No Pet Insurance? These Tips Are Paw-Fect for Covering Emergency Vet Costs

a white kitten stretching in a cat bed
Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

When your pet is sick or injured, your natural reaction is, “Money is no object!” But what do you do when your bank account balance doesn’t match the vast amount of love you have for your pet?

Pet insurance is one way to cover unexpected vet costs, but there are pros and cons to purchasing it. If you haven’t opted for insurance, and you don’t have an emergency fund set up for vet care, you could find yourself in a tough situation when facing an astronomical vet bill.

Fortunately, there are lots of options out there for people who want to give their pets the best medical care possible in the event of an emergency but simply can’t afford it.

1. Animal Welfare Organizations

The Humane Society has a great list of state-specific resources for veterinary assistance, spay/neuter assistance, pet food/litter programs, temporary foster programs and more. Checking out what your state has to offer is a good first step.

Best Friends Animal Society also has a thorough list of assistance options, from state-specific programs to resources for those with assistance dogs.

2. Veterinary Schools

Many veterinary schools run low-cost clinics for pet owners with limited financial resources. Check out the state school listings at The American Veterinary Medical Association and to locate schools in your area, then call those schools or visit their websites to find out if they offer such a clinic.

3. Local Animal Shelters and Rescue Groups

Local organizations such as the SPCA, county shelters and animal rescue groups may also offer low-cost clinics for everything from wellness checks and vaccinations to urgent care. Run a Google search for “low cost veterinary clinic” or “low cost pet clinic” plus the name of your city to locate options near you.

4. Grants and Funds

Like college scholarships, veterinary grants and funds help cover the cost of vet bills without any obligation to pay the money back. While a grant or fund most likely won’t cover all of your pet’s bills in a catastrophic emergency, it can certainly help. You can also apply for more than one at once to gather more funds.

Below are some top-name national resources. Be sure to read the application requirements for each program for specifics on income requirements, eligible medical expenses and other factors.

  • Brown Dog Foundation: Works with owners and vets to find the most affordable solutions to save a pet by bridging the gap between the cost of treatment and what owners can pay.
  • Dylan’s Hearts: For animals with a life-threatening injury or illness requiring a specific treatment plan.
  • Healing Haven Animal Foundation: For owners who’ve already applied for CareCredit (a credit card you can learn more about in no. 8 below), if their vet accepts it.
  • The Mosby Foundation: Helps raise funds through private donations and grants to assist with needy dogs’ medical care.
  • Paws 4 A Cure: For dogs and cats with any injury or illness regardless of age, breed, weight or diagnosis.
  • Pet Assistance Inc.: For “long time pet owners who have always responsibly cared for their pet, yet sadly find they cannot afford an exceptional problem.”
  • The Pet Fund: For “non-basic, non-urgent care” such as chronic conditions, cancer treatment or heart disease.
  • Rose’s Fund: To bridge the gap between cost of treatment, owner’s funds and CareCredit for pets with life-threatening injury or illness and a good prognosis of survival.

5. Condition-Specific Funds

Raja, the cat, rubs his face up against a door entrance inside a home.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

There are also funds for specific conditions (most of them are for cancer, but some are for other conditions).

  • Cody’s Club: To offset costs of radiation for pets with cancer.
  • The Big Hearts Fund: For dogs and cats with heart disease. (Applications are currently frozen as they are at capacity, so check back.)

6. Breed-Specific Funds

You can contact the national club for your dog’s breed by Googling “breed + national club” to find out if they offer (or can refer you to) a veterinary assistance fund. Many breed-specific funds you’ll find online are for rescue organizations, but there are some for private owners:

7. Misc. Funds

There are also funds that cover pet owners in some specific situations:

  • Pets of the Homeless: Provides help finding free vet clinics, emergency veterinary assistance and other services to homeless pet owners.

8. Credit Cards

The following programs offer lines of credit specifically for veterinary emergencies. If you’re having trouble finding other sorts of assistance — or you’re confident you can pay the balance off quickly — they’re worth exploring.

  • CareCredit: For routine and emergency care for small and large animals. APRs can be high (26.99% for new accounts), but they offer options like short- and long-term financing and no-interest periods.
  • Vetary: Accepted at 99% of practices. APR starts at 6.95%

9. Crowdfunding

While there are tons of crowdfunding sites out there, these ones were consistently featured on vet care assistance lists as good places to raise money for your pet’s medical costs.

When your furbaby is injured or ill, you have enough to worry about without having to figure out how to pay for their treatment. Bookmark these options in the event of an emergency and you’ll be able to get down to the important business of giving them all the love you can during their recovery.

Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.