An unexpected vet bill often comes as a shock. Not only is your beloved pet poorly, but you have to contend with a bill for hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
If you need help paying your vet bills – what can you do? Don’t worry too much. There are several options available to help you pay for an unexpected bill.
The price of vet bills
Your pet may have an accident, short-term illness or a chronic condition requiring ongoing treatment. Tesco’s guide to vet bills offers a comprehensive overview of the kind of vet bills you might face depending on the treatment your pet needs, though each veterinary practice will set their own prices.
With the average pet insurance claim rising to £848 in 2021 (according to the Association of British Insurers), it’s perfectly possible you could find yourself with a bill for well over £1,000 – and more if your furry companion needs ongoing treatment.
Top 6 ways to pay for vet bills
The best option for paying for veterinary bills will depend on your specific needs, plus personal and financial circumstances. Factors such as affordability, availability of funds and urgency of treatment should all play a part in your decision. Here are the most common ways to pay for your pet’s veterinary care:
1. Take out a personal loan
A personal loan is one of the most popular options to help you spread the cost of a big expense. It’s simple to apply for the money you need, and you can even choose how long you borrow the money for. If accepted, once the credit agreement’s signed, you could have the money within two working days so you can pay your vet bills quickly and get your furry friend the treatment they need asap.
All you need to do is pay back the loan over fixed-rate monthly instalments. And, as the interest rate will remain the same throughout your term, the payment amount will be the same each month. You’ll always know how much is leaving your account and when. This helps you manage your outgoings and offers a more affordable way to pay a big bill.
Of course, there’s a charge for borrowing money so getting a personal loan is going to be more expensive in the long run compared to paying for your vet bill upfront. If you do decide a loan is the best decision for you, it’s important to consider interest rates before applying to make sure you’re choosing the most cost-effective option.
Our guide will tell you everything you need to know about personal loans.
2. Dig into your savings
Paying for your vet bills upfront is perhaps the most straightforward route, but it will require you to have a large sum of money saved up and ready to go.
Many pet owners choose to put a bit of money aside each month to save up for emergencies, giving them greater flexibility should they need access to extra cash quickly. While it’s always a great idea to keep your savings topped up, it’s not recommended to rely on this to pay for vet bills entirely. If your pet develops a chronic condition or has a serious accident or illness, you could find your savings significantly depleted – if you have enough to pay for treatment in full in the first place.
3. Put the bill on your credit card
Putting a large bill on a credit card allows you to spread the cost over more manageable monthly payments. If you already have a credit card, it should be quick and easy to pay for your vet bills using your existing account so your pet can access treatment straightaway.
There’s usually flexibility on repayments, too, so you can simply pay back what you can when you can rather than having to stick to the same payment amount every month. However, do be mindful of APR rates – you could end up paying back a larger amount in interest compared to a personal loan if you don’t clear your debt before the 0% interest period ends (many credit card providers require you to pay off the full balance each month or you’ll need to pay interest).
Credit cards also have borrowing limits so, if you find your vet bill goes over the maximum amount you’re able to borrow, you’ll have to find a different way to pay.
4. Rely on pet insurance
One of the most common ways to pay for vet bills is via pet insurance. You’ll pay a monthly premium and, should the worst happen and you need to make a claim, your insurance company will foot the bill (minus any pre-agreed excess). Do keep in mind, though, that most policies won’t cover everything so you may still have to pay for certain treatments or procedures yourself.
Research suggests that 4.3 million pets are protected by insurance in the UK but – with 34 million pets out there, there are still a huge number of pet owners uninsured.
Though it’s highly recommended pet owners do take out some kind of pet insurance, there are many reasons why some people choose not to opt for an insurance policy. Perhaps your pet has a pre-existing condition or they’re over the age of eight which makes getting insurance trickier and more expensive.
You might also find your insurance provider rejects your claim. That said, more reputable insurance companies do pride themselves on low rejection figures so make sure you research this when choosing which insurance policy to go for.
5. Ask your vet about payment plans
Your vets may have their own payment plans available or might work with a third-party lender to offer a payment plan. This works in a similar way to a loan, allowing you to pay for your pet’s treatment in instalments. Many of these plans will come with an initial interest-free period, but always make sure you read the small print to make sure you know how much interest you’ll pay altogether.
This is a great option if you’re able to pay back your loan over a short period of time, such as twelve months. However, if you need to spread the cost over a longer amount of time to bring your monthly payments down, a personal loan might be a better option.
Many veterinary practices also offer pet health plans, which is basically a subscription service that covers the cost of routine treatments such as check-ups, vaccinations, and flea and worm treatments. It won’t cover the cost of enhanced veterinary care such as medication or surgery. A pet health plan will give you peace of mind you can seek veterinary advice whenever you need it. This could help to avoid symptoms developing into a bigger health issue which could be more costly later down the line.
6. Seek help from charitable organisations or crowdfund the money you need
Depending on your personal and financial circumstances, some animal charities may be able to help. For pet owners on a low income or on certain state benefits, the PDSA, Blue Cross, Dogs Trust, RSPCA, Cats Protection and even local independent charities may be able to provide free veterinary treatment or help towards some of the costs. You’ll need to contact individual organisations to discuss your situation.
If you aren’t eligible for charitable support, you could turn to online fundraising to try and crowdfund the additional money you need to cover your vet bills. This is a potentially risky strategy, though, as there are no guarantees you’ll be able to fundraise the money you need.
Can you pay your vet bills monthly?
Many of the above options allow you to spread the cost of your vet bills over several months or even years.
If you opt to put your vet bills on a credit card, choose your vet’s payment plan scheme or take out a personal loan, you will have the option to pay back the amount over a set number of months. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that you’ll likely make a larger monthly payment over a shorter term if you go for a credit card or payment plan.
If you take out a personal loan, you may have greater flexibility over the loan term. For example, you could choose to make lower monthly repayments over a longer amount of time though you will end up paying a bit more interest in total.
What happens if you can’t pay a vet bill?
If you’re struggling to pay for your vet bills, do speak to your vet about your situation. They’ll be able to offer advice on your pet’s treatment plan. You might find there’s a cheaper alternative treatment, a different low-cost vet in your local area or your current vet may even offer their services at a reduced rate (though this can never be guaranteed or expected).
Your vet will discuss with you the best route forward which will likely include discussions around payment plans or taking out a loan to spread the cost of your bill. Remember, though, it’s never a good idea to get credit or take out a loan if you realistically won’t be able to make the monthly repayments.
If you’re facing a large vet bill and believe you can afford the monthly repayments, take a look at our online loan calculator for a personal loan quote. You’ll be able to see estimated monthly repayments and total amount payable, giving you an idea of how much a loan could cost.
Sophie Venner is a Yorkshire-based content writer specialising in crafting content for the financial services industry. She’s written over 300 articles on finance, but she’s covered everything from insurance to digital marketing trends. Her content has been featured in the likes of Semrush, Digital Marketing Magazine and Insurance Business. In her spare time, you won’t find Sophie far from a notepad and pen as she squirrels away trying to write a novel.
Tuesday 7th February 2023