Are you looking to save money on your pet’s veterinary care? Pet insurance is the most popular way to reduce the financial burden of expensive bills, but it's always a good idea to explore all your options.
In this post, we’re looking into some of the most common alternatives to pet insurance, explaining what they offer, and how they compare to traditional coverage.
Here are several pet insurance alternatives:
- Personal savings
- Veterinary networks
- Community pool
- Medical organizations
- Key Takeaways
If you don’t have pet insurance, one option is to pay for veterinary expenses with money from your personal savings account. While this strategy might help you avoid monthly premiums, many pet parents find themselves significantly underprepared for the expensive vet bills they encounter throughout their pet’s life.
It may be easy enough to budget for the occasional cost of a vet visit on top of your standard pet care supplies, but pet medical emergencies are unexpected expenses that can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
The financial burden could result in a negative bank account balance, missed loan payments, and lower credit scores. In worst-case scenarios, owners might decline a life-saving pet procedure due to the unaffordable cost of care. Pet insurance provides a financial safety net to prevent these outcomes from happening.
If you find yourself facing a vet bill you can’t immediately pay, you might consider financing it on a credit card. This allows you to pay off your balance in increments over time that are easier to afford, with the potential to earn points and rewards.
However, this pet insurance alternative comes with certain risks and downsides, including interest charges and late fees that may increase the overall cost of the vet bill. It requires financial responsibility to track your expenses, manage debt, and pay bills on time to avoid negative credit implications that can stay on your record for seven years. Also, financing may not be an available option if you’ve already maxed out your credit card limit.
Care Credit is a great solution that allows users to finance both medical and veterinary expenses. It’s accepted by the majority of general vet practitioners, animal hospitals, and veterinary specialists. Rather than an alternative to pet insurance, Care Credit can act as a complementary tool that allows you to defer the upfront cost out-of-pocket through financing, then file an insurance claim and pay off your balance using the reimbursed funds.
Pet Assure is a veterinary plan that offers discounted procedures and services for a flat, a monthly fee. Members receive 25% off various services, including wellness visits, vaccines, spay and neuter procedures, teeth cleaning, allergy testing, cancer care, surgeries, and more. The discount is not eligible for non-medical services, such as grooming or preventative therapies.
There are no deductibles nor limits on how often you can use your Pet Assure membership, but the discount is only accepted by veterinary practices in the Pet Assure network. Alternatively, pet insurance reimburses 70% to 100% of covered costs from any vet you choose (once the deductible has been met).
Animal welfare organizations, local shelters, and rescue groups offer veterinary services at a reduced price, which could be another way to offset costs. Services typically include low-cost spaying and neutering, vaccinations, and microchipping. Some organizations even provide mobile pop-up clinics, so check your local listings to see what might be available in your area.
Another way to find affordable pet care is to visit a veterinary college where students often provide all or most of the same services at very reasonable prices. Technicians are always supervised by certified professionals to ensure your pet receives gold-standard care. You can find an accredited veterinary school near you through the American Veterinary Medical Association’s database.
Pawp is a pooled fund that members contribute to for a fixed monthly fee of $24 per month in exchange for financial assistance with unexpected vet bills. In the event of an emergency, Pawp will reimburse up to $3,000 annually, but it can only be used once a year.
Some examples of costs that may be eligible through Pawp include external and internal injuries, toxic ingestions, difficulty breathing, and foreign object ingestion. However, Pawp doesn’t cover planned surgeries, wellness visits, routine checkups, elective procedures, vaccinations, or microchipping . Pawp may cover pre-existing conditions, however, a phone call may be required prior to the reimbursement of funds to confirm the procedure is eligible and classified as an emergency.
AlignCare is a pet insurance alternative for low-income families who participate in government assistance programs such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, and HMIS. They align resources for subsidized veterinary care for pets that need treatment for an injury or sickness through community-based funding.
Enrolled families pay 20% of the cost for covered services, while AlignCare covers the remaining 80% of the bill. In order to apply, you’ll need to submit proof of public assistance. If your application is approved, you’ll receive an ID number that can only be used at specific veterinary service providers in the AlignCare network.
Platforms like GoFundMe are a new way to raise money for emergency vet care and elective surgeries by seeking contributions from individual donors. To get started, create a GoFundMe page that describes your fundraising goal in support of your cause.
Fundraising can be a viable solution to cover an expensive veterinary procedure your pet might not receive without financial help. However, it does mean that you’re putting your pet's wellbeing in other people's hands and there is no guarantee that you will raise all the money you need. You should also bear in mind that some crowdfunding platforms charge a service fee (usually a percentage of the money raised).
Friends and family
You can also raise money to cover veterinary expenses by asking friends and family for help. Many dog parks and community centers have public bulletin boards where you can post a flyer describing your pet’s condition to spread more awareness in your neighborhood.
While financial assistance from loved ones can be tremendously helpful in getting your pet the care they need to enjoy a good quality of life, it shouldn’t necessarily be relied upon as an alternative to pet insurance in case your pet’s condition were to worsen. They might also experience another health crisis at any point in life that you’ll need to be prepared for financially.
If you can’t afford to pay for a pet’s expensive medical procedures, there animal charities that may offer financial assistance.
Some great options are Pets of the Homeless, The Pet Fund, and The American Veterinary Medical Foundation. These organizations offer pet parents financial assistance for their pet’s veterinary care. Each has its own rules, so you will need to do some research in order to figure out which charity works best for you and your four-legged friend.
Companion Bridge is an online community that offers financial support in the form of grants and fundraising to people with low income whose pets require major medical care or mobility assistance, such as animal wheelchairs.
Companion Bridge also offers emotional support via email and telephone, as well as education on their resources page. It also links to board-certified vets, rehabilitation specialists, and vendors that make and distribute products that could assist you in caring for your pet. Funds are disbursed directly to the veterinarian or vendor helping the animal.
Some charities offer help with paying for specific veterinary care. For example, Oscar’s Cause is a non-profit organization that offers vet bill assistance for emergency situations. The maximum amount allotted for any pet is $1,000.
The application process is fairly simple, but you must meet eligibility guidelines. In the case of a pressding emergency, Oscar’s Cause might decide to delay or waive any of the standard requirements.
Handicapped Pets is an organization designed to help disabled, injured, and elderly pets. They donate new or reconditioned wheelchairs to pets who have been immobile or incapacitated so that they can live full and happy lives. Pet caretakers can apply online, and are still responsible for standard vet visit costs, planned surgeries, prescription medication, and so on.
To ensure their assistance goes to the families who need it the most, Handicapped Pets will ask you to show that you’re already receiving financial assistance from the state or local government.
Pet insurance vs alternatives
If your pet is older, has pre-existing conditions, or needs an urgent procedure, these pet insurance alternatives may be able to help you offset the cost of veterinary care. However, some programs have strict qualification requirements. They may also be limited in terms of how much money you can save, and which treatments or services are covered.
To see how these options compare to pet insurance, view plans from top providers for detailed coverage information. You can also learn more about how pet insurance works and see whether it’s worth it for your specific pet in our blog.
- If you are looking to save on your pet’s vet care but believe pet insurance is not for you, there are alternatives you should explore.
- The most popular pet insurance alternatives include veterinary networks, medical organizations, community pool funds, crowdfunding, etc.
- While all the alternatives mentioned in this article come with their own advantages, pet insurance remains the best and most effective option to care for your pet in the long run, covering up to 90% of the vet costs and giving you peace of mind.