Own a pet? You might be surprised to know that the average cost to raise and maintain a dog is around $15,000 for its lifetime. If you’re thinking about all expenses included, Forbes has an interesting article citing the lifetime cost to being anywhere from $17,650 to $93,520. (This, of course, accounts for costs for grooming, dog walker, etc)
Cat owner? There might be some good news. The total lifetime cost is lower. The average total cost for a cat, according to the ASPCA, is anywhere from $7,646 to $12,500. Still, the total lifetime cost is probably an amount cat owners might not expect.
You get the point. The cost of maintaining a pet is pretty expensive these days. As a country deeply affected by debt, there need to be some surefire ways to help you with pet medical expenses.
How Do We Financially Prepare for Pet Emergencies?
It may be hard to prepare for an event since we don’t often think about disasters or emergencies. We might not even notice anything wrong with our dog or cat until it starts to display signs of pain.
In one instance we had a cat that had a urinary tract infection that caused the kidneys to fail. We didn’t even know he had any problems until it started hiding under the couch. After rushing to the hospital and waiting a week for treatments and procedures, our cat started to deteriorate. Ultimately, we had to put him down after getting no positive results.
What we didn’t know was what to expect from our bill. This was the first time our pet spent a lot of time at the hospital. The final bill after the entire event was close to $3,000. We were shocked and we didn’t have money readily available to pay for the bill. In the end, the whole bill required us to tap into our investment savings to pay for the bills.
The Pet Emergency Fund
Situations like this catch us off guard. And for most of us, we’re not always prepared. The cost of many veterinary bills often goes over what we expect.
With many people in the same situation, it makes sense to start thinking of an emergency fund for pets.
What makes up an emergency fund?
A fund can be anything. It’s just a placeholder for your money. It can be a bank account, savings account, or even a stuffed envelope with dollar bills. Think about a bucket you can set aside for emergencies.
Also, consider a fee-free online bank account that is associated with your primary bank. Having an outside bank allows you to not pay attention to the account as much, and more importantly, it allows you to separate what’s needed for your pet from your day-to-day transactions and expenses. Since this special emergency bank account won’t be used much, it makes sense that you have a bank that doesn’t incur fees.
If you’re looking for a bank account, there are plenty of online bank accounts with no minimum and no fees. A simple online search can help you find the right account.
Once you have the account set up, you might want to set up a recurring payment plan. Most banks will allow you to set up a recurring transfer from your primary bank account to the pet emergency account. It should be free and automatic so you won’t have to think about it.
Consider sending small amounts if you don’t have the immediate funds. Banks allow you to send over money in small increments.
Also, most experts agree that you need to have at least $1,000 in savings to account for special pet emergencies. By incrementing your transfers or payments to this new account, this might be a great way to get to this goal.
You don’t have to have an automatic plan. If there are extra funds from another financial source, consider starting up a bank account with just $1,000 to $2,000. The automatic recurring payments is just a tool that allows you to make this process effortless and a necessary part of your budget.
How Does Pet Insurance Hold Up?
It’s important to keep in mind that pet insurance doesn’t always assist with vet bills and payments. In our case, we last took our cat to get a urine analysis. Because the activity was related to analysis, not a procedure, the insurance company wouldn’t cover this activity. With a $250 deductible, pretty much all of the expenses were out of pocket.
If you have pet insurance, check with your company on what is covered under your plan. There could be a lot of nuances that you might get you confused so it’s good to get the details.
Here are some of the more common pet vet bills that are not covered under most insurance plans.
- Pre-Existing Conditions
- Lab Analysis and Exam Fees
- Office Visits
- Hereditary Conditions
As you can see, the cost can still add up depending on the number of visits and what’s covered. Even with pet insurance, it’s still good to have an emergency savings account for your pet.
I still believe that pet insurance is important and useful. With our past experiences, we would have certainly benefited from having pet insurance. They cover the true emergency costs like surgery and other expensive treatments. The main drawback, however, is that they don’t often cover the typical routine visits and wellness programs.
(It’s worth mentioning that Consumer Reports has a great article that discusses if pet insurance is worth the cost.)
Other Ways to Help With Pet Medical Expenses
Veterinary School Aid
Another budget-friendly way to pay your bills is through veterinary programs in universities. In fact, you’ll find universities offering anything from a good financial plan to free or reduced services. Check out your local university to see if they offer such a program.
You might be surprised some might even offer free services for the purposes of teaching or research.
Financial Aid for Veterinary Bills
What if you can’t afford to pay your bill entirely? Interestingly, many profit organizations offer grants and financial aid for individuals who can’t pay. With grants, you may be able to qualify by filling out an application or contacting someone in the organization.
Some of the popular non-profit groups providing financial aid:
Other options for financial aid.
Care Credit is similar to a credit company that will offer you credit or a loan. The financed amount usually doesn’t have an interest and it might be a reliable source for those times where you can’t completely pay your bills.
GoFundMe.org might be unconventional but more households are setting up campaigns to pay for expensive vet procedures that they can’t afford. In fact, this site has a great page on financing veterinary bills.
Preventative Ways to Save on Pet Expenses
Perhaps the best way to save on pet expenses is through preventative practices. Practicing long term preventative measures can not only help your pet to live longer but save a lot of money over the years.
Some Important Preventative Pet Care Practices
- Protect your pets from fleas and ticks.
- Have a routine checkup with your Vet.
- Maintain the optimal weight for your pet.
- Feed your pet a good and proper diet
- Brush your dog or cat’s teeth.
- Spay or Neuter your pets.
- Make sure there’s enough exercise.
By practicing good preventive care, you can not only improve the condition of your furry companion but even save money on future costly procedures. More importantly, your dog or cat can live a longer life.
Surely, this is a small list and I’m sure there are so many other preventative methods that can save you money in the long run.
Saving and funding for your pet expenses may seem expensive and even complicated. You can simplify and get peace of mind by following steps to make you financially sound and your pet healthier. Take action and make sure that you do your due diligence to get your pet the best possible plan.
Take a look at the 20 Ways on How to Cut Expenses to help you save more for your pet expenses.