Pet health care costs
It can be stressful when your pet is unwell and if you're also worried about money this can make the situation feel worse. The longer your pet is unwell the worse their illness can become. Seeking advice quickly will likely reduce costs overall and be best for your pet's health.
Get advice from your vet first
The first step towards helping your pet is contacting your local vet. Although it can feel awkward to talk about money, it's good to speak honestly with your vet about what you can afford as there may be alternative options.
Your vet should be able to give advice on how best to help your pet but if unable to, there are other options to consider depending on your circumstance and location. Options can sometimes be offered at a reduced cost, free through some pet insurance providers and your vet may provide treatment directly.
Avoid DIY remedies to cut costs
If you're worried about money, you may be tempted to use home remedies or ask people without a professional vet's qualification for help. Unfortunately, many common human products and medications can be very harmful when used on pets. For example, paracetamol is highly toxic to cats and ibuprofen is very toxic to cats and dogs. Complications can be serious and lead to vet costs much higher than the original concern. In some cases, it can result in the loss of the pet, as symptoms may not be seen until serious damage has been done.
Well-meaning people, who are not professionally trained, may also offer you pet health advice and this type of advice may not be suitable or safe to use on your pet for reasons only a trained vet would know.
This is why it's very important to speak to your vet practice if you notice a change in your pet's health or behaviour. Getting your pet to the vet quickly tends to lower the long-term cost of vet bills, as well as helping improve your pet's wellbeing sooner.
Check if your pet is unwell
If you're unsure how quickly to contact a vet, you can check your pet's symptoms for free using Vet Help Direct's online symptom checker or book an online or virtual consultation. Vets aren't normally able to prescribe medications through virtual consults, but they can help your vet determine whether your pet needs urgent attention.
How to get medication at a cheaper cost
Costs can vary for the same medication, so it's worth asking your vet if they can write a prescription to use online or bring it to a pharmacy where the price may be lower.
Pharmacies that buy very large amounts of medications at a time can often put a lower price tag for each one. But many vet clinics are small businesses, they cannot buy this larger amount of medication and use it all before it expires.
Your vet will need to charge for writing the prescription and this goes to the cost of running their clinic, but buying some medication this way can still reduce your overall costs.
Can't afford a vet treatment estimate
Unfortunately, there's no NHS for pets and vets need to charge fees to keep their clinics running. While vets are usually unable to lower the cost of their treatments, there are options to consider and discuss with your vet.
There could be other treatment options your vet can offer. Lower-cost treatments can offer good results but these options may come with less certainty or with more risks than the higher-cost alternatives. This is something your vet can explain to you.
The more recent advances in medicine and equipment come with an increased cost, and on a low budget, the sort of things you might see on the TV probably won't be available. But there may still be an option that might help your pet feel better.
Credit-based payment plans
Some vets offer payment plans through a credit company if you need help spreading the cost. Not every vet can offer this, but it's worth asking if this is an option.
To decide if signing up for a payment plan is right for you, please contact:
Change your vet
Vet fees vary based on location, which equipment and tests are available, the vet's experience and speciality.
You may want to get a second opinion from a different vet clinic or hospital. There are some vets that set out to provide low-cost services and in some areas, you may find a not-for-profit clinic through companies like the Animal Trust.
You can find a list of vets in your area.
End of life decisions
At times, very sadly the only way to end a pet's suffering is for you to make the final decision about their life. If you would like to talk to someone about this, please know that free help is available through:
Charities that can help
Some animal charities help owners struggling with vet bills, either by providing some of the payment or by offering reduced costs through their own clinics. In most cases, you'll need to fit specific criteria to use them so check first.
To see if any of the below charities offer services that are available in your area please visit their websites. You may find there are charities for your specific area.
People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) provides low-cost and free vet care to the sick and injured pets of people in need. Depending on your location and benefit status you may be eligible for support from PDSA.
Cat's Protection offers free and low-cost neutering schemes throughout the UK.
Dogs Trust offers free and reduced-cost vet assistance for people who are in housing crises or are homeless. Visit Dogs Trust to find out more.
The majority of our funding goes to rescuing animals who have been treated cruelly, however through our local branches and hospitals we can sometimes help with vet bills.