What to do When you Can't Afford Healthcare for Your Dog (2023)

What to do When you Can't Afford Healthcare for Your Dog (1)

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Every day, in animal hospitals around the country, dog owners receive the devastating news that there’s something seriously wrong with their pet. When the unexpected happens, the cost of pet healthcare can quickly burn through any budget, andaccording to the American Academy of Actuaries, only 1 to 2 percent of American pets are insured. So what can you do if your dog needs urgent or life-saving treatment, and you can’t afford to pay?

First: don’t despair. There are funds around the United States designed to help pet owners access affordable pet care and even free pet care, and keep their dogs healthy and thriving for as long as possible.

Saving Dogs’ Lives Through Healthcare Grants

When Emily Brown noticed that her eight-year-old Golden Retriever Gertie was having trouble with a hind leg, then found a lump near her rear, she immediately took her to theFlint Animal Cancer Centerat Colorado State University’s (CSU’s) Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. Though it was more than 100 miles from her home, Emily knew that the facility would give Gertie the first-class care she needed—partly because of its global reputation, and partially because Emily herself had received exemplary care at CSU while fighting cancer 20 years earlier.

What to do When you Can't Afford Healthcare for Your Dog (2)

When eight-year-old Golden Retriever Gertie was diagnosed with soft-tissue sarcoma, her owner applied for financial aid to afford treatment.

The veterinarians diagnosed soft-tissue sarcoma, and Gertie underwent surgery as soon as possible. The tumor was successfully removed, and Gertie didn’t need follow-up chemotherapy or radiation—a happy ending. But with her own medical expenses to pay, the bill for the surgery was more than Emily could afford.

Gertie’s treatment team suggested Emily’s family apply toHolly’s Legacy, a fund for treating dogs with cancer in families experiencing financial need as well as disability or elderliness. “We wanted to do everything we could,” Emily says. “It was just a huge relief for us, knowing that there are people out there that have the love and care to give back in honor of their dogs.”

Danielle Klaus is equally grateful for CSU’sVeterinary Teaching Hospital. When her Bulldog Zeek ate rodent poison, there was no time to waste: Danielle rushed him to the emergency room at CSU, where vomit was induced. Zeek threw up most of the poison, but not all—meaning Zeek also needed an endoscopy. By the time all the poison was accounted for, and Zeek was home and healthy, the bill had reached more than $3,000—which as a student, Danielle was unable to pay.

Luckily, the hospital recommendedElla’s Fund, which provides grants of up to $1,100 to dog owners in financial need, for dogs with a good prognosis that need life-saving or emergency healthcare. In exchange for the donation, pet owners volunteer their time at an animal-care organization, paying back the loan at a rate of $13.50 per hour.

What to do When you Can't Afford Healthcare for Your Dog (3)

Bulldog Zeek was able to receive life-saving treatment after swallowing rat poison, thanks to a healthcare grant.

Danielle is excited to start her volunteer commitment back at CSU, working with the emergency liaison officers in the same emergency room where Zeek received his life-saving care. “I know definitely I’m going to donate in the future to this fund, because, gosh, this has helped me out so much,” Danielle says.

Where to Find Financial Assistance for Pet Healthcare

So how can other dogs strike it as lucky as Gertie and Zeek? We spoke to numerous recipients of financial assistance, as well as veterinary teaching hospitals, nonprofits, and other animal health care providers, and the most common advice for anyone facing a financial barrier to treatment is:ask.

“Just don’t lose hope right off the bat,” is Emily Brown’s advice. “Because there are options out there and a lot of places either have funds like Holly’s Legacy set up for you or have ways of helping treat your animal. They’re a part of your family, and they recognize that, and they’re going to try everything to help you in every way possible.”

What to do When you Can't Afford Healthcare for Your Dog (4)

If you’re wondering who and where to ask, here’s a resource list:

  • Consider applying forCareCredit, a healthcare loan that can also be used for pet healthcare. To access charitable funds at some hospitals—for instance at CSU—you have to first show that you have been denied CareCredit or maxed out your account with them.
  • Look for a veterinary teaching hospital or nonprofit hospital, many of which offer charitable funds—though some contacted by us noted that they don’t have the means to offer subsidized care. You cansearch veterinary colleges by stateon the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website, and call your local institution to check. The final section of this article gives more details about how these funds function.
  • Several animal health providers told us that they refer clients in financial need to resource lists published byRedRover. RedRover President and CEO Nicole Forsyth says: “We recommend applying for more than one grant (from different organizations) asking other area clinics for a quote or second opinion, and applying for Care Credit, just to name a few.”
  • On those resource lists, check forbreed-specific dog healthcare fundsandcondition-specific dog healthcare funds, which are often national and operate outside of hospitals.
  • Check forstate-specific financial assistance programs for pet healthcare.
  • If there’s no fund designed for your specific situation,RedRover‘sUrgent Care Grantsmight help. RedRover provides almost 700 grants every year for pets whose owners can’t afford treatment, with an average grant amount of $200. In 2018, the organization approved 80 percent of applicants who qualified for a grant. Decisions are based on medical urgency, financial need, and other factors.
  • Several hospitals and nonprofits have seen clients successfully pay for treatment using crowdfunding sites such asGoFundMe.

