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What to Do if I Can’t Afford a Vet: 5 Tips for People Who Can’t Afford Vet Care

Written by: Lorre Luther

Last Updated on May 17, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

woman holding kitten talking to vet

What to Do if I Can’t Afford a Vet: 5 Tips for People Who Can’t Afford Vet Care


Dr. Ashley Darby Photo


Dr. Ashley Darby

Veterinarian, BVSc

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to what to do if you can’t afford veterinary care for your pet, as much depends on variables such as the type of care needed and where you live. Pet parents can end up needing assistance with veterinary bills in several situations. Just taking care of basics such as wellness visits and vaccinations can cost a pretty penny.

Injured felines can quickly run up bills at emergency veterinarians, and those who aren’t covered by insurance are faced with expensive life-saving medical treatment that can be hard to afford.

Whether you need help paying for basic veterinary care or assistance covering long-term treatment for a severe illness, there are ways to get pets the care they need. Below, you’ll find five tips for people who can’t afford vet care.

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The 5 Tips for Helping You to Afford Vet Care

1. Ask Local Shelters for Advice

two women adopting cats at the shelter
Image Credit: BearFotos, Shutterstock

Shelters and community organizations have a great deal of information about local resources available for pet parents who could use financial assistance. Many also have free and low-cost spay and neuter clinics, and some may even offer low-cost vaccinations and other types of medical care.

2. Explore Options Provided by Veterinary Colleges

Pets needing emergency care and not covered by insurance can sometimes get help through veterinary college assistance programs. Veterinary colleges also occasionally have low-cost clinics and funds to help pet parents pay for medical procedures.

Some local veterinarians participate in the programs at local universities and can be excellent sources of information about resources available through local veterinary colleges.

3. Speak to Your Veterinarian

happy woman and veterinarian doctor with tablet pc computer checking scottish fold kitten
Image Credit: Ground-Picture, Shutterstock

Veterinarians are sometimes willing to work out payment plans, particularly with established clients. Some have agreements already in place with services like Scratch Pay and Care Credit, which you can take advantage of to spread out payments over time.

Make sure to read the fine print before signing on the dotted line and have a clear idea of the repayment terms and the potential penalties for late payments. Veterinarians and shelters sometimes have funds set aside to help clients in these situations; just ask to find out.

4. Look into Crowdfunding

Some pet parents have had luck paying for particularly large one-time bills and recurring ones for expensive long-term treatment with crowdfunding. GoFundMe is a well-established option, and there’s also Waggle, which is dedicated specifically to raising money to pay for pet medical care.

5. Search for Funding and Support

man with cat and phone
Image Credit: SvetikovaV, Shutterstock

It’s possible to find financial help for veterinary care through large national organizations and those that concentrate on providing local assistance.

The Bainfield Foundation’s website has a nice collection of state and national resources for pet parents who need financial assistance, including information about where to find low-cost pet food and funding for various types of medical care. The Best Friends Animal Society has an extensive list of organizations that offer financial help to pet parents.

The Pet Fund, Red Rover, and Frankie’s Friends are well-known organizations that pet parents can apply to for aid. For routine medical issues, it’s possible to locate providers who offer free and low-cost services using online tools such as Pet Help Finder.

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Frequent Asked Questions

Does Pet Insurance Make a Difference in Medical Bills?

It can. Accident-only plans are designed to help pet parents pay bills related to emergencies, such as cats being hit by cars and eating pillows. Accident and illness plans usually cover costs associated with diagnosing and treating severe illnesses and trips to emergency veterinarians.

Accident and illness plans typically don’t reimburse for routine care, so pet parents frequently still pay for wellness visits and dental cleanings. Most accident and illness plans also have waiting periods and preexisting condition exclusions that can leave pet parents with hefty veterinary bills.

When purchasing pet insurance, read your cover carefully, so you know exactly what is included.

Is There a Specific Time When It’s Best to Purchase Pet Insurance?

Signing pets up for insurance when they’re still young has a few benefits; not only are premiums relatively low, but enrolling pets when they’re young and healthy can also lower the chance of medical treatment not being covered later due to the application of preexisting condition exclusions.

Pet insurance
Image Credit:, Shutterstock

What About Pet Food Resources?

Food banks carry pet food, and local organizations dedicated to helping pets and people in need sometimes provide pet supplies as well. There are also dedicated pet food banks in many cities. The Pet Help Finder website has a list of helpful resources for those who are having trouble affording pet food and supplies.

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There are several resources to help those struggling to pay for their pet’s medical needs, from organizations that offer low-cost routine care to funds that provide assistance with veterinary bills.

Shelters are great places to turn to for low-cost and free routine medical care, including spaying and neutering operations and vaccinations. They can also steer pet parents in need in the direction of local providers who may be willing to offer discounted services and funds that can provide financial assistance.

Some veterinarians are willing to work out payment agreements with established clients, and some have signed up with plans that provide third-party financing for veterinary bills that allow pet parents to pay for care over time.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Ground Picture, Shutterstock

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