When You Can’t Afford the Vet

A pet parent not being able to afford a veterinary care is an issue I encounter time and time again, especially in the age of the internet where people often post their difficult situations publicly and perhaps reach out for help, even if only for prayers and well-wishes.

But it always leaves me wondering what they ultimately do.

Dog at Vet

Photo Credit: otakuchick via photopin cc

For example, below is a post that I just happened to stumble across a few minutes ago at a site where people simply ask for prayer.  At quick perusal, it looks like most people who post at this site post with a name, but this person chose to post anonymously. (As a note, I cannot remember how I ended up at that particular site – it was linked from somewhere else… just truly a stumble.)

has some pain

12 hours ago by anonymous

Please pray for my little dog, Sparky. The other day, he just started to cry when we would try to pick him up. Whenever he would cry, he would walk around a little before sitting back down, then would look very uncomfortable. He’s been like this for two days, and we are taking him to the vet, however, we were told if they have to do xrays, that will be 235.00, which we don’t have. Please pray that in the morning he feels better, and that they don’t have to do xrays. We love Sparky. He is a Papillon. He only weighs 7 pounds, and is 8 years old.

Pulled from: Peaceful Planet Pets

This is just one of probably thousands of similar posts I’ve seen over the years… people whose pets have an illness or injury, but they just simply cannot afford veterinary care.  I do not blame them – most of us have faced similar financial struggles in our lives, or might even be experiencing such a struggle presently.

But what do they do?  Unless it’s someone you know personally, you rarely get a follow-up.  You do not get to know if their pet got better, if they perhaps borrowed money from family or friends, if they maybe used some credit, or if the animal just continues to suffer for lack of care.  I know that some people end up making the very painful decision to surrender their beloved family member to a shelter or rescue after finding out that it will need care far beyond the scope of their financial means.  Sadly, some even make the decision to euthanize their sick or injured pet.  But again, you don’t often get to know this.

Not knowing the outcome makes me tremendously sad… for both the pets and the parents.  This is one of the many, many things that keep me awake at night.

When our Li’l Girl injured her back in January 2012, we managed to put together the $4,000 it ultimately cost us – that was for emergency visit, CT scan, the surgery, plus her 2-night stay.  Let me tell you… that money was no small potatoes.  But if someone’s daughter was in immense pain and facing possible paralysis; I think that most parents, regardless of financial circumstance, would do whatever it takes to pay for the treatment the child needed.

Li'l Girl in Recovery Pen After Surgery

Giving Doxie-tude in Her Recovery Pen
After Surgery (Jan 2012)

We don’t have human children.  Our dogs ARE our children.  We didn’t hesitate to rake up the amount needed for her surgery because we wouldn’t have hesitated had she been a human daughter.  Watching our girl run around now like nothing ever happened is, most assuredly, the best four grand we ever spent.  And we’d do again in a heartbeat.

So I think about how this person cannot afford the $235.00 for x-rays.  But what if the dog needs even more specialized diagnostic tests?  And then perhaps needs an expensive treatment?  What will s/he ultimately end up doing?  Will the dog remain in pain?  Will the situation get worse?

I’ve seen so many stories of animals that suffer for very, very long time due to lack of medical care.  Injuries, illnesses, infections, growths, etc. that go unchecked and just get worse and worse and worse.

I will wonder about this “anonymous” person and her(?) Papillon, just like I wonder about all the other stories and pleas that I read but never get the follow-up on.  Sometimes I get to reach out to them personally.  Sometimes, like in this case, I don’t.

I can only pray that before letting their pets suffer further, and before making a very painful decision – that they keep reaching out for help and that they research resources they may be able to turn to for assistance.

If you find yourself in a difficult spot and are in need of veterinary assistance:

  • The first step is to ask your vet if they offer a payment plan.  If they don’t, perhaps they can be encouraged to offer one through a company like VetBilling.com.
  • You might also ask your vet if you may be able to do some work for them, such as cleaning kennels, answering phones, walking the dogs, etc. in lieu of cash payment.  An unorthodox approach, but you never know until you ask.
  • Next, contact your local animal welfare organizations and advocacy groups.  Even if they cannot help you directly, they may be able to point you in the direction of other organizations in your area that offer financial assistance for veterinary bills.
  • Also, if you live near a university that offers degrees in veterinary medicine, contact them to see if they offer low-cost services through their programs.  You can search schools by state at the AVMA.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help at a time of need – you might even consider starting your own fundraiser with a platform like YouCaring, GoFundMe, FundRazr, etc.
  • Lastly, many veterinarians accept CareCredit , a financing option specifically for health-related care, including veterinary care for your pet; and/or ScratchPay, an option just for veterinary care.   These are immediate and therefore extremely useful resources.  However, I recommend them only as a last resort because I hate to see people pushed into debt at a time when they are already struggling financially.

