Pet Financing: Compare Veterinary Loans & Payment Plans
Pets can be quite expensive. For example, between food, vet bills and other miscellaneous expenses, most dog owners will spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000 - $35,000 over the course of their pet’s expected lifespan – 6 to 14 years, depending on the breed – according to estimates from the American Kennel Club and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Cat owners don’t have it much better, facing expected annual costs of around $670, which would equate to roughly $10,050 over a feline’s 15-year average lifespan.
It’s therefore no surprise that the 160 million pet-owning U.S. households are projected to collectively spend $60.59 billion on pet care in 2015, after shelling out $266.5 billion in the previous five years. Furthermore, it’s obvious why a flourishing pet financing industry has cropped up to help people afford the sometimes-exorbitant costs associated with caring for our furry, feathered and scaled friends.
In this guide, we will help you understand the financing available to both current and prospective pet owners as well as compare the most popular offers to help you find the best deal.
You can obviously finance pet care costs with a standard personal credit card or loan. But if you aren’t satisfied with the terms you’re able to get approved for, a number of lenders offer pet-specific loans and lines of credit. These financing offers are generally targeted to people with fair or bad credit, which means they could help you care for your pet when no one else will, but the cost may be steep.
Below you can find a breakdown of the most popular pet financing plans available to consumers.
|Provider||Type Of Financing||Minimum Credit Required||Amount Available||APR||Fees||Repayment Timeline||What It Covers|
|Credit Card||Bad Credit||$2,000||26.99% (v)
Promotional plans of 6 – 60 months may also be available
(Note: may include deferred interest!)
|No Annual Fee
Late Payment Fee: up to $35
Spay and neutering
|Credit Card||Fair Credit||N/A||26.99% (v)
Promotional plans of 6 – 60 months may also be available
|No Annual Fee
Late Payment Fee: $35
|Monthly||“Pet care, supplies, and out-of-pocket expenses at participating veterinary practices”|
|Loan||Fair Credit||$1,000 - $100,000||13.99% - 29.99%
|Late Payment Fee: $15 - $25||Up to 60 months|
|Loan||Bad Credit (with co-signer)||$1,500 - $20,000||8.99%+||N/A||Up to 72 months||Charges from a licensed veterinarian|
|Loan||Bad Credit||$1,000 - $10,000||6% - 29%||N/A||12 – 72 months||Purchase of animals
|Closed-End Lease||Bad Credit||$300 - $5,000||None||Purchase Fee: 15% of original lease amount||1,3,6 and 9 month terms||Pet Purchase|
|Credit Card||Credit score depends upon the specific care provider||Limit depends upon the specific care provider||9.99% after promotional period||Late Payment $37
0% promotional plans of 6 – 36 months are available
(Note: may include deferred interest!)
|Monthly||General veterinary care
Dental, allergy and arthritis treatment
Veterinary Assistance Programs
There is a wide range of animal charities that may be able to help you afford certain veterinary bills, either in the form of financial assistance or by connecting you with organizations that provide funding support. We recommend checking with your local animal shelter as well as looking into the resources listed below.
|CorgiAid||Breed-Specific||A non-profit group providing financial assistance to people who foster Corgis and Corgi-mixes and help them find permanent homes.|
|Special Needs Dobermans||Breed-Specific||Helps people with senior or special needs Dobermans raise money to pay for their care.|
|Labrador Harbor||Breed-Specific||Provides financial assistance to families and non-profit groups to pay for the medical care of Labrador retrievers living in California.|
|Labrador Lifeline||Breed-Specific||A non-profit group that aids owners and rescuers of Labrador retrievers pay for their care.|
|LabMed||Breed-Specific||A non-profit group that has paid for the medical care of more than 1,300 rescued Labrador retrievers since 1996.|
|WestieMed||Breed-Specific||Provides financial support for rescued West Highland White Terriers in need of medical care.|
|Helping Harley Cancer Treatment Grant||Working Dogs||Provides $1,000 grants for working dogs to seek cancer treatment.|
|Assistance Dogs Special Allowance Program||Working Dogs||Funded through the California Department of Social Services, this program provides a $50 monthly stipend to owners of guide, signal or service dogs.|
|Feline Veterinary Assistance Program (FVEAP)||Illness-Specific||A non-profit organization currently providing financial assistance only for the treatment of Vaccine Associated Sarcoma in cats.|
|Diabetic Cats in Need||Illness-Specific||A non-profit group that helps pay for the veterinary bills associated with a cat’s diabetes diagnosis.|
|The Pet Fund||General||A non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial assistance to owners of domestic animals in need of veterinary care.|
|Humane Society of the United States||General||One of the country’s preeminent pet rescue and advocacy groups, the Humane Society has a branch in most major cities and is a great source of information and resources.|
|American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals||General||The ASPCA works to rescue animals from abuse and pass legislation aimed at animal protection. It also provides numerous helpful resources for pet owners.|
|Friends of Animals||General||Advocates for animal and environmental rights and performs spay/neutering procedures.|
Money-Saving Pet Care Tips
Like any major expense, there are myriad ways that savvy pet owners can defray the cost associated with keeping their dogs, cats and other animals both happy and healthy. Here are some of the best ways to do so:
- Adopt From A Reputable Shelter: There is little reason to purchase a dog or a cat these days, considering that 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 cats enter shelters each year, with 2.7 million being euthanized, according to the ASPCA. What’s more, you’ll only have to pay a small adoption fee when getting a pet from a shelter, compared to the $500 - $3,000 price tag for a pet purchased from a private breeder.So, save a life and do your wallet a favor by adopting your next pet.
