Perhaps you acquired your pets before your financial circumstances changed. Perhaps you’re self-employed and having a low month. We’ve been on our journey to get debt-free for two and a half years now, following the “baby steps” from Dave Ramsey. The Ramsey program says you only carry $1,000 for emergencies. Which is fine, until your cat gets sick.
That’s exactly what happened. My cat Andrew got sick a few months ago. Naturally, on a holiday.
The cat was obviously in danger, and had vomited on every surface in my house, was rapidly loosing weight and acting strangely. There was no two ways about it, he had to be seen. I took him to the emergency after-hours vet. The cat needed $600 in X-rays, some fluids and two separate specialists to see him and say “that doesn’t look good.” My final bill was $1,200 and the verdict was the recommendation of an emergency exploratory surgery: price tag $5,000 – in addition to the $1,200 I’d already paid. (Please note: the key word here is exploratory–they couldn’t tell the nature of the obstruction, so were just going to check and see what it was–if his diagnosis were more certain, I may have chosen a different route).
I explained our financial circumstances to the veterinarian, who was more understanding than I expected, and she explained that with the fluids that the cat had, it may be possible for him to pass the obstruction naturally. She gave me some pointers of what to watch for, how to know if he was getting worse, and what to do if it did. I agreed to stay home and watch, where I would decide if it resolved or if he needed to go in for surgery. It was a scary couple of days, but he got better without surgery.
But what if he needed surgery? I couldn’t swing the $5,000. I did get a lower quote from another vet for $3,500, but still, not in my budget. I’d charge it. I shouldn’t, but I would. (I really love my cat, even though he eats the kids’ Barbie shoes…)
It turns out there is help for people who need veterinary care for their pets but don’t have the funds.
- Call your vet and ask about payment plans, or even post-dated checks.
- Shop around for a lower rate, or a second opinion. (You may have to pay additional consultation fees, but the difference may be enough to make up for it–that would have been the case with my cat’s recommended surgery for sure!)
- Contact the local Humane Society. Some offer low-cost vet care, others can refer you to options in your community.
- Contact community animal control centers and local small-scale shelters. (South County Cats in my area offers spay-neuter coupons for free).
- Check your community vet-tech programs or Veterinary Medicine colleges. Many offer treatment in their training facilities for a reduced rate.
- Other nonprofit organization such as IMOM.Org offer fundraising and grant options for emergency medical care.
- Offer to swap labor such as kennel cleaning, grooming, laundry or janitorial services with a local veterinarian to work off your bill.
IMAGE CREDIT:Freedigitalphotos.net Maggie Smith.