And if you’re reading this before emergency strikes, veterinarians we consulted repeatedly gave the same two pieces of advice:

  • Consider getting pet insurance. The monthly cost is often low, and if the worst happens, knowing that insurance will cover most of your beloved pet’s treatment frees pet owners to make decisions based on their dog’s health, instead of money.
  • Set up an emergency fund.

Charitable Funds at Animal Hospitals—How to Find Them and How They Work

If you’re considering asking for financial assistance from an animal hospital, here’s the inside track on how they work.

You’re most likely to find these funds at a veterinary teaching hospital (see above for details on finding your nearest) or nonprofit animal hospital, such asAnimal Medical Centerin New York City, the largest nonprofit animal hospital in the world. In 2018, AMC granted a total of $1.7 million toward pet care for more than 600 pets.

The funds are often established by individuals and families who have lost pets, and the founder of the fund often specifies how the money can be used—for instance, there might be a requirement for recipients to complete volunteer work, or a fund might be reserved for particular medical disorders or populations.

What to do When you Can't Afford Healthcare for Your Dog (5)

In order to qualify, you will often have to demonstrate your financial need (for instance by showing that you’ve been denied CareCredit), and your dog might need a good prognosis—though some funds do not factor in prognosis. For instance, all of the funds at CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center. Many funds require that treatment be life-saving or based on emergency circumstances, and that treatment is carried out at the hospital in question. Grants are also often capped at $1,000 per pet, though some funds offer more. We were unable to find any funds that cover the entire cost of treatment.

Funds around the country include Washington State University’sGood Samaritan Fund, which typically offers up to $1,000 for treatment that must be carried out at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital—and in certain cases, the fund has granted up to $1,300 or $1,500. In the last year, the fund has received 713 applications, of which 168 received funding. The College of Veterinary Medicine at Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona, also offers a hardship fund, at itsAnimal Health Institute. For funds in your area,check your local veterinary teaching college.

How You Can Help Other Pet Owners

Finally: these funds rely on donations, and sometimes, they don’t receive enough. That means that even if a pet owner qualifies for a grant, there might not be enough money in the fund to pay it. If you’re reading this and you’re not currently experiencing financial hardship, you can help pet owners in need by contacting your local hospital or nonprofit to offer a donation.


What to do When you Can't Afford Healthcare for Your Dog? ›

Your local shelter - animal shelters live and breathe animal welfare, so drastically reduced or free access to their vet services is something they will usually happily extend to pet parents who are facing extreme financial hardship.

What to do when you can't afford to keep your dog? ›

Handout: What to do if you can't afford your pet
  1. Visit pethelpfinder.org. Search for food pantries and supplies, financially friendly veterinary services, boarding options and local animal welfare groups.
  2. Contact local food pantries. ...
  3. Talk to a veterinarian. ...
  4. Contact local animal welfare groups. ...
  5. Research other options.

What to do if your dog is dying but cant afford the vet? ›

Your local shelter - animal shelters live and breathe animal welfare, so drastically reduced or free access to their vet services is something they will usually happily extend to pet parents who are facing extreme financial hardship.

What if you don t have money to take your pet to the doctor how would you take care of him? ›

When You Can't Afford Veterinary Care
  1. Choose pet insurance. ...
  2. Get a Credit Line. ...
  3. Ask for payment options. ...
  4. Consider crowdfunding. ...
  5. Host a group yard sale. ...
  6. Use free or low cost clinics. ...
  7. Ask friends or family. ...
  8. Start a pet savings account.
Feb 15, 2019

Why is dog health care so expensive? ›

Just like any other business, veterinarians have to deal with overhead. They have to pay rent, utilities, and staff salaries. They have to purchase supplies, medications and equipment. They have to pay for laboratory analysis by an outside lab, or maintain an in house laboratory.

