I see countless posts on social media begging for help with veterinary costs, or complaining that vets “don’t care” because they won’t give a stranger credit or care for an animal without pay at all. Don’t be ridiculous. Most vets don’t make ridiculous amounts of money to begin with, and they have all of the overhead that goes along with running an independent establishment in which they conduct their services. Vets spend $150K to $250K for FOUR YEARS (it takes EIGHT) to acquire their education. Veterinarians are in a similar situation as the rest of us. They have bills. They’re running a BUSINESS. Do not expect them to pay for your lack of planning and responsibility.
That said, life happens. Vets are human like the rest of us. They have compassion and obviously they love animals or they wouldn’t have gone through the most rigorous form of education offered in the USA. If you are in a tight or unpredictable financial situation or think you might ever get there, follow these steps to ensure your pet’s safeguard in the face of urgent and unaffordable veterinary need:
Research vets in your area. Ask on social media and call veterinary offices to determine which vet is best for you. Unlike the human medical scene, most vets have a list of costs for common procedures. An office visit might be between $30 and $50 on average, blood work might cost $70 or more, depending on the tests run, x-rays have another price (usually per xray), vaccinations have set prices that can be quoted over the phone. Call the vets local to you or recommended in your area, and ask for their rates.
Establish a relationship with a vet. Save money for a well-vet visit for at least one of your pets and get your name on paperwork with the vet of your choice. If you need to save for another pet’s visit, do that. Get at least ONE vaccination from that vet for each pet in your family so that your vet can meet all of your animals. If you give vaccinations at home or go to a low-cost clinic, have those records recorded at your vet’s office so that they have accurate information about your pets’ medical history. The longer you’ve been attending a vet’s office without being able to pay, the more likely they are to grant leniency and show compassion for animals they know and love when you need financial assistance.
Create a credit at your vet’s office. Pay bills you don’t owe, before you owe them. You heard me right: I’m advising you to pay your vet extra. Explain to the office manager or the vet that your financial situation isn’t reliable and in case of emergency in the future, you’d like to establish a fund in your account to cover potential disaster. This is especially advisable if you have multiple pets. Ask for receipts that document your credit at their establishment and keep records. $5 or $10/month can add up quite quickly and if you make regular payments, your vet is more likely to believe that you’re willing to be financially responsible for any accrued debt when your pet suddenly needs more attention than you can immediately afford.
In doing these things you can establish a trusting, reliable relationship with your vet. You’ve eliminated the worry in your life that your pet might become suddenly ill or injured and you’ll have no way to afford help or comfort for your beloved family member.