There are quite a few non-profit organizations that offer financial assistance for veterinary needs.  Below is an alphabetical list:

Actors and Others for Animals: www.actorsandothers.com
American College of Veterinary Surgeons www.acvs.org
Angels 4 Animals www.angels4animals.org
Bandit’s Bandaid faithbark.com/bandits-bandaid
The Big Hearts Fund (financial assistance for the diagnosis and treatment of canine and feline heart disease): www.bigheartsfund.org
The Binky Foundation: www.binkyfoundation.org
The BirchBark Foundation: www.birchbarkfoundation.org
Brown Dog Foundation (prescription medications): www.browndogfoundation.org
Canine Cancer Awareness: www.caninecancerawareness.org
Cats In Crisis: www.catsincrisis.org
The Dog & Cat Cancer Fund: www.dccfund.org
Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance fveap.org
For the Love of Alex, Inc. fortheloveofalex.org
God’s Creatures Ministry Veterinary Charity: www.all-creatures.org
Gracie’s Mission graciesmission.org
Hearts United for Animals www.hua.org
Help-A-Pet: www.help-a-pet.org
IMOM.org: www.IMOM.org
Magic Bullet Fund (cancer-specific): www.themagicbulletfund.org
MaxFund (for animals with no known owner) www.maxfund.org
The Mosby Foundation: www.themosbyfoundation.org
The Onyx & Breezy Foundation: www.onyxandbreezy.org
Paws 4 A Cure: www.paws4acure.org
Pet Food Bank: www.petco.com
Pet Food Stamps: www.petfoodstamps.org
The Pet Fund: www.thepetfund.com
Pets of the Homeless (pet food and veterinary care assistance for homeless): www.petsofthehomeless.org
RedRover Relief: www.redrover.org
Rose’s Fund: www.rosesfund.org
Shakespeare Animal Fund: www.shakespeareanimalfund.org
Top Dog Foundation “Bentley Grant”: www.topdogfoundation.org 

If you find yourself needing help, reach out and ask.  Your faithful four-legged companions deserve medical care when they need it, and they are completely dependent on you to provide it.  If you know someone who needs help, reach out and lend a hand (or a paw), and spread the word.  No animal should suffer simply for the lack of funds.

If you can afford it, one way to plan ahead for future expenses is pet health insurance.  Monthly premiums can definitely add up if you have multiple pets, and you will have to determine if the monthly expense is cost-effective for your pack.  But if you just have one or two, and you’re wanting to guard against sudden, catastrophic expenses, insurance can be well worth it!  I am hesitant to recommend one insurer over another, but there are many pet insurance review and comparison sites out there to research before deciding on which company and plan would best suit your needs.  The two most important things to know about pet insurance are: 1) no pet insurer covers pre-existing conditions, so if insurance is in your budget, get it before an illness or condition develops; and 2) pet insurance works differently from human health insurance in that you must pay the vet first, then submit a claim to the insurer, and then you are reimbursed.  So if your pet needs an expensive surgery; you will need to pull that money together first, which may mean borrowing.  On the upside, family and friends are often much more willing to pitch in and loan some money to help out when they know you’ll be able to pay them back as soon as you’re reimbursed.  

PLEASE NOTE: This page includes a list of organizations you may contact for help.  Please understand that I am just a regular person and cannot personally offer direct assistance, as much as I wish I could.

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37 Responses to When You Can’t Afford the Vet

  1. What a GREAT post! NEVER give up the ship!!

    It too breaks our hearts to hear such things. We had the same thoughts as you when our Lily ruptured her C2-C3 in her neck. We would go to the end of the earth and back for her. We never did find that money tree growing in the back yard, but thank goodness we have awesome credit and could charge her surgery. All in all, it was $7000. and worth every penny! Surgery was a success and we are blessed.

    I know that not all people are as lucky as me to be able to afford surgery for the little one’s but like you said, there ARE options out there. Right now we are financially helping our furend Benny the Frenchie who is fighting the evil cancer. Our donation wasn’t a big amount, but every penny counts.

    Lily Belle & Muffin recently posted…Power of the Paw AlertMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Oh dear, I didn’t know that Lily had a disc rupture as well. Disc herniations in the neck are SO scary! Thank goodness she recovered!! Li’l Girl’s herniation was in the T13-L1 area… a very common area for it to happen, and she recovered wonderfully after surgery. Nope, no money tree… or bush… or plant. If you find one, do pass on some seeds!
      I love that you guys are helping Benny the Frenchie. Every penny DOES count… and you’re not only helping financially, but you’re helping to spread the word for support!

