When your cat or dog becomes ill and requires surgery, the costs can reach several thousand dollars to cover veterinary exams, anesthesia, surgical monitoring, the surgery itself and any postoperative care required, along with hospitalization. If you cannot afford such a price tag, you have several options in seeking financial assistance, which will allow your pet to get the care he needs.
Many organizations, including the American Animal Hospital Association, offer grants to help pay for your pet's non-elective surgery. If your veterinarian is accredited by the AAHA, the group's "Helping Pets Fund" may donate money to your veterinarian to cover the surgical costs for you if you are facing financial hardship. Other groups, such as Angels4Animals, Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance Program and Labrador Lifeline, offer grants for pet veterinary surgical costs. These groups usually require proof of financial hardship, such as a recent tax return, a letter from your veterinarian and a signed application. Some groups will cover the entire cost of the surgery, while others require you to pay for a portion of it.
Some lenders offer low-interest loans or lines of credit specifically for your pet's health care expenses, including elective, routine and non-elective surgery. CareCredit is a line of personal credit that pays for both human and pet health expenses. Your veterinarian must be a participating provider in the program to accept this line of credit. Lines of credit can be extended for up to 24 months with low to no interest, depending on the surgical expenses involved.
Groups such as In Memory of Magic offer financial aid to needy owners whose pets are facing a life-threatening emergency that requires surgery within 10 days of application. The pet must be spayed or neutered, and the surgery has to be non-elective; funds cannot be used to treat a chronic condition. To apply for help, you must first apply for CareCredit; then, if you do not qualify (and sometimes if you do), In Memory of Magic may provide some or all of the cost of the surgery with documentation from your veterinarian.
Several companies offer pet health insurance for a small premium each month. These plans focus on covering either routine procedures or unexpected costs, such as emergency surgery, or both. Petplan covers only emergency health care, such as non-routine surgery for cats and dogs. The plan, depending on the options you choose, may cover up to 100 percent of surgical costs, minus a deductible that ranges from $50 to $200 per procedure. Monthly costs for this type of plan range from $20 to $60, depending on the type of pet, amount of coverage and your location, as of March 2012. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers its own plan, which covers 90 percent of surgical costs and has a $100 deductible per cat or dog annually. These plans reimburse you, meaning that you will have to pay for your veterinary surgical costs and then wait for a check to be mailed to you.
Companies offering grants for pet surgery usually offer them to specific pets, typically either cats or dogs, with some focus on specific breeds as well. Most grants available cover emergency or non-elective surgeries, not routine care such as spaying, neutering or most dental cleanings. For routine procedures, ask your local animal shelter about low-cost animal services in your area. Depending on your situation, a local vet, or the one that you normally see, may offer to perform the surgery at a discount or for free; others may offer you a payment plan. A vet you have an established relationship with may be more willing to work with you than a new vet would.
- AAHA Helping Pets Fund: Guidelines for Grant Seekers
- Animal Friends Rescue Project: Financial Assistance for Pets
- Angels4Animals: Frequently Asked Questions
- CareCredit: CareCredit Basics
- Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance: Qualifications for Assistance
- The Humane Society of the United States: Having Trouble Affording Veterinary Care?
- IMOM.org: IMOM Financial Aid
- Petplan: How Petplan Works
- ASPCA Pet Health Insurance: 10 Reasons to Choose ASPCA Pet Health Insurance
- surgery image by Allyson Kitts from Fotolia.com