How much should you pay someone to keep your dog? ›

Pet sitters charge an average of $25 per 30-minute visit, $20 to $30 per day, $45 to $75 per night, or $250 to $375 per week.
Pet Sitting Rates.
National Average Cost$15 per hour
Maximum Cost$60 per hour
Average Range$10 to $25 per hour
1 more row
Apr 5, 2023

How does a dog feel when rehomed? ›

Sometimes it may look like a dog is coping well, while in fact, they're incredibly stressed and anxious. A newly rehomed dog may be fearful, aggressive, shut down, anxious, hyperactive, pushy, clingy, or barking and whining, to name a few, and it's important to know the signs and understand the associated behaviors.

Can a vet come out to euthanize a dog? ›

It may be possible for your vet to come to your home, but this varies from vet to vet. Sometimes, your dog will already be hospitalised or under anaesthetic. If your dog is already under anaesthetic, though this may be hard, it may be kinder to agree to euthanasia without waking them up so they are not in pain.

What happens when your pet dies at the vet? ›

If your veterinary practice is arranging cremation for you then they will keep - or bring your pet's body back to, in the case of a home euthanasia, or a natural death at home - then at the veterinary practice. Your pet's body is usually picked up by the crematorium and brought to the facility in their own transport.

Is dog dying a family emergency? ›

You can call it a family emergency — because it was, and also because clients don't really need details beyond that anyway. Animals are part of your family (even foster animals, just as foster kids would be). Your dog needed emergency care, and this was an emergency for your family.

How long does it take to euthanize a dog with Tylenol PM? ›

I previously wrote a blog on Tylenol poisoning in dogs, if you want more detail. Yes, Tylenol can kill a dog or cat – but it's very slow in killing. The point is, very few poisons kill humane and acutely – it typically takes 24-48 hours before your pet dies, and it's not a good way to go.

What to do if you can't take care of an animal? ›

As a last resort, you may be able to surrender your pet to a local shelter or rescue organization. Each agency may have a different process for surrendering a pet to their care; learn more by visiting their website or by calling ahead.

What is the first signs of parvo in a dog? ›

Some of the signs of parvovirus include lethargy; loss of appetite; abdominal pain and bloating; fever or low body temperature (hypothermia); vomiting; and severe, often bloody, diarrhea. Persistent vomiting and diarrhea can cause rapid dehydration, and damage to the intestines and immune system can cause septic shock.

Why are vets so overpriced? ›

Veterinary practices are businesses, and like any business, they aim to make a profit. This means that prices may be higher than what it costs them to provide the service. Additionally, practices must cover overhead expenses such as rent, utilities, and staff salaries.

How can vets charge so much? ›

Veterinary Prescriptions Have Multiple Markups

Any medicine you get from a vet will have multiple markups applied from the wholesaler and at the vet surgery. This is implemented to cover the costs of stocking and supplying the medication.

Do vets do unnecessary procedures? ›

Some Veterinarians Sell Unnecessary Shots, Tests to Make Extra Money, Says Former Vet. Andrew Jones, a veterinarian for 17 years, says upselling is common.

How much does the average person spend on a dog in its lifetime? ›

Well, according to the aforementioned Synchrony study, the lifetime cost of care of a dog ranges anywhere from $20,000 to $55,000. For our feline friends, this cost averages between $15,000 and $45,000. These costs include first year expenses, food, health insurance, end-of-life care and more.

Is dog ownership worth it? ›

Spending time with canine companions does wonders for your wellbeing. Recent research shows that owning a dog is good for you physically and emotionally. Dogs make us happier, healthier, and help us cope with a crisis—and can even help you get a date.

How much does the average dog owner spend a month? ›

After covering the initial expenses to make your home pup-ready, keep the on-going, annual costs in mind. Our research shows that the average dog parent may spend anywhere from $610-$3,555 per year on their dog—that averages to $40-$290 per month. This is roughly a 15% increase since 2022.

Do dogs grieve when rehomed? ›

You probably know this, but to re-state the obvious: Yes, dogs grieve too. In fact, because dogs process everything emotionally and intuitively, their grieving process is often very difficult for them because their sense of loss is so profoundly emotional.

Do dogs miss their owners when rehomed? ›

It's not unusual for dogs to grieve the loss of a person they've bonded with who is no longer present. While they might not understand the full extent of human absence, dogs do understand the emotional feeling of missing someone who's no longer a part of their daily lives.

What age are dogs most likely to be rehomed? ›

There is a reason why the most common age for dogs being given to rescue centres to be rehomed is between 6-18 months old, and this is because canine adolescence can be a tricky time.

Did my dog know he was being put to sleep? ›

Answer: Fortunately for us, dogs do not understand they are going to be put down and what happens after they are given the injection that puts them to sleep.

