Share by e-mail Print This Post

Alternatives to Pet Insurance Plans

About 10 years ago I rescued a little tabby that quickly became a well-loved member of our family. Little did I now that she came into our home with ears full of mites and a urinary tract infection. The cost of those vet bills bit such a chunk out of our budget that we briefly considered pet insurance. We soon realized it wouldn’t be the best option for us, and it might not be for you either.

A pet care insurance plan may not cover all the expenses related to healing your ill pet. For instance, depending on the type of plan you have, only some services are covered. Other services, such as an annual physical or care related to an ongoing condition may be included only in the very expensive plans. Also, most plans cover only a percentage of the vet’s fees.

And what happens if your furry friend suffers only minor ailments that you can afford to pay for out of pocket? The insurance company still collects your money while your bank balance continues to dip. If that thought irks you, consider these alternatives instead.

Create a Pet Care Savings Account

Invest money at the beginning of each month into a savings account dedicated to pet care expenses. Better still, make it a money market savings account, which typically offers higher interest rates. To figure out how much to save monthly, get quotes for different pet insurance plans online at sites such as the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance or PetPlan. Invest the amount of money you would pay for the insurance plan of your choice. For instance, if a basic plan costs $69 monthly and suits your budget, then put $69 into your money market savings account.

Go to a Veterinary College

If you live near a veterinary college, you might also be able to save money on pet care, as some of them provide clinics for people living on a small income. To find a college near you, search the Ameican Veterinary Medical Association’s website.

Negotiate a Payment Plan

If your pet is a long-time client of your vet’s, you may be able to work out a payment plan so you can pay your bills weekly or monthly. To make the negotiation go more smoothly, offer to make a larger first payment, say 30 percent of the bill, and the rest payable in installments. However, don’t try this approach with a vet you’re visiting for the first time.

Offer Your Services

Fortunately, the days of bartering aren’t over, although many of us don’t take advantage of it as often as we should. If you’re in a pinch to pay your vet, ask if you can pay in-kind with services such as cleaning out kennels or washing or walking dogs. If you have a particular skill, such as website design, you can offer to create a website for your vet if they don’t already have one. Think outside the box.

Contact a Local Shelter

Some animal shelters hold clinics that allow you to get veterinary care for your pet for a reduced fee. In some cases, they may also provide loans or grants or be able to recommend vets who charge less for their services.

Apply for CareCredit

This is a great service that allows both humans and pets to apply for a CareCredit credit card, which is just for health expenses. It’s easy to figure out if you qualify, and the company offers extended payment plans with low monthly payments, so it’s suitable for just about any budget.

This has been a guest post by Andrea from Ontario, Canada
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!

Leave a Reply

8 thoughts on “Alternatives to Pet Insurance Plans”

  1. C. Graff says:

    I worked for a vet years ago… if you do get pet insurance, just get a plan that covers your dog or cat for sickness/accidents. Those plans cost less than the ones that also include annual exam/vaccines. Sick visits are the surprises and can get expensive fast (lab work, xrays, medicine, etc), especially if they happen after 6 pm and you have to go to the pet ER. Better to just budget for the less expensive shots.

    I’ve got my 10 year old dog insured w/ Healthy Paws because I know from my last dog that arthritis is probably right around the corner. Her pain meds were $60 to $100 per month. If she’d been insured, I could have gotten most of that back and the insurance would have paid for itself over the year.

  2. I love Care Credit, which offers no interest for the first 3 or 6 months, depending on what plan the clinic has signed up for. Care credit can also be used for human dental, medical and vision also.

  3. Aileen Rose says:

    These are great tips. I tried having pet insurance on all my pets. It was about $150 a month for 4 dogs, 3 cats. TOO MUCH That is $1800 a year and that’s probably more than I spend most years. So right now I have a care credit account (saved my poor chihuahua when he got bit by a rattlesnake and it cost me $2500!) but as soon as we pay off our credit cards, we’ll be starting a Vet Fund.

    One exception is, I have one dog who is 11 years old. I got insurance for her because she’s definitely slowing down and this is the time I’ll be spending thousands.

  4. I carry pet health insurance because catzilla is getting older, and has always had urinary tract issues, and now we are monitoring his kidneys. He also loves to sit on our patio, where snakes can occasionally come in. If he were to get injured through snakebite or bite a poisonous frog, I really would not want to skimp on his care.

  5. Banfield also has pet Wellness plans which includes a lot of services including FREE office visits & discounts on services not covered by plans. There are also numerous low cost spay & neuter places like the SPCA which also provides low cost vet services. Also if you are notice something is a little off with Fido it’s best to have it checked out earlier before it develops into a big problem. Remember pets are life long companions who are completely reliant on you for their care.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Pet health care is certainly one place I would never try to cut the budget. Sure, insurance doesn’t pay for everything, but it does pay back quite a bit. Our adopted cat (just showed up here one day) was attacked by dogs, ate a piece of a bone, and ate a piece of wood. He needed emergency care each time and then after care with our regular vet. Emergency services vet hospitals will not barter and will not accept payments, so the only real way to be safe is to have a dedicated credit card or a lot of money in the bank to cover costs. With insurance, at least you get some of that back. Each of the three times our cat needed emergency services the bill was over $4,000 — the first two times we didn’t have insurance. The last time we did and got back almost half of what we put out. For $50 a month I think it’s worth it.

  7. Jadda says:

    I can definitely relate to having an expensive pet!! These are great tips, unfortunately not many of them are applicable to our situation. Our 6 year old chocolate lab developed severe allergies a couple of years ago, so she has been on varying medications ever since.

    She is currently on a medication originally developed for organ transplant patients, which is over $100 a month – just for that one medication, so that can definitely be a tough situation.

    • I am sure you have looked into it if you are paying $100 a month for prescriptions, but I just wanted to tell you about our situation. My lab, Shiloh, had bad ear infections since he was a pup. After years of dealing with infections, someone mentioned it might be the food. I am not endorsing expensive foods but we did switch to Eukanuba and his ear infections went away. I was ashamed of myself for not realizing that could have been the problem the whole time and could have been prevented by switching the food the first time someone mentioned it. I am not sure what it was but it was the additives they put in the dog food that he was allergic to. Just thought I might throw it out there.