Personal Loans

Personal Loans for Pet Emergency Care & Other Options

A man pets his dog on the tummy
By Gina Freeman
Updated on: March 24th, 2022

Veterinary care costs have risen steeply for several reasons. Drug and technology prices are up, pets have access to treatments once only available to humans, and many vet practices use the same labs and suppliers as human health care providers. MRIs and cancer treatments can be nearly as costly for pets as they are for people. So how do you manage pet emergency care for your furry family members?

These three facts should drive your medical decisions:

  • Pet medical emergencies are predictable. Your pet has a one-in-three chance of ending up in an animal ER every year, according to Pet Plan.
  • Pet emergency care is expensive. The average cost of an emergency visit runs from $800 – $1,500. However, care involving surgery can easily run into thousands of dollars. Kaplan Financial Advisors recommends having $5,000 to $10,000 available for emergency pet treatment.
  • You can minimize the chance of a pet emergency by making good health care choices for your pets, and you can prepare for unexpected costs in advance.

With some upfront preparation, you can ensure your pet’s health without breaking yourself financially.

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How to Pay for Pet Emergency Care

The best way to pay for emergency care is to prepare in advance. Here are several options.

Personal loans for pet emergencies

What if you don’t have savings to cover a pet emergency? Start your savings account ASAP, and in the meantime, establish a pre-approved source of cash.

  • If you want to save $2,000, for instance, open your emergency savings account.
  • Next, apply for a preapproved personal loan or personal line of credit. Do not touch the account for anything other than a pet emergency.
  • Every month that you do not experience an emergency, add to your savings until you have enough to cover pet medical costs.

If you have to visit the ER before you have saved enough, the loan can cover your pet’s treatment.

Personal loans are unsecured loans that can be set up quickly — usually within one to four days from application to funding. The interest rate you’re offered depends a great deal on your credit rating, and it’s usually significantly less than that of a comparable credit card. Most providers offer loans between $1,000 and $35,000 and give you up to five years to repay them.

You can apply for personal loans online and receive the money directly into your savings or checking account.

Personal lines of credit might be even better for emergencies because you can set them up in advance and only use them if needed.

Pet emergency fund

Everyone needs an emergency fund — money that’s easy to access in a financial catastrophe. The right amount of savings depends on how reliable your income is, if you are well insured for disability and health care costs, and the number of family members depending on you. So if your family includes pets, consider their needs when putting emergency money aside. The minimum fund should probably cover at least one $800 emergency visit per pet.

Credit cards for emergency veterinary care

There are two types of credit cards that you can use for veterinary care. A traditional card with no annual fee is nice protection you can get now and keep on hand for unexpected expenses. If the interest rate is high and you can’t repay the balance quickly, consider paying the card off with a personal loan when you have time to shop for the best deal.

The second type of credit card is specifically for veterinary care. This card normally has a promotional period in which you pay no interest. However, if you fail to clear your balance in that time, the issuer charges you interest from the original treatment date. That can get very expensive. Many vets also offer a pet care loan with a longer term, which might be comparable to personal loans or it might be more expensive. It pays to shop when you have time to do so.

One advantage of pet loans for veterinary care is that you can’t use them for other things like you can traditional credit cards. So if you have overspending problems, this might be the safest option for you even if the interest rate is higher.

The important thing for all of these financing options is that you need to set them up in advance. You won’t be able to establish accounts instantly when an emergency occurs.

Pet health insurance

Pet owners who want to make sure they can always afford to save their pet’s life often turn to pet health insurance. Most policies function like health care coverage for people, with deductibles, coverage limits, and procedures for filing claims. They vary considerably in quality and price, so shop carefully, check customer reviews and complaints, and read the fine print.

Medical tourism for pets

The latest trend in paying for animal medical care is travel. People have been leaving the country to get enormous discounts on expensive procedures for years. And now pet owners are trying medical tourism to get costly treatment in a more affordable setting. In Mexico, for instance, an MRI for your pet costs less than $500 instead of $2,000 plus. Research the facility before crossing the border and make sure you comply with USDA requirements to get your pet back into the U.S.

An Ounce of Prevention

The best way to save on medical care for pets is to prevent accidents and diseases in the first place.

  • Establish a relationship with a veterinary office before an emergency strikes. Go there for regular exams (at least once a year) and vaccines. Many vets offer packaged deals with exams, dental visits, and shots that can save you money.
  • See your veterinarian as soon as you notice anything amiss with your pet. Regular office visits are cheaper and early intervention can make the difference between life and death.
  • Check your animals regularly. Groom them and run your hands over them to detect bumps, injuries, and painful spots.
  • Make your home safe for pets. Cats kept indoors live three times as long as outdoor cats. Dogs should be protected from accidents — keep sharp objects and potential poisons like antifreeze away. Give your pets shelter from the heat and cold, constant access to clean water, and feed them an appropriate diet.

Add affection, exercise, and play, and you’re doing everything pets need for optimum health. And hopefully, lower vet bills.

About the Author

Gina Freeman is a personal finance specialist with AmOne. Her career has covered business credit, bankruptcy, tax accounting, and mortgage financing, and she has been a finance writer or editor for over 15 years. Gina is extremely consumer-focused and enjoys breaking down complex topics to help readers make confident financial decisions.