Any owner knows that as well as the usual ongoing costs of pet ownership, such as food and regular preventative treatments for fleas and worms, there is also the chance their animals could require significant veterinary treatment at some point in their lives, and a vet bill can unfortunately end up being thousands of pounds in some cases.
However, there are some ways in which you may be able to get help with your vet bills in the unfortunate event that expensive treatments are required.
One way in which many pet owners choose to minimise the risks of a big unexpected bill is by taking out pet insurance when they first get their pet.
In addition to helping cover unexpected vet bills many of these policies also include benefits such as money towards advertising if your pet goes missing, boarding fees if the owner is unexpectedly taken into hospital and sometimes also third party liability insurance in case your pet causes an accident.
There are many different types of cover, including accident only cover, maximum benefit cover and lifetime cover, so it’s important to make sure that you carefully read and understand the terms and conditions of any policy before taking it out to make sure you know what is and isn’t covered.
Vet bill assistance from charities
For those who don’t already have insurance which covers their pet for veterinary treatment, in some cases they may qualify for help with vet bills from one of the UK’s animal charities.
The PDSA (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) offers free or discounted vet treatment for some pets if their owner is in receipt of certain state benefits e.g. housing benefit, although as the charity does not receive any government funding, they ask owners to make a donation in return for the vet treatment when possible. Find out more at https://www.pdsa.org.uk
Whilst the central RSPCA organisation focuses mainly on the prevention of cruelty and does not usually offer help with owner’s vet bills, sometimes local RSPCA centres (which are not centrally funded) will help those on low incomes with the cost of routine preventative treatments such as neutering their pet, microchipping and sometimes vaccinations. You will need to find and contact your local centre to see which schemes are available in your area. You can find this information at http://www.rspca.org.uk/whatwedo/yourlocal
If you live in Northern Ireland, you may be able to get financial assistance for microchipping or other veterinary treatment from the USPCA, although their main function is in the prevention of animal cruelty. They can be contacted via their website – http://uspca.co.uk/
This charity run a small number of pet clinics in the UK (mainly in the South & Midlands) which offer free or discounted vet treatment to pet owners on low incomes or those in receipt of some means-tested benefits. To find your closest Blue Cross clinic and check availability, visit https://www.bluecross.org.uk
With re-homing centres across the UK, this charity on a national scale offers assistance with the cost of neutering your dog wherever you live in the country and also free microchipping to help owners adjust to the changing legislation making chipping a legal requirement for all dogs from April 2016. You can find out more on their website https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/
Local Independent Animal Rescues/Charities
It’s often the case that local independent animal charities and rescues will also give financial assistance with vet bills for preventative procedures such as neutering and microchipping, so keep an eye out on vet noticeboards and on social media for local rescue charity details and offers.
Local Vet schemes and offers
Some vet practices run special offers at various times of the year on routine services such as vaccinations and flea and worming treatments, or neutering your pets. Some chains offer a ‘vaccination for life’ scheme where for a one-off fee, all future annual booster vaccinations are free of charge, which can help owners save a significant amount over the lifetime of a dog or cat.
It is well worth checking with all of your local vets to see if they have any offers or schemes running for these routine treatments and to compare prices on these to find the best value for money option.
This is a telephone advice service which some people find more convenient or better value for money when they are worried about their pet but are not sure if it requires emergency treatment and their own vet is closed. It’s open 24 hours a day, manned by registered vet nurses and the service charges either a flat fee for the call or alternatively you can pay by the minute for the length of the telephone conversation. Visit their website for more details http://www.vetfone.co.uk/
Spreading the cost of vet bills yourself
Many pet owners choose to set aside a little each month to pay for things such as vet bills if they should unexpectedly crop up.
Some vets, who have a longstanding relationship with clients and their pets, allow people to pay off large vet bills in installments rather than in one lump sum at the time of treatment.
Other pet owners choose to keep a credit card available in case of vet emergencies and can then pay off the bill in installments.
Whichever way you usually pay for veterinary treatment for your pet(s), it’s wise to make sure that you have a plan in place of how you would pay a large bill should the worst happen.