Finance 101
July 11, 2023

How to Pay for Emergency Vet Bills

Owning a pet can bring you tremendous joy. But it comes with a lot of responsibility, too, including caring for your pet’s medical needs.

It’s important to plan for your pet’s regular or maintenance medical care. You can include these costs in your monthly budget. It’s also a great idea to create a savings account for your pet so you can gradually set aside money for their expenses.

But how to pay for emergency vet bills? And how to get help paying for vet bills?

In this article, we’ll look at how to pay emergency vet bills and answer these questions:

  • How much does an emergency vet visit cost? How much is an emergency vet visit for a dog or cat? How much does an emergency vet cost?
  • How to pay for an emergency vet visit? How to pay for expensive vet bills?
  • How to prepare and reduce costs? Are there ways to save?
  • FAQs

Is it a pet emergency?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the following issues warrant going straight to the emergency vet:

  • Severe or continuous bleeding
  • Severe or continuous vomiting or diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing or choking, coughing and gagging nonstop
  • Abnormal gum color (pale, blue, or yellow tinge)
  • Inability to go to the bathroom
  • Bloat — swollen belly, panting, restlessness and gagging
  • Trauma — car accident, fall, broken bones and open wounds
  • Bite wounds and animal attacks
  • Possible ingestion of toxin or poison
  • Heatstroke — abnormal gum color, lethargy, heavy breathing and seizures
  • Hypothermia — shivering, pale gums, sluggishness, dilated pupils, slow heart rate
  • Difficulty during birth — labor lasts more than 24 hours or the mom struggles for more than an hour to deliver the next pup or kitten.
  • Seizures or sudden collapse
  • Eye injury

How much does an emergency vet visit cost?

How much is an emergency vet visit? The costs will vary from vet to vet, but an emergency vet’s rates will always be higher. Often costs will also vary between dogs, cats, and other animals.

When appropriate, call your regular vet first. If they can take care of the issue, care will cost less.

But if your emergency is after regular hours (or your regular vet tells you to go straight to the emergency vet), you’ll need to be prepared for much higher costs at the emergency vet. As with human medicine, this specialist care will be more expensive. According to Care Credit, a short-term financing option for medical expenses, an emergency vet visit averages $800 to $1500. But extended care and overnight stays could drive costs as high as $10,000 by some estimates. Thankfully this is the exception, not the norm.

In an emergency, initial costs usually go toward getting your pet stable and diagnosing the problem. This may involve hydration, x-rays and other imaging tests. After the problem is diagnosed, the clinic will often be able to estimate the total cost. Typically, 50% of the estimated amount is due up front, with the other half due when your pet is released.

Pet insurance can help significantly in emergencies and is worth considering. Some policies may reimburse up to 90% of emergency expenses. But keep in mind you’ll probably still want that savings account for your pet: many policies require owners to pay the vet’s bill up front then file for reimbursement.  And keep in mind, depending on the terms of your policy you could still be responsible for quite a bit of money.

How to pay for an emergency vet visit?

As with most unexpected expenses, there are options available when you’re paying for an emergency vet visit.

