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How to cope with vet bills

  • October 27 2016
  • Ben Emerson

Pets bring their owners much joy and are very much part of the family – but when they fall ill, it can be very difficult to find the money to pay for their treatment.


The price of veterinary care has increased considerably over recent years to take account of advances in medicines, expertise and technology. While these advances make it more likely that your pet will survive a serious accident or injury, they may mean that you have to do some serious soul-searching when deciding how you are going to pay for it all.

Few of us would take the decision to have our pets euthanised because we could not easily afford their treatment lightly. Here are some ways that may make it easier to pay your vet bills:

Negotiation

Veterinary surgeries are businesses like any other and will compete for your business if they think that you will take your pet elsewhere. Whether you need long-term treatment for your pet or simple routine care (such as annual vaccinations) you should ring around your local vets and ask for quotes. You may have to take your pet in to see the vet to get an accurate quote, but you may be able to do so for free for this purpose.

If your pet requires a prescribed medicine, you do not have to get the medicine from your vet – you can request a written prescription and get the medicines elsewhere for a cheaper price. Unlike NHS prescriptions, there is not a simple, one-price arrangement for each item on your pet’s prescription – you will have to pay whatever the medicine costs, and this price can vary considerably between veterinary practices and dispensing veterinary pharmacies.

In the case of an emergency, or if your pet requires major ongoing treatment and care, you may be able to negotiate a payment plan with your vet. If you explain how much you could realistically afford to pay each week or month, your vet may agree to take payment in instalments. This is more likely to happen if you approach your regular vet, who has taken care of your pets for some time.

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Paying from capital

If you have any savings, these may well end up being eaten up by a hefty vet bill. If you were saving for a holiday, you may have to wait a little longer to go away. Prioritising your pet’s care over your other, non-essential outgoings is part of being a responsible pet owner.

If you do not have savings, though, or if your savings won’t cover the bills, then again it is worth negotiating a payment plan with your vet. If this is not possible then taking out a personal loan may be an option.

A loan is more likely to be granted and have an affordable interest rate if you have a strong credit history – a lender will check your credit report to see if you are a reliable borrower in order to decide whether to lend you the money and, if so, at what interest rate. You can have a look at your own credit score with Credit Angel with a free trial* credit report to see how likely it is that you would be granted affordable credit. There are steps you can take to improve your credit score if necessary, which should make a loan more affordable. Some lenders will also look at your social score report (which you can also see with Credit Angel) to determine from your online social media activity how reliable you are and what sort of personality you have – these factors are surprisingly accurate at predicting whether or not you will repay your debts.

Insurance

This time, it may be too late to take out insurance – most policies will only let you submit a claim after your policy has been ‘live’ for at least 14 days. The cost of pet insurance premiums has increased in line with the average cost of veterinary care, and many people feel that they cannot afford to pay the monthly premiums from their income. However, these monthly premiums may turn out to be less expensive than the monthly repayments on a personal loan, so it is worth shopping round for an affordable insurance policy.

Beware, though, that most policies will exclude care for pre-existing conditions – so if your pet has suffered a particular ailment in the past, the insurance policy is unlikely to pay for treatment for that same ailment in the future.

Animal charities

If you are in receipt of certain benefits (such as income support, council tax or housing benefit) you may be able to have your pet treated free of charge with the PDSA or Blue Cross, or you may be able to receive financial help for their care from the Cats Protection League, Dogs Trust or RSPCA. These charities aim to help pets whose owners cannot afford veterinary care.

With a bit of help, negotiation or affordable credit, your pet can receive the treatment they need and be back to their normal selves in no time.


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