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If you have been to a veterinarian recently, then you know that veterinary care can be expensive. Most pet parents are shocked when presented with an estimate for vet costs that has a comma in it.
Pet dental care can be especially expensive—the cost for dental work can easily exceed a thousand dollars. Another area where vet costs can be a barrier is with long-term medications for chronic conditions like Cushing’s disease or arthritis.
It’s difficult when you want to provide the best care for your pet but have to make decisions based on what you can afford. Here are several ways to get help with vet bills so your pet can get the care they need.
Health-Specific Credit Cards
If you find yourself in a bind over vet bills, one option is CareCredit.com. CareCredit is a healthcare financing credit card that can be used for people and veterinary payment.
They usually have interest-free promotions if you qualify. If you make minimum monthly payments and pay off your balance within the promotional period (anywhere from 6 months to 24 months), then the loan is interest-free. However, if you do not pay it off within the specified period, there is a hefty penalty in deferred interest charges, so read the fine print.
CareCredit approval depends on your credit score, so you may not get approved if you have bad credit, or you may only qualify for an amount that does not cover the entire bill. However, you can get creative and organize multiple people to apply for multiple CareCredit lines, and combine the amounts to pay for needed care.
Wells Fargo also has a healthcare financing credit card that works for vet costs. Either way, you can apply for the line of credit even if you don’t currently need it, so that it will be there for you if you ever do.
Scratchpay is an online payment plan for veterinary costs that can be used for any species. It is not a credit card or a line of credit, so it doesn’t rely on your credit score or affect your credit score, and more pet parents get approved.
Scratchpay has a higher approval rating, with no hidden fees and no deferred interest; however, the vet clinic must be registered with Scratchpay. Like CareCredit, Scratchpay pays the veterinarian up-front, and then you make payments to Scratchpay.
You have several options for payment. If you pay 20% right away, and pay the balance in full within 60 days, you won’t pay any interest. Or you can choose to pay monthly over a period of 12 or 24 months, with the interest already figured into the payments.
If you can qualify for a personal loan, it may be less expensive than putting the expense on a credit card and paying it out over time. You can apply for personal loans online, and you may be approved the same day, which is very handy for emergency medical needs.
The money can be used to pay for the veterinary bill and any other needs your pet has (for example: an orthopedic bed, prescription medications, rehabilitation therapy at another hospital, etc.).
Check with local credit unions to see their criteria for getting a personal loan.
Waggle works with veterinarians, sponsors, donors, and pet parents to provide donations to some pets, but the main purpose is to crowdfund for pets with medical needs. All of the money raised (100%) is made available directly to the veterinarian for the pet’s medical bill.
Pharmacies and GoodRx
When your pet needs expensive medications for an ongoing condition, sometimes it pays to shop around to other pharmacies for less expensive options.
Chewy has an extensive pharmacy at reduced prices for your pet’s needs. If you cannot find what you need online, try looking for what you need at your local pharmacies with GoodRx. It is a free discount card, which includes pets as part of your family! You can also check prices online before heading to the pharmacy.
Pet insurance is somewhat similar to health insurance for humans. The most common types are accident-only and accident and illness policies. If you don’t have an emergency savings fund in place to help with vet bills if your pet gets sick or has an emergency, then pet insurance might be a good option for you.
Pet health insurance policies vary widely, so it’s important to do your research before you settle on a policy or company. Each pet insurance company has an online tool to help you compare plans.
It is important to note that unlike with human health insurance, pet insurance companies usually require you to pay up-front for veterinary bills, and then you submit a claim (the bill). The company reviews the claim and sends a reimbursement check to cover the out-of-pocket expenses that are covered by your policy, less the deductible and co-insurance percentage.
The exception to this rule is if you have Trupanion and your veterinarian uses Trupanion Express. In this case, the company pays the veterinarian directly.
Another difference with pet insurance is that wellness visits and preventive care are covered by separate plans. Many companies offer these pet wellness plans for routine vaccines and annual exams, but you should take time to check what’s covered.
Vet bills can be overwhelming, and sometimes you just need a helping hand. Fortunately, there are many charitable organizations that exist to help pet parents.
The Pet Fund, the Brown Dog Foundation, and Frankie’s Friends Charitable Pet Foundation are three organizations that help with vet bills. You will need to submit an application to apply for help. Aid is income-based, and funds are not available for emergency care.
The GoFundMe website has a comprehensive list of additional organizations that help cover veterinary bills for people in need. The Humane Society of America has information how to find assistance with pet food, paying bills, and housing, as well as national and state options for veterinary care assistance.
Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinary office for additional resources. Many veterinarians have funds set aside to help people in a financial crisis, or they may know of local organizations.
Featured Image: iStock.com/Nataba
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