  2. emma says:

    Some great ideas that you have there! It can get really expensive, really fast, and many pet owners never think or plan for that. We have pet insurance. Some say you can put that money into savings instead but what if your dog gets cancer at age two, you haven’t saved up much yet. Our insurance is not for general care, just other illnesses and injuries. Usually with little mishaps here and there we burn through about 50% of what we pay in a year in premiums, which is not bad and if one of us has a big incident it will definitely pay off and if we never have that incident, it offers Mom peace of mind. We have also given on occasion to a legitimate on line chip in. If there is a will, there is usually a way, you just have to reach out and look. Heck, Mom pays a whole lot more for car insurance that she never seems to use and pet insurance is saving the life of a loved one, not a piece of steel.
    emma recently posted…Cruisin’ and Love | GBGV | Monday MischiefMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      We kept mulling over getting insurance, and we probably should have gotten it “when the getting was good”, so to speak. But since pre-existing conditions aren’t covered by most pet insurance, it would’ve been no use for our LittleBear’s heart issues, etc. For Li’l Girl, some insurance policies will cover for IVDD (intervertebral disc disease), as long as it hasn’t been diagnosed BEFORE getting the insurance. Unfortunately, we waited… then Li’l Girl did end up having a disc herniation. Now that she has had one, it would be nigh-impossible to find insurance that would cover for it now. Still, it might be worth looking into just to see what kind of coverage we could get now.
      I wanted to suggest insurance as an option… a first line of defense, so to speak… but then figured that most people who really struggle to pay vet bills may not have the money each month to pay for insurance… they might not even be able to afford health insurance for themselves. We are at a place now that monthly pet insurance would fit into our budget, but I know that so many are not as fortunate.

  3. Fabulous post. Love your ideas and list of resources. Sharing.
    Sue at Talking Dogs recently posted…Monday Mischief: Dog TV at For Love of a DogMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Thanks for sharing! I really just wanted to encourage people not to give up. There is help out there, sometimes you just have to reach for it.

  4. Great post with lots of great info. We also spent a small fortune on our last dog due to her bone cancer. I joined a group for 3 legged dogs online and often folks would come on the site not knowing if they could afford treatment for their pups. THe admins on the site used to direct them to some of the resources you mention. Another thing they used to recommend (in the case of dogs with cancer) was to try to find a clinical study to enter in order to get the meds and vet appts. for free (or much lower cost). Again, that usually means living near a university though.

    I hope that little Papillon is okay! Sending pawsitive thoughts out to her, wherever she is!
    Jackie Bouchard recently posted…Monday Mischief: Out-of-State MischiefMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      It’s really heartbreaking, especially with something like cancer. You know that you may spend thousands on their treatment, only for the cancer to ultimately win anyway. But if there’s any hope, any at all… you feel like you MUST try. We might be defeated, but we HAVE to try. I understand this. We haven’t faced cancer with our dogs (yet) and we hope we never will, but we know it’s always a possibility… just like it is with us.
      Clinical studies for dogs with cancer can be a great idea if you can find one in your area. You know you’re taking risks with a new treatment, but you’d be taking risks with any treatment, so it’s often worth a shot to get the free/low-cost treatment. Thanks for adding that!

  5. Ann Staub says:

    This is something I too have seen personally working at a vet clinic. I also have had personal problems being able to afford vet care. My last cat was diagnosed with breast cancer. My favorite vet that I worked with at the time said she should have a full mastectomy. She was exclusively and exotic pets vet, but had lots of cats of her own and she really was great. Anyways, she asked our management (who sucked, to be quite frank) about what kind of help they could offer me. The manager told her that I would get my usual discount of half off procedures which I still couldn’t afford. I went ahead and opted to let Kitty live out her days and try to make her as comfortable as I could.

    In my experience, most vet clinics are not willing to do payment plans. Unless maybe you are a favorite client or something. If you can’t afford your pet’s care, the first thing they tell you is to sign up for Care Credit. Care Credit isn’t too bad if you can pay it off in time, there are no added interest fees. I have seen most people who really needed it be declined for Care Credit though. I never did qualify. Part of my job was trying to help people decide which treatments they could afford that would benefit their pet the most.

