How to find a low-cost vet near you for emergencies

It can be hard to find a low-cost vet, let alone a cheap emergency vet

Dr. Kitten to the rescue!

Trying to find a low-cost vet is a task everyone does at some point in their pet’s life. The cost of emergency care is one of the most stressful parts of dealing with pet poisoning. Depending on where you live, driving to an after-hours vet may even take you several hours.

When you arrive, you find that just seeing the vet may cost you upwards of $100. This does not include any procedures or treatment your pet will need. This can make any owner hesitant to even call a clinic. It may seem appealing to try a “wait-and-see” approach instead of seeking appropriate care.

While prevention is the most assured way to keep you out of the emergency clinic, accidents happen.  When you can’t avoid a trip to a clinic, use some of these tips to find care and keep your costs down:

1. Call your own vet first

Even when they are closed, your own veterinarian is the best resource for putting you in contact with emergency care.  The majority of vets will connect you to either a message or an answering service.

An answering service will take a message from you and directly contact your veterinarian.  Sometimes this might even mean that your own vet is available on-call to deal with your emergency. Alternatively, they will often leave a message on their voicemail with a phone number for an emergency clinic.  The next best thing to your own vet is another veterinarian they recommend.

2. Search the web with location-based tools

If you are not happy with your own vet’s suggestion, the next place to look is on the web.  You can use a search engine like Google, but filtering through the results can be stressful.

Luckily, there are specific sites you can use to search for a vet.  Both Vet Locator and AAHA have specific forms to allow you to search for an emergency veterinarian.  Vetstreet also has a search function, but it’s a bit more difficult to narrow your search down to emergency clinics.  Keep in mind that clinics may forget to update their information to webmasters when they change locations or phone numbers. So always call first before heading into a vet.

3. Be prepared and invest in pet insurance

Pet insurance works differently from health insurance. When your pet is insured, you have to pay your vet bill up-front.  This means that you have to have some form of payment at the time of the emergency visit. (I’ll get into some tips about how to cover that payment further down).  However, some companies will cover up to 90% of your vet bill after a claim is submitted.

You will want to research the companies available before you choose one.  Different places have different plans, and sometimes the cheaper plans do not cover as much care.

4. Apply for CareCredit

CareCredit is a card that will pay your expensive vet bill. Many plans allow you to pay them back in small increments over a period of up to 18-36 months.  What makes this different from any other credit card?  If you pay your bills on time, the card charges no interest. However, you have to pay them back within the arranged time frame. It’s free to apply, so this means your vet bill will still only cost you what the vet charged.

Beware of the common mistakes made with your CareCredit card! They only charge no interest if you pay them back within the specified time.  If you miss a payment, your interest rate climbs back up to a whopping 27% for new customers.  The no-interest policy also only covers charges over their threshold limit.  If you are going in for routine care and your bill is under that amount, you will be charged interest.


5. Get to know assistance programs in your area

There are people out there who will help you pay your vet bill:

  • Hearts United Animals provides assistance to families and pets who need immediate help with the cost of care.
  • RedRover provides grants, presuming your pet is spayed or neutered.
  • If your pet requires ongoing care (non-emergency), The Pet Fund is a good place to try.
  • If you live in New York, there is an excellent program called NY Save.
  • There are several agencies that do not respond as quickly to emergencies but are still a good place to try if you are seeking assistance.
  • Check state and local programs through the Humane Society of the United States.
  • Run a google search for a community outreach program in your area.
  • If you live near a university, they may provide low-cost care for teaching purposes.
  • Some emergency clinics have an emergency fund. This is money donated by other clients to help animals receive care when their owners are otherwise unable to afford it.

If all else fails, contact your local animal shelter.  My goal is to give you resources for people who wish to keep their pets. But if all else fails, there are many shelter programs and vets that will provide care to your pet should you choose to relinquish your animal.  I would consider this to be a last-ditch effort since relinquishing your pet to a shelter organization only adds to the homeless pet population. But it could keep your pet alive if you are unable to find a low-cost vet in your area.

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