  • Installment loan. These loans give you the ability to borrow money immediately and pay over time. They are an option for those with financial challenges. Check `n Go encourages people with bad credit or limited income to apply for a Check `n Go installment loan. 
  • Credit card. The best way to use a credit card is if you can pay the expense off by the end of the month. They can be a good option if you need to make an immediate payment and you know you have the money in the bank. Just keep in mind that if you carry a balance, the interest costs can get away from you quickly, and you can end up with a growing debt over your head.
  • CareCredit. This company offers credit cards at a lower interest rate and exclusively for medical expenses. They often have introductory rates that can allow you to pay over a short period at no interest. Be aware, not every vet will accept CareCredit.
  • Borrowing from family/friends. If you don’t have the money for a bill, borrowing from loved ones may be an option. But beware – if you aren’t able to pay or you don’t trust the person, don’t enter into this with them. There are no contracts to protect you, and you can put the relationship at risk if you aren’t able to pay the money back. If you borrow money from a friend or relative, it’s best to write down the terms and have both parties sign. You’ll also want to agree to (and keep up with) regular payments.
  • Sell items you no longer want/need. This can be a good option to raise money for a pet’s care. If you have furniture you don’t want, or toys, or just need to clear out and have a good yard sale, this is a great reason to sell. You can clear out unwanted stuff cluttering your home and put the money toward your pet’s needs. Even if your pet doesn’t currently have an emergency, you could hold your yard sale and put the money in a savings account for your pet’s care.
  • Crowdfunding sites. If your vet has had an unexpected emergency and you don’t have the money to pay, you may be able to post their story to a crowdfunding site to raise money for their care. This can be an especially helpful option if the expenses are very high or your pet needs continuing care or rehabilitation because of the accident. People are often generous about helping animals. Just be sure you understand the terms of your crowdfunding site – like whether you must pay taxes on the money you raise.
  • Local pet charities or shelters. If your pet needs a surgery or procedure following an accident, you can always call local pet shelters or charities to see if they help with such expenses. Even if a shelter doesn’t provide the care, they may have good ideas who to contact for help.
  • Ask your vet about payment plans or other options. It’s a good idea to find out if the vet will let you pay what you owe over time or can offer any other options, like a discount for paying in cash, for example.

How to prepare and reduce costs?

The best option for covering emergency expenses is to plan ahead. You might want to consider these options, some of which we’ve already discussed here:

  • Pet savings account. Set aside a little from your monthly budget in a savings account specifically for your pet’s care.
  • Pet insurance. There are lots of options these days for pet insurance plans. Much like human insurance plans, the terms of each can be very different. Be sure to find a plan that works for you, and know what it pays for and what it doesn’t, including emergency care and what vets you can use.
  • Research emergency options and have a plan. Part of being a responsible pet owner is having a plan in an emergency. Know where to find the emergency vet nearest you. Ask your regular vet when (or if) you should contact them first. Pack pet first aid kits for your home and car. Some pet stores have ready-made kits for sale. There may even be mini or portable kits to carry along, which are useful if you take your dog hiking. At your pet’s annual visit, ask your vet what to have in your pet’s emergency kit and how else you can prepare for an emergency.

Remember, having a pet is a privilege that comes with a great deal of responsibility. Make sure you're ready to provide care for your pet in the event of an accident or illness by planning for emergency veterinary fees in advance.

If you don’t yet have a pet, they can be expensive. If you’re wondering how much is a puppy, check out our blog to get a good picture of all the costs involved.

FAQs: Emergency Vet Visit

How much does an emergency vet visit for a dog cost?

Common estimates say an emergency visit can cost $500 to $1500. But a complex situation could run up to $10,000.

What to do if you can’t afford a vet?

If you can’t afford a vet, it’s important – though painful – to think about whether you should have a pet at this time. Pets need regular medical care just as we do. If you know you can’t provide that care, even in an emergency situation, or if your circumstances have changed, discuss your options with the local ASPCA. They may know of charity programs and other reduced-cost options, or may even be able to rehome the pet if you are no longer able to care for them.

Can you use installment loans for paying vet bills?

Absolutely. With an installment loan, you can get cash or a bank deposit as soon as the next day. Then you can use the money for your pet’s care or anything else you need.

Editorial Policy: The information contained in Check `n Go’s Finance Academy Learning Center is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should consult your own attorney or seek specific advice from a legal professional regarding any legal issues. Check `n Go does not act as a credit counseling, repair service, or debt consolidation service in providing this content. Please understand that Check `n Go policies change over time. Blog posts reflect Check `n Go policy at the time of writing. While maintained for your information, archived posts may not reflect current Check `n Go policy.

The information contained in our blog posts are the author’s own opinions, not those of Check `n Go or any other company. Any pros and cons are developed by our editorial team based on independent research. Some of the products, services, and offers on this page may not be available from Check `n Go. In Texas only: Check `n Go does not act as a credit services organization in providing this content.