    Our clinic also had a fund in honor of someone that people would donate to sometimes. Occasionally, doctors would use monies from that fund for clients who needed help.
    Ann Staub recently posted…New Simon’s Cat Video – “Suitcase”My Profile

    • Pam says:

      I kind of thought/hoped you would chime in, since I knew you’d have direct experience with this. It’s a shame that more vet clinics aren’t willing to do payment plans, but I understand why. The risk of people flaking on their payments is probably too high for most practices to take on.
      I know that many vets point right to CareCredit and keep brochures on their counter for clients who may have trouble paying for their pet’s care. I did not realize that so many people were not approved. When we first encountered CareCredit many years ago (I think it’s been around since the late 80s or early 90s), it was made to sound like nearly anyone/everyone would be approved. And maybe that was the case back then, but then they had to tighten their lending standards later due to high default rates or something. From a business perspective, that is certainly understandable – but from a client perspective, it’s obviously disheartening. I would hate for someone to be declined that really needed it.
      I’m so sorry to hear about your Kitty having breast cancer, and I’m very sorry to hear that the management at your job couldn’t do more for you. If I was a vet, I would hope that I could treat all my employees’ pets for free… it would be one of the benefits of working there. Or offer care at a VERY reduced rate, to be paid for by deducting a small amount from each paycheck. I wish they could’ve worked with you better. But you ended up taking the same approach that I wish more people would take, assuming they can handle it. Basically caring for their pet until the end, giving palliative care and making them as absolutely comfortable as possible… which is EXACTLY what we do for humans that have a terminal diagnosis. Sometimes, the pain is absolutely unmanageable… and in that case, the decision to PTS carries more weight. But ultimately, I think people should give the pet as much time as possible, and I’m a big advocate of pets passing at home in a familiar place with loving family around them.

  6. Ann Staub says:

    It is sad that most vets won’t do the payment plan thing, but I do understand why. They are a place of business and if they did that for one person, it’s only fair to offer it to everyone. And then they’d probably never get paid by many people.

    Care Credit works sometimes, but I find the people who need it the most usually don’t get approved. Most of the time, we’d work with them to try and help them out as much as we could. Some vets would anyways..

    I have worked with a few vets who try everything in their power to help out clients with low funds. They were always my favorite 🙂 Some vets I just wanted to strangle because they didn’t seem to have much compassion or understanding in that department. Everyone is different I guess.

    Kitty Kitty Meow Meow enjoyed her time very much until we took her to be euthanized. She lived about 9 months after we found her breast tumor. She was technically my brother’s cat, but when he moved out he didn’t take her because his girlfriend didn’t like cats…
    Ann Staub recently posted…New Simon’s Cat Video – “Suitcase”My Profile

  7. BoingyDog says:

    Wow! Fantastic post and really great resource! I’ll have to keep this one on hand and share it! Vet care is something I find myself talking to all my friends about. It’s one of those things that people just don’t factor in when they get pets. I think people easily forget that pets can get sick too. I’ve used Banfield for years – with my cat, first dog and now Kayo – and while they focus on preventative care, I’ve only been in the situation once where I had to go to a non-Banfield vet to treat something. I push my friends to get pet insurance all the time since the smaller monthly payments can lead to big rewards when the &#^@ hits the fan. Thanks again for the great post!
    BoingyDog recently posted…Burned Puppy’s Misery Turns Into MissionMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Thank you! And yes, a lot of people really don’t think about it. They think food, vaccinations, maybe a little something else here or there, and that’s it. Some don’t even factor in heartworm preventive, flea preventive/control, etc. But you have to think about all of that, plus any health condition or emergency that might come up. If someone can afford pet insurance, they should definitely research their options and really consider it. If not, then try, TRY to put a little aside as often as possible for emergencies. I know a lot of people are living paycheck-to-paycheck… and it’s really hard to put anything at all aside, but pets have health problems come up just like we do, and they must be taken care of. Anything put aside is better than nothing at all. And if you have nothing, you have to be able to swallow your pride and ask for help.

  8. Your tips are great! I appreciate that you offer some solutions instead of judging because people didn’t “plan ahead”. Sometimes it is not as simple as putting money away because they don’t have any. Then there are people like me…terrible at saving money. I have a little socked away but, having a Dachshund, I know that if they had a back injury it could cost me $5,000. I have pet insurance to close the gap but that isn’t chep.
    Jessica@YouDidWhatWithYourWeiner recently posted…Where to Get What’s Inside My Hiking Backpack and WinnerMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Thanks! And no, I don’t want to be judgmental. There was a time when I would read stories and want to scream at people out of frustration. I’ve had many thoughts like, “If you can’t afford veterinary care, then you just shouldn’t have pets.” But then I had a lightbulb moment and realized that thinking/saying the above sentence ultimately equates to this: “Poor people don’t deserve the loving companionship of a pet.” Wow. Talking about feeling like a piece of crap. So yeah, my days of judgment turned after having that realization. That doesn’t mean I’m okay with people taking on pets that they can’t afford willy-nilly, but it does mean that if a person has a pet and they are financially struggling… people should reach out to help, not judge.
      No, insurance isn’t cheap… and unfortunately we didn’t get it before Li’l Girl’s disc herniation… which means we couldn’t get anyone to cover her now… well, at least not for anything disc-related. They would consider her IVDD a pre-existing condition and would exclude it from her coverage. Paws, fingers, and toes crossed that she never has another herniation… but if she does, it’s on us.