- Know Your Breed’s Risks: Due to the way in which they were bred over the years, certain types of dogs and cats have specific breed-related problems. For example, Labradors often have issues with hip dysplasia and bulldogs are prone to breathing problems. Knowing what to watch out for will make preventive care easier, in addition to giving you foresight regarding potential major expenses down the road.
Purchase Pet Insurance: Insurance, of any type, is designed to protect the holder from unknown financial risks. In return for regular payments, the insured enjoys coverage against certain predetermined events that could prove debilitatingly expensive without such a safety net. That’s true for auto insurance, home insurance, life insurance and pet insurance alike.However, while 95% of home owners have insurance, 70% of adults have life insurance and all drivers are legally required to have auto insurance, only about 3% of dogs and 1% of cats are covered by pet insurance, according to the American Pet Products Association.
The average dog insurance policy will run you around $30 per month, based on numerous estimates, while insuring a cat costs about $10 less. And though insuring your pet is ultimately your choice, make sure to review the cost of common veterinary procedures before deciding.
- Borrow Supplies If Possible: If you know someone with an older pet, ask them if you can borrow any supplies that are no longer needed. You might be able to score a crate, a bed, collars, leashes, etc.
- Shop Online For The Best Prices: Pretty much any pet supply can be purchased online. By comparing costs across multiple websites, you’ll be able to find the best deal. Signing up for a service like Amazon Prime that provides free shipping and expedited delivery might be worthwhile as well.
- Start A Pet Emergency Fund: Having a financial safety net is crucial. That’s why we recommend that people with existing debt set aside some savings before beginning to concentrate on paying off amounts owed. But, since you’ll want to make sure to have enough money put away for various types of financial emergencies that might befall you, so it’s a wise idea to segment these emergency funds across multiple accounts. Having a general emergency fund and a pet emergency fund, for example, will give you increased visibility in terms of your ability to afford both major car repairs and major veterinary surgery, for example.
- Plan For Increased Costs In Old Age: Just like with humans, your pet’s medical needs will increase as it ages. There will be more trips to the vet, more medicines and various other expenses you may never have thought of.For example, my Black Labrador, Missy, lived until she was 15, and during the last few years we had to purchase a harness collar because she had problems with her hind legs as well as lots and lots of “pee pads” due to her lack of mobility and spotty bladder control. But she was happy (and quite bossy) until the end, and that’s all that matters!
- Mind Your Pet’s Diet: All animals need a healthy diet in order to live long, healthy lives. So, research the ingredients of your pet’s food and see what experts recommend. This will help you identify the value sweet spot between cost and product quality.
- Go For Regular Check-Ups: Preventive care is important for both people and pets. That means you should make sure to schedule regular vet visits so you can nip and potential problems in the bud. Don’t just put it off because going to the vet is an ordeal for both you and your pet.One interesting thing to look into in that regard is the availability of in-home vet services. My dogs’ veterinarian comes to our house, and being in their own environment really helps keep them calm.
- Take Daily Walks: Exercise keeps the body healthy and limber (both yours and your pet’s). Regular walks – whether a mile or just around the block – will therefore do wonders for all involved, including your wallet.
Ask The Experts: Analyzing Veterinary Lending
We turned to a panel of leading pet care experts, including a number of veterinary professionals, for more insights into how to better afford vet bills and the nature of the veterinary lending landscape. You can check out their bios and responses to the following questions below.
I would say that probably one of the best things that people can do to help make pet care less expensive is to make sure that the pet gets preventative care, which is what veterinarians try to do as much as possible as far as having animals stay current on vaccinations [and] making sure they take whatever kind of preventative products are recommended for whatever geographic area they happen to live in – whether that’s fleas, ticks, heartworm, things like that. Trying to keep up with those types of things will reduce costs just because it’s cheaper to prevent than to treat patients. It may seem fairly basic, but trying to keep your pet at a healthy weight, feeding them nutritious food, exercising your pet – these might not be the kinds of things you’re looking for, but they’re what I try to focus on.
Does more expensive necessarily mean better when it comes to pet food?
You don’t necessarily have to buy the most expensive dog food on the market. In a lot of cases, veterinarians don’t sell those types of foods, so it’s more of a recommendation I’d made for when you go to the pet store or wherever you buy your pet supplies. There may be some other foods that you could buy that your pet would be just as healthy on but wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. … On the other hand, I do feel that since pet feed is the majority of what the pet’s going to be eating, you want to make sure it is good quality.