Can a dog wake up after euthanasia? ›

The doctor will listen carefully to your pet's heart to ensure it has stopped before pronouncing him or her gone. After that, there is no danger of your pet waking up. This is a very common fear for pet owners.

What is the behavior of an old dog before death? ›

Behavior Changes

Some dogs will become restless, wandering the house and seeming unable to settle or get comfortable. Others will be abnormally still and may even be unresponsive. Your dog's sleeping patterns may change. He may become cranky and difficult to handle, either due to pain or disorientation.

How long to wait after a pet dies? ›

Most experts agree that the time to get a new pet is after you have worked through your grief adequately to be able to look forward to a new pet instead of back at the recently departed one. That process could take a week or two – or many months.

What happens to dog soul after death? ›

According to Hinduism, when a dog dies, its soul is reborn again as a human, animal, or plant, depending on the karma it has accumulated in its past life. In Buddhism, dogs are believed to have the same afterlife as any other sentient being, returning to the cycle of rebirth until they can reach enlightenment.

Do dogs cry at end of life? ›

Signs Your Dog May Be Ready to Say Goodbye

Labored breathing. Lack of appetite. Lack of Mobility or Extreme Lethargy. Crying or intense whining.

Can you call 911 if your pet is dying? ›

If animal control can't come immediately, call 911. And remember: If all else fails, do whatever it takes to save the animal's life.

Can I take off work if my pet dies? ›

Emergency days are those days which you have not foreseen. Your employer may not regard your pets as your dependents. You, however, could be permitted to take a few "compassionate" leaves in-case the animal is in dire need of emergency care. Do note that such a leave depends on your employee contract terms.

Why would you humanely euthanize a dog? ›

A veterinarian may recommend euthanasia, which is a humane death, when other options to reduce pain and distress are no longer helpful. Euthanasia may be recommended when you least expect it, such as if your pet is diagnosed with a terminal illness or if they've been in a debilitating accident.

What does gabapentin do to dogs? ›

While for humans gabapentin is used to treat partial seizures, nerve pain, and restless leg syndrome, for dogs it is used to treat seizures, anxiety, and nerve pain. It works by blocking calcium channels in the brain to suppress overly stimulated neurons that cause anxiety, nerve pain, and seizures.

How long does it usually take to euthanize a dog? ›

How long does the euthanasia process take? The typical in-home euthanasia appointment generally takes about an hour. However, the length of the appointment will depend upon your pet's response to the sedation medication. Every animal, just as every human, responds differently to sedative drugs.

Is not walking a dog neglect? ›

Most dogs love them and they can be a wonderful part of our day. That being said, it is not necessary to take a walk every single day. Many dog caretakers feel like they are failing their dogs if they skip a daily walk. In fact, it is usually nothing to worry about, and sometimes it's exactly what your dog needs!

Why do people get pets if they can't take care of them? ›

Many find that they care more about their pet's comfort than they do their own. They spend the money they make panhandling on food for their pet or food they share with their pet. Pet ownership can also give someone the push they need to go that extra mile or think more creatively about how to solve their problems.

What animal doesn't need much care? ›

Smaller mammals and reptiles may be a good option if you're frequently out of the home for work or other commitments for hours at a time. “Hamsters, mice, reptiles, and fish require the least amount of daily interaction. But guinea pigs and rats make good pets as well,” Kanfer says.

What does parvo smell like? ›

Parvo poop smells metallic because of the high-blood content in the feces. As the disease progresses, the puppy's intestinal lining rips away, causing a sickly-sweet, rotting smell. Parvovirus wreaks havoc on a pup's stomach and intestines, which is why poop has that bloody, rotting, metallic parvo smell.

What color is parvo throw up? ›


Your puppy will vomit and have diarrhea if canine parvovirus is present in their system. Vomit may be clear or a yellow or brown color, and diarrhea will often contain blood and be a light yellow or mustard colored hue.

What does parvo poop look like? ›

If your puppy has parvo, they will likely be experiencing severe diarrhea. Their diarrhea may first be light brown to dark brown in color, and will slowly transition into becoming dark red due to the presence of blood in their stool.

How do I keep my vet prices down? ›

7 Hacks To Save You Money At The Vet
  1. Talk to an online vet first. ...
  2. Compare different vets. ...
  3. Always ask for a written estimate. ...
  4. Look into an Emergency Fund to pay your vet bills. ...
  5. Consider preventative care. ...
  6. Reexamine your vaccine schedule. ...
  7. Maintain a healthy food & exercise routine.
Aug 26, 2020

How much are most vet bills? ›

The average national cost for a dog's routine check-up is $50 to $250. Overall vet costs including wellness check-ups, dental care, lab tests and vaccines can total between $700 and $1,500 per year.