  9. You offer some great tips. CareCredit is a great program. We used it to pay for Thunder’s bloat surgery which was in excess of $4,200. The nice thing, it was 6 months same as cash so we didn’t have to take it out of savings. We ate a lot of mac & cheese that summer, but it was worth it….lol. I know the Humane Society around here offers low cost vet services which is nice for those who don’t have the money.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Am I A Senior Dog?My Profile

    • Pam says:

      Yes, I know if you can pay off CareCredit quickly, you can save significantly on interest. I believe they have different programs for paying off your account in different lengths of time. That’s great that you were able to use it for Thunder’s bloat surgery. (Bloat is SO scary, so glad Thunder made it through with flying colors!)
      And yes, sacrificing on meals, etc. is worth it for our furry ones 😉

  10. hilybee says:

    Very good ideas and resources! I wish we would have known about these when our first dachshund was diagnosed with IMT (Immune mediated thrombocytopenia). Basically, his immune system was attacking the red cells and platelets causing his body to shut down and attack itself. We paid as much as we could financially handle (we ate Romen noodles for days) and then asked our family for help. Luckily our family was in a position they could help us. Our vet bills after two pet-ER visits, steroids, three blood transfusions and four oxygen treatments were well over $5,000. We struggled for months after his diagnosis, but we didn’t care. We did everything we could to pay off our bills and get him the best care in Kentucky. He lived for another year and a half after his diagnosis (most dogs don’t even make it through the night). He died this year in February because his body shut down completely and his heart just couldn’t handle it. We were grateful for the time we had with him and never ever did it cross our minds to put him down instead of paying for his bills. Like your family, our pets are our children. Our second dachshund is super healthy, but we still have insurance and go to Banfield pet hospital where we pay a monthly fee instead of a lump-sum every time we take him in. We’ve saved oodles with our insurance (covers everything from typical care to severe disease/illness) and definitely recommend it for those who can afford it. Thank you so much for showing everyone the options that are available! Sharing and book-marking.
    hilybee recently posted…Silent MondayMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Oh dear… I’m so, so sorry to hear about your previous Dachshund’s devastating condition. Bless you for doing everything you could to prolong his life and give him a fighting chance. Given his prognosis, many people would’ve opted to put him down or to forgo treatment and let nature take its course. But I know how it is to never want to give up… to have that “whatever it takes” mentality. We would do anything for our sweet ones, and we love to hear of others who feel the same.
      I’ve always known about Banfield, but have only recently heard about their Wellness Programs. Those seem to be a great idea (even better than pet insurance) if people can afford it and if they like/trust the vets at their local Banfield. I wish more vet practices would offer similar Wellness plans. Maybe it will catch on!

  11. Connie says:

    I think you failed to mention the most important thing. People who have pets should expect that at some point they are going to end up at the vet needing hundreds of dollars worth of tests or treatments, and as such they should start a savings account for their pets. Think of it as like paying insurance fees, make it another bill you have to pay. If you are fortunate to not ever have to use it before the pet dies than great, you have money to spend on something else – or to keep for a future pet.. but it is a quick and easy way to assure you have the ability to take care of a beloved member of your family.

    • Pam says:

      I fail pretty often, so no surprise there. 😉 I totally agree that people who have pets should expect that at some point their pet could have some issues that will require extensive and expensive veterinary care, and that they should save as much as they possibly can for when that situation arises. People should definitely save if they can afford to. The reason why I did not think to mention that in my post is because the post was geared more towards people who are having a rough time financially and don’t have savings accounts for themselves, let alone their pets. Or perhaps they DID, but those accounts had to be drained just to get by. This is a tough economy and unforeseen things happen, such as job loss and medical circumstances. What savings people may have in ANY account often gets wiped out. It’s the same reason I didn’t mention pet health insurance. Pet insurance is an awesome thing, and if you can afford it, go for it. But people who are struggling financially may barely be affording (if at all) health insurance for themselves. Elderly people who just get by on Social Security would have a tough time having a savings account for their pet. Does that mean that they don’t deserve to have a companion pet? Of course not. I try to look at things from a compassionate standpoint, and like I say, the post was written with financial struggles and burdens in mind. People who are flush enough to have a savings account for their pets or who can afford pet insurance don’t generally panic when expensive veterinary care is needed. It’s not comfortable, and they may need to sacrifice a little, but they don’t panic. People who are living paycheck-to-paycheck are unfortunately in a position of panic. This was written with them in mind.
      I don’t mean to take away from your suggestion. It’s an excellent suggestion and something that people should definitely do if they can manage it. I just wanted to explain why it didn’t occur to me to include it.

