We all love our pets. Cats, dogs, ferrets and furry and feathered babies of all sorts are members of the family. They eat and sleep under the same roof. They give affection when you’ve had a rough day. Your fridge, mantle and social media are full of pictures of your animals clowning around, just like any other family member.
Also like every other member of your family, if your pets get sick, they need medical care. Medical care for a family member – whether they are furry or not – can get expensive. Unlike what you have access to for other members of your family, veterinary insurance is something offered by very few employers.
If your faithful furry friend needs medical care to save its life or daily medication to keep dangerous conditions at bay, costs can add up quickly. Yet, putting a price on your pet’s life isn’t easy. If there are multiple animals involved, veterinary bills can become a real source of stress.
In times of financial uncertainty, medical care for pets can be the furthest thing from your mind and budget, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. You can take steps to avoid these challenges, however. Here are three ways you can take to keep your furry friends safe and your savings account flush.
Stock a veterinary first aid kit
Lots of pet health crises can be handled by a compassionate hand and some basic interventions. Scrapes, burns, and bruises can all be handled without professional intervention. Many accidental ingestion incidents can be solved with an expert consultation and a little bit of caring.
A first-aid kit for pets looks an awful lot like a first-aid kit for humans. Here are items you should make sure you have on-hand:
- Supplies for dealing with cuts and scrapes like gauze, adhesive tape and an antiseptic spray or cream
- For general illnesses, you need a thermometer to check for fever (make sure to get a fever thermometer – small mammals have natural body temperatures between 100 and 103 degrees)
- Allergy Medicine - diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for allergic reactions
- Hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting if necessary
- Activated charcoal or milk of magnesia to protect against accidental poisoning
- Restraining devices - a blanket, a leash and a muzzle
Why a Muzzle? Your pet is in pain and relying on instinct. Muzzling will help you feel more calm and secure, since you won’t be worried about being bitten. That calmness will translate to your pet, who will be easier to tend to when they are a little less panicked.
Before you take any steps to heal your pet, call your vet. Many veterinarians have emergency contact hours where they may be willing to walk you through basic first aid.
The ASPCA also maintains an animal poison control number - (888) 426-4435 - where you can speak to a trained representative. They can tell you if you need to induce vomiting, what dosage of activated charcoal to administer, or if you need to seek in-person veterinary help immediately.
Most veterinarians got into their practice because they genuinely love animals. They want to help your pet feel better. No one – especially your vet – wants to see an animal life lost over finances.
If you’re not sure about your ability to pay, be up front about that. There may be several payment options available to you, such as
- Cash Payment – if you can write a check or pay in cash, the vet won’t have to pay a fee to the credit card company, thus passing that saved cost onto you.
- Online Prescriptions – in the case of ongoing medication, ask your vet for a written prescription so you can shop the medicine around with online pharmacies. There could be a much larger savings.
- Local Charities - ask if your vet is involved in or know of local charities that help fund care for animals in need.
- Payment Plans – if you have been going to this vet for a while, they may feel comfortable extending a payment plan with you or even offer their service at a reduced cost.
Consider pet insurance
“Pet insurance” sounds like a ridiculous luxury good for the mega-rich. In truth, it’s no different than any other kind of insurance that protects against expensive and unexpected costs. Compared to a veterinary emergency, these plans are very affordable. If you have an older pet, it’s especially worth considering.
Every part of veterinary care is expensive. Blood tests on a dog, for example, can easily cost $200. If you need two blood tests in a year. In fact, on average, dog owners spend between $500 and $1,000 each year on veterinary services.
Here are 2 Programs that can help with those unexpected and untimely costs:
- PetAssure - offers a 25% discount on any veterinary services you need at “in-network” veterinarians. There’s no deductible and no limits or exclusions. At $100 per year for one dog, the program offers considerable savings and getting a 25% discount Blood Work, for example, for $100 is an incredible savings.
- Healthy Paws - offers more coverage for more money. 90% coverage for about $230 per year. How much you choose to insure is a matter of personal risk tolerance but getting some form of insurance is a great way to get peace of mind.