I recently had to take my 14 year old Jack Russell, ‘Ruby,’ to the vet for a routine teeth clean and was surprised when the bill came back at $620. Granted, Ruby’s breath wasn’t the freshest and the inside of her mouth did look like a spoonful of corn kernels, but I was personally unprepared to pay the vet that kind of cash on the spot.

Apparently, I’m not the only person who suffers from bill shock after a visit to the vet. According to figures from the Australian Companion Animal Council (ACAC), we are forking out around $2.2 billion on veterinary bills a year, with some veterinary surgery fees exceeding $10,000 a pop.

In fact, a visit to the vet could set you back anywhere from an average of $244 for an ear infection, to $2,178 for cataracts, up to $13,525 for multiple fracture surgery. These are no small sums and while many of us will do anything for our furry loved ones, not all of us have the cash equivalent of a used car in the bank for when our dog falls ill.

The good news is there a number of financial options out there that can help you cover the cost an expensive vet bill.

Get pet insurance
Did you know that 36% of all households in Australia own a dog but fewer than 5% of pet owners in Australia have pet insurance?
Pet Insurance works just like private health insurance for your pets. Some organisations provide pet insurance plans that may potentially cover, but are not limited to, unexpected expenses such as:

  • Hospitalisation
  • Prescription medicines and drugs
  • Vet consultations
  • Cruciate ligament surgery
  • After-hours emergency
  • Laboratory and diagnostic tests
  • Specialist care
  • Radiology
  • Surgery
  • Emergency boarding

Negotiate a payment plan with your vet
Vet fees can be high because, unlike human treatment, veterinary treatment is not subsidised by Medicare or any government aid. This means that the burden falls directly on the shoulders of the dog-owner to pay the entire bill, not just the gap.
Despite what you may think when you receive a vet bill, your local veterinarian is not a heartless money grabber.  If you are having trouble paying off your vet, ask them if you could work out a weekly or monthly payment plan so that you don’t have to pay the entire cost up front. Most vet clinics will have a payment system in place for when such issues arise.

Raise your own funds or get temporary credit, such as a personal loan
One of the best options to pay off a veterinary bill is to use your personal savings. A straight cash transaction is usually the simplest and the most painless. However, not all of us have the luxury of having large quantities of spare cash lying around and if you’ve exhausted all other options, it might be worth considering applying for a credit card or a personal loan from a reputable financial lender. Lenders can loan you finances from $500 up to $30,000 to cover the veterinary fees. That said, never forget credit cards and personal loans are debts and what you borrow, you will have to repay – with interest.

Seek support from a pet assistance fund
If your credit history isn’t the best and you haven’t got pet insurance, you may be able to apply for financial assistance from a charitable organisation such as the Pet Medical Crisis Fund. These organisations rely on donations from the public and are set up solely to help struggling families, who cannot afford expensive pet surgery, keep their beloved family pet alive.  The drawback is their assistance is not available in every state and they usually only work with affiliated veterinary clinics, so make sure they are operating in your area before applying.

Other options are to ask your employer for a salary advance or even consider getting a second job. While none of these options are particularly desirable, most of us would rather take a second job than see Fido put down.

The fact is there is no need to live a dog’s life yourself after a trip to the vet. Taking out pet insurance is one good way to avoid financial hardship at a time when your emotions are running high, and if insurance isn’t for you – take steps now to financially plan ahead.

 Author: Fiona Hamann
“Fiona Hamann is the senior PR manager at Aussie Personal Loans. She is passionate about all facets of communications including PR, writing, editing, website content, new media, crisis and issues management and branding in the finance industry – home loans, personal loans, credit cards, and insurance.

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