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My pet is sick, and I can't afford to go to the vet

Ideas and options for sick pets in financially tough times

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To some people, it is obvious that if times are tough financially, it is not the best time to adopt or buy a pet. The old adage seems to be: if you can't afford a pet (or pets) don't have them! However, as most pet lovers know, it isn't always that simple.

Pets are part of our lives and our families for years, and difficult financial situations can arise in an instant - how can we assume that someone should not have a pet just because they are in a tight spot financially? In other situations, a pet is homeless, injured, or slated to be euthanized for whatever reason, and people adopt and care for these animals - whether they can immediately afford it or not. Problems arise if this is a chronic occurrence, but it is worth pointing out that there ARE situations where "innocent" people find themselves in a situation where money is tight and their pet is sick.

This is a very familiar theme in veterinary medicine and on this site, judging by the many emails and forum posts here. Sometimes people assume that vets should treat the ones that can't afford medical treatment for no charge, since "vets care about animals." Yes, this is true - vets care about animals. Vets love animals. However, medical supplies, veterinary office and staffing expenses, insurance fees, and the normal expenses from running a practice all add up, and it is a difficult situation when vets are asked to give free services and supplies. This is compounded by the fact that health insurance for animals is not as available as for their human counterparts, so going to a vet may not be as financially easy as going to the doctor is for a human on a group health plan. So what can be done? The purpose of this article is to offer ideas on how to be prepared and ways to help during financially tough times when a pet is sick.

Be Prepared
Knowing your vet and the services s/he provides is the first place to start. Finding out answers to the following questions will help you know what to expect and plan ahead:

  • What are the payment policies?
  • Are payment plans available?
  • Does your vet offer emergency hours at the practice?
  • If not, where would you be referred to for emergency and overnight care?
  • What are the payment policies?

For additional preparedness tips, please see "Emergency! Are you prepared?"

Another way to be prepared is to research the various health insurance and health maintenance plans. These are offered by various insurance companies, and some veterinary practices also offer health maintenance types of plans. Click here to learn more about veterinary health insurance plans.

Too Late -- Need Help Now
Forum posts such as this one are always hard to read:
"I am on this site for one reason. To learn why my dog is suffering tonight. He is cold, unresponsive, drooling, teary eyed, and gaseous..with no appetite. My guess is that someone has poisoned him, but with no money for a vet, I was hoping to find an answer online." Need some info... thread, Career forum
- ILLITERAT

The web is a great source of information, but it is not the place to find a cure or "answer" online for a sick pet. A sick pet needs to be examined and treated - oftentimes, as soon as possible. Contrary to what many people think, it is always best to call your veterinarian first and explain the situation. Your vet can assess your animal's condition and offer any advice/assistance as the situation warrants. Additionally, some veterinary practices have an "emergency fund" for those in immediate need of assistance.

Go to the next page to learn more about finding funds for your pet.

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