Recently, a dog owner faced a sudden emergency involving his pet. The vet told him that it seemed the dog had a hernia and this was the cause of the dog’s pain. It was affecting the bladder and his intestines. The owner was beside himself with grief when the veterinarian explained to him that his dog needed an operation right away. The vet said that depending on the process involved, it would cost between $750 and $1,000. The owner didn’t have that kind of money and was at a loss as to what to do. He offered to work off the debt with the doctor. Unfortunately, the office manager said that they only accept cash and credit cards, and the fees must be paid before scheduling the operation.
For many of us, pets are family members. Just as in the story above, our furry family members can get injured or sick and end up requiring expensive vet treatment or, gasp, surgery. As such, it’s important that we, as responsible pet owners, should really think ahead and plan how to pay for those unexpected vet bills. These are financially tough times for many people, so you may not have an emergency stash of cash available so you should consider your options ahead of time because emotions can easily outweigh financial reality amidst a medical emergency. It’s hard to not bite off more than you can chew when you’re considering Fluffy’s life hanging in the balance.
Perhaps the most common method of paying for our pet’s care is to opt to “stick in on the card.” I know I’m guilty of it, and I’m sure many of you are, too. While it’s a perfectly acceptable solution, you still can’t afford to bite of more than you can chew. Consider the interest rate you’ll be paying if you’re unable to come up with the balance when it comes due. Can you afford to swing the difference month-to-month for the additional payment amount down the road if you can’t? If you can manage to come up with the balance before it’s due or swing the difference long-term, it’s definitely a viable option.
Pet insurance has grown by leaps and bounds, as have veterinary services (Pet Industry Trends for 2010). While it’s not the right answer for every pet owner, it can be a really good option to consider for peace of mind in the event of a medical emergency as well as necessary routine care. Be sure to research the offerings and consider the premium against the cost of owning your pet and the liklihood of emergencies. Pet plans come in every size and shape, so know what you’re purchasing and exactly what it covers.
Ask the Vet
While we realize many veterinarian offices aren’t overly accommodating to the financial plight of pet owners, you don’t know until you ask – and ask with a great deal of respect and an actual, sincere, fair plan in mind. Depending on the vet, the practice, the office staff, their policies and guidelines, and your history with them, your chances of setting something up might be better than you think. Be sure to consider the situation from your vet’s point of view – they are taking all the risk by allowing any special payment arrangements. They owe you nothing. You are responsible for paying for the care and services the are providing as well as any medications, etc. If you’re lucky enough to get any kind of special consideration or arrangement, be sure to be true to your word and make every attempt to pay off the bill, in full, earlier than you’d originally expected (ensuring they’ll be more likely to work with you in the future, too).
Emergency Pet Fund
No, there’s no magic pet-emergency fund that appears out of now where to cover your bills, we’re talking about insuring yourself. Pay ‘premiums’ to yourself and then use that special fund to pay for routine care and emergency care. You can use a coffee can or even open a separate bank account. Have a few dollars every pay day routed to your EPF, or take on some additional part time work to help build up the fund. Then, once you’ve got a nice stash, you can rest assured you’ve got the necessary funds to handle any emergency pet care as needed.
Let’s face it, pet emergencies and accidents do happen. Be prepared, even if you just prep by putting a few dollars away every time you get paid to build a bit of a cushion you’ll be better off when that rainy day comes. Worrying about your pet is enough without the additional stress of worrying about how in the world you’ll manage to pay the vet bill.