Plan Ahead to Pay for Pet Medical Emergencies

How sad that so many pet owners surrender their pets because they can’t afford medical care for them. I recently heard of a couple who took their dog to our emergency vet clinic after he was severely cut by fencing on their property. They couldn’t afford to pay the bill and surrendered him to the clinic. A kind soul who worked there called a small animal rescue group who quickly stepped in and raised funds for the two surgeries needed.

Planning ahead on how to handle these medical emergencies can help reduce the number of pets who become homeless or euthanized due to a lack of medical funding. Here are a few more sources of financial assistance for medical treatment. (See link to the previous post on this subject at the end).

Set up a fund in your community specifically for pet medical emergencies. Most communities have a group of veterinarians who frequently take on the task of providing service for pets in need, both homeless pets and pets whose family can’t afford their care. Work with those vets, either individually or as a group, on the best way to serve these medical needs. Put in place plans to prevent pets from becoming homeless when the owners can’t pay their medical expenses.

Some veterinarians provide free or reduced-cost services for pets and families in need and then ask other clients to donate if they can. Some shelters maintain a fund for homeless pets’ medical emergencies. I’ve also seen nonprofit groups organized just to help pay veterinarians for the medical costs of homeless pets. These groups send out donation requests for specific medical emergencies.

The Brown Dog Foundation is dedicated to helping families who find themselves in a temporary financial crisis at the same time their pet requires life-saving treatment or life-sustaining medications. We provide assistance to families who normally live above the poverty line but have experienced a financial setback – unemployment, unexpected and major medical bills, loss of home, etc. We are designed as a one-time benefit in most situations.

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation focuses on preparing for disasters that affect animals and the response to those disasters. This foundation makes grants to Individual Veterinarians and Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMATs) with the goal of delivering a constant level of care on national, state, and local levels.

The Magic Bullet Fund from the Perseus Foundation provides grants to the owners of cancer-stricken dogs who are struggling to pay their medical bills. This page outlines the criteria for these grants and links to the application.

Veterinary schools often have programs that provide lower-cost pet care. Do a search on “shelter medicine” + “veterinary school” to find colleges that offer specific curricula on shelter medicine. Take a look at their websites for programs aimed at helping with pets’ medical expenses. Often vet students who study shelter medicine participate in fundraising, donating their services, etc., on behalf of the shelter pets in their area.

An example is the Capper & Chris Save the Animals Fund at Texas A&M University.

The Capper & Chris Save the Animals Fund wishes to help families in need with beloved family pets; especially those pets that would be euthanized rather than be helped when cost incurred would be impossible or a real hardship on a family. The Fund may contribute up to 50% of the total cost, with a maximum of $1000 per case. The animal must also have a treatable disease or injury.

Another example is the Good Samaritan Fund at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University, which funds the treatment of animals at that facility. The fund is used exclusively to treat ownerless or special needs animals whose owners cannot pay for care.

CareCredit is a healthcare financing program that pet owners can use to pay for their pets’ medical care. Check this page to see which veterinary services in your area accept CareCredit as payment. How is CareCredit different from credit cards?

CareCredit is a credit card exclusive for healthcare services. With CareCredit, you can get a No Interest* payment plan if paid in full within 6, 12, 18 or 24 months on purchases with your CareCredit card. Interest will be charged to your account from the purchase date if the promotional balance, including optional charges, is not paid in full within 6, 12, 18 or 24 months or if you make a late payment. Minimum monthly payments required.

Consider buying pet insurance. We’ve never bought pet insurance until recently, but purchased Embrace Pet Insurance for our kitty Pepper while he’s still healthy. In the past five years, we’ve paid several thousand dollars in vet bills, primarily due to emergency vet care and a case of pneumonia for our girl Foxy. I heard good reports concerning this insurance and chose it since you have many options to customize it to your needs. You can buy wellness coverage or accident only, add dental coverage, choose the deductible amount, etc. They pay a percentage of the veterinarian’s bill rather than a set amount based on a benefit schedule. That feature is important to us since vet costs tend to be expensive in our area.

Also, see Medical Grants for Homeless Pets and Pets in Need.

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