  12. Jodi says:

    What a really great post, I had no idea there were so many places to turn. I think I’ll book mark this just in case I hear of someone in need.
    Jodi recently posted…Follow-Up Friday Has FleasMy Profile

  13. Hi Pam, I found and read your post with great interest after doing a Google search by typing in the whole sentence, “would you like your veterinarian to offer payment plans?”

    I’m a dog and horse mom, so I know all about how vet bills can hit hard. I don’t have human children, so for me my animals ARE my children, and I can’t imagine having to be forced to decide to put one of them down due to financial constraints. That being said, I am by no means well off, and it has been a challenge to find a way to pay for some of the emergency procedures my dogs have had to have over the years.

    Recently (as of June 2013), I found myself with the opportunity to go to work for my partner’s company, which does electronic payment processing. One of the first things I wanted to do was come up with a way that we could manage payment plans for veterinarians. These would be no-interest payment plans, not through a finance company like CareCredit. What our company would do is simply set up a monthly automatic debit to checking, savings or a credit card. That way the vet has more peace of mind knowing the money will come in, and it is much easier for a pet parent to afford installment payments for expensive or emergency procedures.

    The other nice thing about this is it does not involve a credit check…it is harder and harder for people to qualify for CareCredit these days, but that does not mean these people do not, or would not pay, if they had another payment option.

    There is no cost to the veterinary client, and the cost to the vet practice is also low…CareCredit takes up to 10% of the vet’s fee. Our company would take 1 – 2%.

    So, I’m hoping we can get some traction with this program. We have had a few of our local vets (in Maryland) come on board with us to begin offering payment plans. Most of them already offer CareCredit, but they will be offering our program in addition to that.

    What’s been challenging for me is that we are a small business, and just marketing ourselves and getting the word out isn’t easy! So, if all of you who’ve posted here would like your vet to offer a payment plan, please let them know about us. Our web site is http://www.ebcs-solutions.com. Maybe if more vets had clients coming to them and asking for payment plans…and they knew there was a company out there that can set up the plans and automatically deduct small payments each month…maybe they’d consider doing it? I know there is a vet tech who has posted here…what do you think?

    Anyway, thanks for letting me tell you guys about us. This is a topic near and dear to my heart for personal reasons. I’m just hoping I can turn something personal into a solution for both vets and their clients. If anyone wants to reach me directly to talk about this, my work e-mail is suzannec@ebcs-solutions.com, and my phone number is 410-252-9206 or 800-766-1918 if you are not in Maryland.

    • Pam says:

      Hi Suzanne – thank you so much for contributing to this post! I absolutely love the idea of your company’s payment plan services, and I think that all vets who could afford to take incremental payments would be interested in it.
      When I first wrote this post, I actually didn’t realize how many vets didn’t take payment plans (other than the option of CareCredit). Since then, I’ve talked to so many people who say that they’ve asked their vets about it, and the response is always no. So I thought about it and understood why. I realized that with facility costs, employee salaries, the ever-increasing cost of supplies, etc., some vets (especially new vets or those that run their practice on a low profit margin) need the full payment for services right away. They cannot afford to receive monthly payments, even if those payments are guaranteed. Pretty much every vet takes CareCredit because they (the vet practice) get the full payment up front (well, minus CareCredit’s fee), and CareCredit is the one left to collect on the payments.
      But established practices or those with lower costs or higher profit margins could afford to take monthly payments, especially if someone else was managing the billing, collection, etc. and that’s where your company takes over. I know it’s hard for small businesses to really get the word out and market their services. Postcards are about the cheapest route for reaching people who might not otherwise be looking for what you have to offer. Your website has all the details, so the postcards’ main objective would be to get the vet to check out the website and look further into your services. If you have business cards or postcards (or any marketing materials), I’d certainly be happy to distribute them to local vets in my area when I’m out and about. Why would I do this? Because I know that there are many people who forgo much-needed veterinary care for their pets simply because their budget is tight and they just can’t afford it. The idea of an animal suffering simply for a lack of funds breaks my heart. So I’d be thrilled to see more vets in my area offer payment plans… which is why I’d be happy to help market here.
      I wish you the very best of luck in expanding your client base. Thank you again for commenting here!

  14. Pam,

    It was so great to get your reply! Thanks for your enthusiasm and encouragement. If you have a direct e-mail address I can e-mail you some information, or if you want to contact me privately, I can actually mail hard copies of flyers to you.

