Most dog and cat owners think of their pets as family members, according to a survey by the American Veterinary Pet Association.
Yet when finances are tight, pet care is often the first item lopped off the budget. The problem, say some veterinarians and other animal experts, is that cutting out basic care may cause pets to become so ill they can only be cured with expensive treatments – if at all.
“You love your pet and want them to live a happy, healthy life, but sometimes finances can get tight. If you find yourself short of funds to provide veterinary care, there are resources out there that can help — you just have to seek them out,” said Ashley Zeh of Lollypop Farm, the Humane Society of Greater Rochester, New York. “For example, many counties provide free rabies vaccinations and some pet stores offer lower cost vaccination clinics. Some humane societies offer affordable veterinary services as well.”
There is plenty of affordable help available if you know where to look. Here are some ideas to consider now no matter what your current financial situation.
Talk to Your Vet
If you took your animal to a vet before finances grew tight, consider speaking with the staff. When you talk to the vet tech or assistant, ask exactly what routine care is necessary and what extras can be eliminated.
For example, indoor cats don’t need rabies vaccinations because they don’t go out of the house.
Determine the Necessary Routine Care
“Preventative medicine will absolutely keep your vet bills down as they protect against potentially fatal diseases that will cost a fair amount to treat,” said Taylor Truitt, DVM, founder and CEO of The Vet Set, New York. “I sometimes see patients where a simple condition such as an ear or skin infection has lingered and has progressed to a serious situation. Waiting until the pet is in bad shape always leads to bigger veterinary bills as it will take more medications for longer periods of time to help heal the dog or cat [or other pet].”
Determine What Is a Real Emergency
Many pet owners are hesitant to seek vet care for what they think are minor concerns. The American Veterinary Medical Association offers guidelines. You’ll also find one on the site of the American Society of for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which also provides guidelines for owners on how to approach their injured or ill animals.
Find Emergency Vet Options
When an emergency happens, it’s helpful to know who to contact. Check the web site for the Humane Society of the United States. The website lists an array of animal groups and veterinary schools that offer assistance throughout the U.S. You’ll also find a list of groups that provides financial assistance to pet owners.
Ask for Medication Options
Many vets have samples or know of various low-cost options for medications.
Continue to Serve Pet Food
It’s important not to allow pets to eat human food because it can upset their systems and cause illness. If animals become overly hungry, they may eat plants and other edibles around the house. “If they are able to grab a nibble or two, there could be some digestive issues like vomiting or diarrhea,” said Lisa Hennessy, Your Pet Chef, Chicago.
Many shelters offer emergency pet food for those in need.
Don't Forgo Spaying or Neutering
“One way pet owners can help ensure their pets stay healthy is by making sure they are spayed or neutered,” said Zeh. “While that can be expensive, there are organizations, like Lollypop Farm that provide low-cost services for income-qualifying families in their community.”
The Humane Society, the ASPCA, and SpayUSA are among the organizations that can link you to free services in your area.