain your situation) and perhaps someone, somewhere in the world will be your hero and help you out. There are alot of dog lovers out there. You may even receive letters from people with small donations that might add up to enough to pay for the needed care. Third, PRAY. Call your churches prayer line or put in a prayer request on KLOVE.com. You'd be surprised how God can work miracles even for his smallest creatures. He knows our needs, all we need to do is ask. I pray that you will find what you need.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I get my animals' flea and heartworm preventatives from a veterinary pharmacy - they have a lower markup than my vet.
I've known my vet for about 30 years - he's been our vet since I was a kid. If one of my pets needs something expensive, he lets me break it up into smaller payments.
If it came to the point where my pet's quality of life was sucking, and I couldn't afford to treat it, I would opt for euthanasia.
In fact, if I were at the point where my quality of life was sucking and I couldn't afford treatment, I would euthanize myself.

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answers from Dallas on

I agree with Christina.

Taking food out of your kids' mouths and going into debt to prolong the life of an already elderly dog just doesn't make good sense.

But I feel terrible for you because I know how pets can be cherished members of the family- we have two dogs, they are pretty young, and I dread the day I have to make these decisions. Sorry you are going through this. But take care of your family's needs first!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Have you checked with the vet college at the University of Minnesota? Sometimes colleges offer reduced fees for care. They even have clinical trials - does your dog qualify for any of these? Also, not sure where you are in Minneapolis, but sometimes going a little way out of the city/suburbs can save you a lot of money. I lived in Bloomington years ago and my vet costs there were more than they were in Chicago. If you're willing to travel a small distance, it can be well worth it. Also, if you know the diagnosis and what needs to be done, call some vets in outlying areas for prices. I know a family here in the Chicago area that travel to Wisconsin for non-emergency vet care because of the dramatic difference in cost.

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answers from Tampa on

Talk to the vet and call around to see who is willing to allow a payment plan. Look for grants online and ask vets if they know of any aid, funding or grants to help owners with major pet bills. Call the SPCA to see if they have anything to help. There is also a credit card specifically for medical and vet bills called Care Credit. REALLY look into that!!

Tho some may see animals as disposable - but as a pet owner you took on the responsibility (as should have other pet owners) to care for them until their normal death or death of an illness which surgery would not improve their standard of life. Your pet is not a thing to allow to die or suffer - it is another living creature you accepted as part of your extended family and should be treated as such.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Vets notoriously allow payments.

I racked up about 1K bill with my then 10 yo Siberian Husky and used to drive to the vets every payday Friday to make a $100 payment. This is when I was a single homeowner and things were tight.

One time there, I commented that I'd bet they had a lot of people default on their balances and they said no--surprisingly, people appreciated the leeway and 99% made good on their debt.



answers from Minneapolis on

My heart goes out to you, and I admire the ways you are trying to
handle these things.
First, have you talked to your vet? Would they consider taking payments
or is there a local organization that could help donate for the cost.
Finally, could you put out a note in the "pets" section of Craigslist
to see if others might donate $10 or whatever to your vet to cover
the costs?



answers from Minneapolis on

I suggest shopping around for the best vet prices. I was shocked at the difference in how much each clinic charges.

I am not sure where you live, but the cheapest one I have found in the Metro area is:
Pomeroy's Animal Hospital & Clinic
185 7th St E, St Paul, MN 55101



answers from Minneapolis on

Most of my ideas have already been suggested here, but I just wanted to express that I hope you find something that works for your family and your dog. Contrary to some of the other posters, I don't consider 8 to be that old for a dog (although it depends a lot on size and breed). Just last year I lost two dogs at ages 17 1/2 and 15 1/2! We spent a fortune on their medical bills (but always with their comfort as a priority) so I can empathize with your situation. Good luck.



answers from Minneapolis on

i fully understand your stress on this ive got 2 dogs one with epilepsy-and im single and dont make alot of money-i spent over 3grand on vet bills until i was introduced to a traveling vet-yep she comes right to your home-shes absoulutely wonderful has all the info for great resources,,,heres her number give her a call..DR.MARIE LOUDERBACK-###-###-####. i promise youll love her.good luck



answers from Cedar Rapids on

That is a tough situation! Have you talked to your Vet's office about payment arrangements. Let's say your bill is $500, pay $100 down and maybe $50/month for the remainder. MOST vet's, hospitals etc will work with you on that.
Good Luck!

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