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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Financial Help For Pet Owners

Has it really been a week since my last blog post?  Wow, I'm starting to slack off! 

Today's discussion is a popular one, and I was given a great resource by a reader.  A common topic around veterinary medicine is how to pay for care, especially during a crisis situation.  I continue to 100% stand by my opinion that if you can't afford basic vaccinations, exams, heartworm prevention, and flea medication, you do not need to own a dog or cat.  Pets are a privilege, not a right, and you must be able to care for the basic needs in order to be a responsible pet owner.  It drives vets crazy when someone gets a new pet and then can't afford even the simplest, most bare-bones care.

I also recommend keeping a savings account of at least $500 (or your country's equivalent) specifically marked for your pet's care.  While this won't cover major surgeries, it will cover most immeidate care, basic blood tests, x-rays, and so on.  And it's certainly better than telling your vet you can't afford any kind of diagnostics when your pet is vomiting and lethargic.

But the reality of the world is that not everyone is in a financial situation to set aside for emergency care.  Most vets won't take payment plans because we get burned by the clients more often than not.  I've discussed it several times before, but every vet can tell you more times that a client promised to pay a bill and ended up in collections than they can tell you times that a client paid back an overdue bill.  For this reason it's not possible or even smart for most veterinary clinics to extend credit.  More times than not we're going to lose money, and we can't keep our business open if we can't pay our own bills.  Our creditors don't care if the clients aren't paying their bills.

So what do you do?  You're a pet owner who is doing a good job with preventative care and you have $200 in your bank account that you could spend if absolutely necessary.  Your cat sneaks outside when a door is left cracked open, and ends up getting hit by a car.  The pelvis is fractured and needs surgery, though she is otherwise in surprisingly good shape.  Your total bill is around $2000, but she can be perfectly normal afterwards.  What do you do?

Melanie sent me a link to a website that lists many different companies, groups, and organizations that exist to help people out in situations similar to this.  Some of them I'm familiar with, such as Care Credit (which we offer at our clinic), while others I've never heard of.  I present this as a list of options and can't personally attest to any of them.  It's also important to keep in mind that a person many not qualify for a given option, so in some cases there simply may not be any help.  But there appear to be some great resources at this link, so they are worth checking out.

In the end keep in mind that your vet has bills to pay, a business to run, and employees to pay.  It is not the vet's responsibility to make sure that your pet gets the care they need.  It is your responsibility as that pet's owner and caretaker.