    You are very right in your point that some vets can’t afford to take payment plans. But the fact remains that there are just an increasing number of situations in which veterinary clients cannot pay their bills in full. If CareCredit isn’t offered or they don’t qualify, then what is the client (and vet) to do? What I hope is to capture the people who fall in that gap and offer a solution to them, and to the vet. Many vets, when faced with this situation, will resort to holding post-dated checks or creating promissory notes with clients, but that is a system that hasn’t worked very well for them. Because it is usually an informal agreement, even if a client is well-intentioned, they may stop paying, forget to pay on time, etc.

    And the nightmare for the vet becomes keeping track of those accounts receivable and staying on top of them. What our business can do is manage the payment plans entirely, follow up on any failed transactions, send the late notices and make phone calls if necessary, etc…taking all that administrative burden off the veterinary office staff. Also, this would hopefully prevent the need for the vet to turn some accounts over to collection agencies…which is costly to the vet, not just financially, but in terms of their relationship with their client.

    So…we are not trying to replace CareCredit, or to get vets to sacrifice payment in full upfront. The best scenario for the vet is that clients pay in full for services rendered. But we all know what the reality is…there are exceptions to this, for legitimate reasons. Even if you have pet insurance (which I do, having always had schnauzers who as a breed are predisposed to very expensive bouts of pancreatitis, usually on weekends when the only option is emergency vet!), you still have to pay your bill and then wait for reimbursement.

    I remember when one of my schnauzers had a particularly nasty bout with this back in 2011. She was hospitalized for nearly a week, and the bill was almost $4,000. I submitted to insurance and was reimbursed a small portion of that, but in the meantime I had to put the bill on the one credit card I had that had a zero balance. I maxed it out (at 21% interest), and am still paying off that balance, 3 years later. Ouch! And I hate to think what I would have done had I NOT had that one credit card.

    Anyway, I’m blathering on here…sorry!! Whatever you or your followers can do to help get the word out about us…well, we would be so appreciative of that!! In the meantime, I hope you will be returning to blogging. I know from reading earlier posts that you had been taking a break, which sounds like it was well-deserved and much needed. But, I just want to tell you that you have an awesome blog and I hope you will keep writing. Your prose is articulate, heartfelt and so easy to read…it just flows. It is like having a conversation with a friend! I don’t really know personally about the pressures of the blogging life/career, but I can sort of imagine, as I sit here in this job trying to write sales materials, learn about SEO, create new content…ugh. It’s quite a challenge, and that is only part of my job.

    But I do hope you will keep at it! It was such a pleasant surprise to come across your blog, and I read so much more than just the post about the affordability (or non-affordability) of vet care. I really enjoyed all of it!

    All the best and I look forward to hearing from you!


  15. Kelli says:

    This post is upsetting, yet at the same time understandable.

    I’m disabled and have been waiting a SS hearing for two years. I have a 9 1/2 year old doxie that I had to have euthanized two days ago. I won’t even go into what his vet bills have amounted too over the years,from intestinal twist, to paralysis that nearly cost me my home, using all my rent and bill money in an effort to save his life and this was BEFORE I was disabled.

    We have been living on the good graces of others,particularly when it came to my boy. He has had multiple issues this last year, including a surgery, and I would have sold myself on a street corner in an effort to save his life. The levels of humility, criticism and judgment I’ve had to face, in the fear of losing my best friend, has been excrutiating…just to get his care. While there are places out there, that ‘can’ help, there are many, many stipulations that one must follow and many more that can not be met. I tried credit but my credit was poor due to debt and a separation from an abuser, who abandoned us and left me with six to raise alone. My boy was there the whole time. He was my legal companion pet as I have PTSD and depression.

    Were in not for his current vet, my boy might not have lived through his paralysis. The sickening response of vets and vet hospitals everywhere, whose quick conclusion was a 5000 dollar surgery to save his life, gave me a whole lot of clarity about what this is WITHOUT any mistaken notions: A BUSINESS.

    Well, a ‘business’ is not concerned with your pet unless you have a credit card or cash payment to front to them. Were it not for many generous donations,given my own story, in yet one MORE effort to save my boy’s life, I would not have been able to afford even his euthanasia, let alone his cremation and ashes.

    My boy had lymphoma and the same vet for seven years. But that never meant ONE TIME during all of those seven years where ‘mercy’ wasn’t going to happen WITHOUT PAYMENT.

    Its sickening enough that human life is not valued in this country. It’s worse when that human life, loves a pet. He was my child and my loss is insurmountable, and I’m extremely grief stricken.

    And filled with GUILT over what I may have missed and all along I could NEVER afford his care.