We then moved to more in-depth medical issues.
What types of financial assistance is available to pet owners?
A. There are groups who are in business to loan money to qualified pet owners (application is necessary) to help pay vet bills. Even local banks are sometimes able to offer pet specific loans. Ask any vet office and they will typically have information on what is available to pet owners.
B. Some vet offices will extend credit or offer payment plans, but that is less and less common. Vet BUSINESSES who have done that routinely find themselves carrying way too much debt. I know some vet practices who have found themselves carrying monthly debt of unpaid bills in excess of $50K. You can’t sustain a business that way. The cost of overhead in a vet practice trying to provide quality health care is extremely high.
C. More and more I think people will find foundations established in part to help subsidize vet health bills–some vet practices may have funds established from donations for this purpose. There also exist non-profit rescue groups who will help subsidize vet medical costs for animals that are homeless but adoptable if their health needs can be met.
Should people buy pet insurance?
I think the true value of pet insurance is debatable. I have heard opinions pro and con. As a vet specialist my experience has been that many people who have pet insurance have been disappointed when they find out that their claims have been denied…I have seen this time and again. I think it very important that people who are considering pet insurance become intimately familiar with the policies they are considering buying. … I personally think it would be a better idea for people to establish a kind of Health Savings Account for their pets. When you get a new pet, or in anticipation of getting a new pet, start putting away a bit of money each month in a specific account designated for unanticipated vet medical bills/costs.
Finally, Dr. Maguire offered some tips for pet owners living on a tight budget:
1. Realize the realistic costs associated with responsibly owning a pet before you pick up that new puppy.
2. Budget a part of your savings each month into a fund set aside for unexpected vet med costs.
3. Thoroughly research your pet insurance options before purchasing a policy….or you might be disappointed
4. Look to your community of pet owners to share walking and boarding costs….do it yourself community sharing
5. MOST IMPORTANT: EDUCATE yourself when faced with big medical decisions and big medical bills. Don’t just rely on what you are told….seek second opinions, seek alternative options, seek a more thorough understanding of the medical conditions facing your pet. The more you educate yourself as a pet owner, the better you will be prepared to deal with the important and costly medical decisions on behalf of the pet you love.
There are several things a pet owner can do when living on a tight budget. Probably the first question to ask is ‘can I afford a pet?’ I don’t mean for this to sound callous, and pets are an important part of our family and important companions; however, it is worse to have a pet and to not be able to provide adequate care than it is to not own a pet.
When searching for a pet, decide on what type of pet fits the circumstance – a cat, a dog, a bird, etc. The associated costs for care are different depending on the type of chosen pet. Also, choose wisely as to what breed of pet – especially with dogs. It costs a lot more to take care of a Great Dane than a Chihauhau – especially with feeding, living space, activity, etc. Pure breeds are more likely to have medical problems than mixed breeds. Acquire your pet from the local humane society rather than buying from a breeder.
[You should also] shop around – but in particular find a veterinarian and practice that you like and that work with you. … Oftentimes, you ‘get what you pay for.’ For example, you may be able to buy a food that is cheaper than a name brand; however, if the cheaper food is less digestible and less nutritious, then the pet will need to eat more and you could not only spend more money on the cheaper food but it would be less beneficial for your pet.
[Finally], prevent the prevent-able. If you live in an area where heartworm disease is prevalent, then the cost of preventing heartworm infection is much less than treating an active infection. This is true with many other infectious diseases as well. Factor the pet into your budget and have a “pet fund” where you can put away small amounts of money to build up the account in case of an emergency.
Too often it seems that consumers have to choose between paying exorbitant veterinary costs and putting down their pets as a result of treatable ailments. What kinds of financial assistance are available to pet owners? Is it a good idea for folks to buy pet insurance? Are steps being taken in the veterinary world to make pet care more affordable?
I don’t think ‘exorbitant’ is the right word. For example, cancer therapy may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in human medicine but only cost hundreds to thousands of dollars in veterinary medicine. The perception that veterinary costs are exorbitant is probably based on the fact, at least in part, that insurance pays for human medical costs; therefore, people don’t really see (or don’t care to actually find out) the cost of their care. The ‘cost’ to them is their deductible. It’s only when we have ‘out of pocket’ expenses that the cost actually hits home. Veterinary medicine does not have this system, even with pet insurance. It appears to me that many pet insurance policies are still pretty limited [compared] to what is done in human medicine. Having a pet as part of the family carries a cost. Veterinarians want to do the best that we can for our patients; however, there is a cost of doing business that cannot be ignored. If veterinarians under-charged or did not charge, then they would be out of business. Some things that pet owners can do are to investigate pet insurance to see if it is worth the investment and to save money in a ‘pet account’ to help with unexpected larger veterinary bills. Many veterinary practices and university practices use Care Credit, which allows owners, if approved, to pay larger bills.
Image: ANURAK PONGPATIMET / Shutterstock
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