Pet Financing – Should You Get a Pet Loan?

How can you pay emergency veterinary fees? A personal loan can help you afford veterinary care or pay vet bills that come up unexpectedly.
Written by Gina Pogol
Financial Expert
Managing Editor
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worried woman looking at bill in veterinary surgery

Animal health emergencies are every pet owner’s nightmare. Your best friend needs an expensive procedure, and you want to make healthcare decisions for your pet based on what’s best for him or her, not what you’ve got in the bank. If you find yourself in an expensive emergency situation, a personal loan to pay vet bills might (literally) be a lifesaver.

See Pet Loan Interest Rates

Personal Pet Loan for Veterinary Financing

According to Pet Plan insurance, more than half of Americans with pets cannot afford the average $800 to $1,500 cost of an animal medical emergency. If you can’t afford emergency veterinary fees, a personal pet loan may your best option.

Related: What Are Personal Loans, Signature Loans and Unsecured Loans?

Vet Bills: Expected the Expected

Pet emergencies may seem like they come out of the blue. But while the timing may be a surprise, it’s a fact that pet health problems or accidents are not uncommon. Financial experts recommend that you start an emergency fund for your pet and add to it every month until you have a cushion of several thousand dollars. Because there is a one-in-three chance that you’ll end up in an animal emergency room during the next year.

But what if you haven’t yet saved this money and your furry friend needs emergency care now? Many animal hospitals and doctors offer veterinary financing, but the rates can be very high. And you aren’t exactly in a position to shop for the best interest rates in an emergency.

You can shop interest rates and programs today, before you need veterinary financing. MoneyRates personal loan partners can help you compare products and rates. Some lenders allow you to prequalify for financing, so you’d know what your rate and payment would be if you get the loan. The time to shop for a veterinary personal loan is before it’s needed, while you aren’t under the stress of getting your dog, cat or other companion through an accident or illness safely.

Alternatively, you can establish a personal line of credit in advance and only use if needed.

How to Prevent Pet Emergencies

The best way to handle veterinarian costs is to minimize them. It’s important to recognize what the most common pet emergencies are and prevent them from occurring in the first place.

You can avoid many common pet mishaps with common sense. Cats should live indoors or have a safe outdoor space protected from owls, hawks, coyotes and other predators. Indoor cats live about 14 years on average, while cats who go outside only average life spans of three to four years.

Likewise, dogs can’t be hit by cars if they are not out in the street. A fenced yard is ideal for larger dogs. So-called “invisible” fencing with an e-collar is a good option for neighborhoods that prohibit fenced yards. Dogs can live happily indoors if they get enough outdoor time. Many city-dwelling dogs enjoy twice daily walks with their guardians, socializing at dog parks, and sunning on an enclosed porch.

Related: Personal Loans vs Credit Cards

Toxins to Avoid

The list below shows the most common ASPCA poison control calls for pets. These common toxins are things we have in our homes and use every day. It’s vital to keep them away from pets, who are a lot more agile than human babies but just as indiscriminate about what they put in their mouths.

  • Prescription and over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements
  • Insecticides
  • People food (like coffee, raisins and grapes, which are deadly to dogs)
  • Ingestion of common house and garden plants
  • Veterinary medications
  • Rodent poison
  • Household cleaners
  • Heavy metals (lead, zinc, and mercury)
  • Fertilizer and other garden products
  • Household and automotive chemicals (like antifreeze, which tastes sweet and kills dogs)

Cost of Most Common Pet Emergencies

The data below, courtesy of Preventipet, shows average costs of pet emergencies. This shows that averting such catastrophes is not just good for your beloved animal; it’s smart financial planning.

Vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal Cost
food bloat $500 – $1,000+
gastroenteritis $750 – $3,000+
intestinal obstruction with surgery $2,000 – $4,000+
pancreatitis $1,000 – $5,000+
stomach ‘bloat’ (GDV) $3,000 – $8,000+
Toxin ingestion:  
antifreeze $2,000 – $6,000+
chocolate $250 – $2,000+
grapes or raisins $2,000 – $5,000+
human antidepressant medications $1,500 – $2,500+
human pain medications $250 – $2,000+
lilies $1,000 – $4,000+
rat poison $750 – $4,000+
slug bait $1,500 – $4,000+
xylitol $750 – $4,000+
cat bite abscess $250 -$1,500+
dog bite wounds $1,000 – $10,000+
electrical cord shock $500 – $3,000+
heat stroke $1,500 – $6,000+
high-rise fall $500 – $6,000+
hit-by-car $250 – $8,000+
Urinary Issues:  
urinary tract obstruction $1,000 – $3,000+
Uterus & Birthing Issues:  
birthing difficulties (Caesarean section) $1,500 – $3,500+
uterine infection (pyometra) $2,500 – $5,000+

Alternatives to Personal Loans for Pets

It’s probably too late to apply for a credit card once you’re in the vet’s office facing a hairy bill. But you can find one now that has no annual fee and keep it just for emergencies.

If the credit card interest rate is higher than that of a personal loan, take out a personal loan once the emergency is paid on a credit card, and repay the credit card with the personal loan. Then put the card aside for future emergencies.

You can start off your pet’s emergency fund by having a garage sale or using eBay. Then every month that your pet is not having an emergency, add $50 to $100 until you have enough to cover most situations.

Related: Personal Loan Interest Rates (How to Pay Less)

Pet Health Insurance

Another option is to purchase pet health insurance. It works like human health insurance with deductibles, coverage of (usually) 80 percent of the approved cost, and a maximum benefit per year. Insurance from the ASPCA for a 6-year-old mid-sized male dog comes to about $55 a month.

Pet insurance is cheaper for younger pets, and costs less for cats than for dogs. It’s also less-expensive if your pet is smaller. Pet insurance may be unaffordable if you have an older large dog. And pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions. If your animal has a pre-existing condition, you might be better off putting the amount you’d pay in premiums into a savings account to cover future veterinary emergencies.

Pre-existing conditions and pet age aren’t factors when you borrow with an unsecured personal loan. You may be able to pay less on a monthly basis with a personal loan than with pet insurance.

Regular Care to Prevent Veterinary Emergencies

Regular vaccination, dental care and checkups can prevent expensive conditions later. And keep your pets at a healthy weight, groom them as needed and make sure their food and water quality are good.

Many pet problems can be headed off by getting regular checkups, and by taking your animal for an office visit as soon as you notice something might be wrong — instead of making an emergency run to the veterinary hospital on a Sunday night. However, if you do have to pay for emergency vet care, lining up a personal loan or personal line of credit now could make it a lot easier on you and your pet.

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About Author
Gina Pogol
Gina Freeman writes about personal finance and has been featured on MoneyRates, The Mortgage Reports, MSNMoney, Fox Business, Forbes, The Motley Fool, and other fine websites. Her background includes tax accounting with Deloitte, over 20 years in mortgage sales and underwriting, systems consulting for Experian, and several years in bankruptcy law. Gina enjoys helping consumers make confident and intelligent financial decisions.
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