    I think it’s great that you want to know the follow up story and that it keeps you awake at night, but what should be MORE disturbing to you is a lack of truthful information in how expensive vet care is, and it’s not about a couple of hundred in x rays. I couldn’t save my dog’s life because chemo would have been expensive and he had suffered ENOUGH the entire year, WITH vet care.

    While this reads like caring, is it really? There are now more poor people in this country, many who have EMPATHY and love these pets as family. When you see them weeping because they have to make the GOD forsaken decision to put their pet down because they cannot ‘afford’ it, consider that what we need to have is a system that offers LOW COST pet insurance to the poor, ‘rescues’ have their own BUSINESS to run and while they care about the dogs in their care, they also make money from receiving a grief stricken owners pet because they can’t ‘afford’ to take care of it. How shallow this is.

    I’ve been through all of the above. There is nothing now, that can help me through my grief and guilt. I loved my boy as much as my own children. His absence leaves a horrible void in my life….

    So here’s one that you haven’t ‘followed’ but to which the ending should sound all so familiar to you.

    Please walk a mile in my shoes.
    Kelli recently posted…Gratitude And ChangeMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      I have written a reply to you, but have decided to send it to your email and not post it here because it is very, very long and includes many personal details that I would rather not share in an open setting. I just need you to understand that this post was very much written from a place of caring and that I *have* walked in shoes very, very similar to yours. I feel like you have judged me to be someone who has no understanding of financial struggle and no understanding of deep loss, and both of those things couldn’t possibly be further from the truth. That is all I will say here.

  16. Please we need help our dog needs a lung surgery and we don’t have the money to pay it! We already pay almost $2000 and we don’t want to put him down 🙁 what can we do, we live in California

    • Pam says:

      I have replied to you directly by email.

      • Hi Pam and Azucena,

        I just read Azucena’s comment, and I know how she feels…I know you do, too, Pam.

        Just wanted to let you guys know, please tell your veterinarians about us. We set up no-interest payment plans so people can afford to make installment payments over time for large vet bills. We are based in Maryland, but we can do payment plans for any veterinarian in the United States. You can give them our web site address, https://www.ebcs-solutions.com/vetequine. The more veterinary clients ask for payment plans and encourage their vets to use us, the more we increase the affordability of veterinary care. We just had one of our large emergency animal hospitals sign on with us, which is SOOOOO gratifying! I think we are going to be able to help a lot of people when they are facing a costly vet bill, and they don’t want to put their pet down just because they don’t have cash upfront, or they don’t qualify for CareCredit. We offer an alternative, and it doesn’t cost the vet practice ANYTHING to offer our plans.

        So please spread the word…I would love for this to “go viral” so we can help as many pet owners as possible!


        P.S. Pam, how are you doing? Thanks for your encouraging words about what I’m trying to do with our payment plans. It’s been a while since we were in touch. Hope you and the weiners are good! 🙂

        • Also please let me know if you’d like me to e-mail you a brochure that you can take to your veterinarian. I would be happy to. Or I can send via postal mail, too.

        • Pam says:

          Hi Suzanne, I’m sorry it’s been so long since we’ve been in touch. I’ll be sending you an email later.

        • Sh says:

          If a client cancels payments, who ends up holding the bag; your company or the veterinary hospital? I’d like

          • Suzanne Cannon says:

            Clients cannot cancel their payments. They enroll in a payment plan agreement, which is a contract. If our company attempts to process a client payment and it returns or declines, we contact the client directly to recover payment, and will undertake any collection activity, including reporting to the credit bureaus, if necessary. However, I am happy to say we have not yet encountered such a situation with any of our veterinary clients. We also offer a credit check tool which helps the veterinarian assess the degree of risk in offering extended payment terms to the client. Our intention is that no one is left “holding the bag,” as you say, other than the client who enrolls in the payment plan.

  17. Anne says:

    In the first post that drew an analogy between a human child and a pet. Your human child would most probably be covered by medical insurance and even if not, there would me many options with little or no cost. To criticize others that do not have the money when you don’t know them or their circumstances is beyond my scope of understanding. You make it sound like they don’t care as much or that you are somehow a superior pet owner. Don’t be so judgmental because someday that just might be you, Karma has a way of teaching you lessons the hard way.

    • Pam says:

      Did you read the ENTIRE post? If you did, then I have to say that you missed the point entirely. I was not/am not judging or criticizing anyone at all. The whole point of the post was about encouraging people to reach out for help when they need it.
      I see that you didn’t sign up to receive replies to your comment, so you probably won’t even see this.

  18. Great post! To change the system of animal care it requires a lot of effort. I see the only way out as learning as much as possible about how to care best about your particular pet and communicating these ideas beyond to help others

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