Pet ownership comes with plenty of benefits for us humans — from providing more opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities to reducing blood pressure, cholesterol levels and feelings of loneliness.
But when Fido or Fluffy get sick, pet owners also can experience higher rates of stress, anxiety and even clinical depression, according to one study. Handling the cost of veterinary care can be stressful. For pet owners, juggling the costs of tending to themselves and their families, may leave them wondering how they’ll ever be able to afford to get the veterinary care their dog, cat or guinea pig desperately needs.
Unfortunately, pets aren’t immune to costly medical conditions. According to Pet Plan, a pet insurance company, one in three pets needs unexpected veterinary care every year. The survey says a pet parent is faced with a $3,000 vet bill every six seconds, leaving these pet owners wondering how they will handle the cost of veterinary care as the pricetag mounts.
That leaves many pet owners worried and wondering what their financial options are to treat their pets — from securing routine care to handling potentially catastrophic health issues.
There are some affordable options for pet care.
Spaying and neutering dogs and cats is always a smart decision for pet owners. Fewer puppies and kittens cut down on the number of homeless animals across the United States, according to the Humane Society of the United States. And, when pets undergo the procedure, it also can lengthen their lifespan, including reducing the risk for some kinds of cancers, which can be very expensive to treat.
Some animal shelters, veterinarians and other charities offer affordable and no-cost options to spay and neuter pets. To find frugal choices near you, PetSmart has a list of spay and neuter clinics across the country. The Humane Society also has a list of national organizations that provide financial assistance to pet owners for a variety of needs.
In 2013, according to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers spent a whopping $7.6 billion on prescription and over-the-counter medications for their dogs and cats. Until recently, veterinarians have been the primary source of medications for pets, according to the FTC report.
But new options — from retail pharmacies, big box stores and warehouse clubs to online outlets — are on the rise. And that means frugal pet owners have more options as they look for affordable medications for their four-legged family members.
To find cheaper pet medications, MarketWatch offers eight tips for pet owners who are shopping around for pet medications. They include asking vets to match cheaper prices, considering a subscription service and looking for discount programs at drug stores and other retail outlets.
One easy way to cut down on emergency veterinary care is to get regular checkups for your pet to identify health issues before they become serious. According to VCA Hospitals, very young puppies should see the vet monthly. Adult dogs should check in once a year. Older dogs should be seen twice a year.
The price tag for those annual checkups, however, can add up, but some vets are open to working with pet owners to cut the costs. If you’re a regular customer of a vet, try negotiating a payment plan, recommends the Humane Society. Another option is finding veterinary schools that offer low-cost clinics for those in need. The American Veterinary Medical Association has a list of accredited schools across the country that may offer services for pet owners in their communities.
When a pet is diagnosed with a serious chronic illness, pet insurance can be a lifesaver — and a money saver, covering the cost of care that can escalate into the thousands of dollars.
More pet owners are choosing coverage. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, 2.43 million pets were insured in North American in 2018 — up 18% in the United States and nearly 11% in Canada from the previous year. In the United States, the average cost to insure a dog was $47 a month. For cats, it was $29.50 every month.
But should you be plunking down money monthly for pet insurance just in case Fido or Fluffy get sick? It depends on your pet and the coverage that you get.
According to Consumer Reports, coverage costs can depend on your pet’s breed. Policies often don’t cover pre-existing conditions and, in some cases, breed-specific illnesses. Plans also vary. Some cover just accidents. Others cover both accidents and illnesses. Before you sign up for any plan, you’ll need to carefully read all the fine print to ensure you understand what’s covered — and what isn’t.
If pet insurance isn’t something you want to pay for, Consumer Reports recommends building up an emergency savings fund to help manage the cost of veterinary care, so you’re able to afford treatment if required — and enjoy some peace of mind too.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.
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