Are vet prices negotiable? ›

You can go with the cheaper option or go back to your original vet and let them know someone else will charge less. In some cases, negotiating with your vet might go nowhere. If that happens, you can simply go elsewhere and get the same service. This includes prescriptions, which vets will often mark up.

Why is it so expensive to take your dog to the vet? ›

Tracheal tubes have to be available in odd sizes, special catheters have to be ready to use, and there are also some medications that a vet will need to keep on hand. Large instruments are also expensive, and if your dog has special needs, it pays to go to an expensive clinic that has what she needs.

What is one of the largest expenses for veterinary practice? ›

In fact, the largest supply expenditures for most veterinary practices are medications, including pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs and pet food. Managing these higher expense areas is essential.

How much does the average person spend on vet bills a year? ›

Find out just how much it costs to keep your pet healthy. Most people know that when they get a dog or cat, a big part of the pet's expense will be routine veterinary care. On average, pet owners spend $235 per year in recurring medical costs for a dog and $160 for a cat, according to the ASPCA.

Is it OK to not take your dog to the vet? ›

You should take your dog to the vet at least once a year for their annual check-up and more often when they are a puppy or senior dog. Dogs age faster than humans, so regular check-ups are vital to help them remain healthy and prevent diseases.

What not to do as a vet? ›

Do not:
  • Save every pet. I know we all want desperately to save every pet that comes our way. ...
  • Worry. ...
  • Skip a vacation. ...
  • Get into the drama. ...
  • Eat all the donuts. ...
  • Bring your baggage. ...
  • Take your boss for granted. ...
  • Pass up a veterinary convention.
Jul 29, 2015

Can a vet refuse to euthanize a sick animal? ›

So, when your pet is suffering irremediably, your veterinarian is very likely to recommend euthanasia. But when a companion animal is not ready to die, you may or may not find that your vet will, for ethical and professional reasons, decline a request to end the animal's life.

How do you deal with a pet dying soon? ›

Here are a few suggestions to help you cope:
  1. Acknowledge your grief, and give yourself permission to express it. Allow yourself to cry. ...
  2. Try not to replay your last moments with your pet. ...
  3. Reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear. ...
  4. Memorialize your pet through a bereavement ritual.

How can I help my dog end of life? ›

End-of-Life Care: How to Make Your Dog's Last Days Comfortable
  1. Keep him warm. ...
  2. Make sure he has palatable food, such as canned food or some plain cooked chicken mixed in with his kibble. ...
  3. Keep him company or leave him alone depending on his preferences.
Jan 28, 2021

What to do for someone with a dying dog? ›

Share stories about what you remember about their pet. Use the pet's name…even after death. Provide a hug, a squeeze of the hand, or touch on the shoulder-whatever you feel comfortable doing. Listen more than talk and also listen in a non-judgmental manner.

Is there a medical reason to euthanize a dog? ›

A veterinarian may recommend euthanasia, which is a humane death, when other options to reduce pain and distress are no longer helpful. Euthanasia may be recommended when you least expect it, such as if your pet is diagnosed with a terminal illness or if they've been in a debilitating accident.

Is it cruel not to euthanize a dog? ›

Animal hospice principles do not accept a pet owner's decision to allow a pet to die without effective palliative measures while under the care of a licensed veterinarian. If pain and suffering cannot be relieved by other means, withholding palliative sedation or euthanasia is considered unethical and inhumane.

How do you know when it's time to euthanize your dog? ›

Some common signs that it may be time to put your pup down include the inability or refusal to eat or drink, labored breathing, an inability to get up for potty times without help, urinary or fecal incontinence, and immobility. Essentially, this can come down to your dog's quality of life.

What happens right before a dog dies? ›

The most prominent sign that you will notice is a complete relaxation of the body, your dog will no longer appear tense, rather they will “let go.” You will notice a slimming of the body as the air is expelled from their lungs for the last time and you may notice the lack of life in their eyes if they are still open.

What is considered quality of life for a dog? ›

At its most basic, this term refers to a dog's daily lifestyle, whether his or her basic needs are met, and how he or she is feeling. A good quality life for a dog may mean: Eating and drinking normal amounts (and looking forward to food and treats) Being able to play with toys, family members, or other dogs.

How long can a dog go without eating? ›

Dogs need food and water to survive. However, if they are otherwise well, they can survive for around 5 days without food, as long as they are drinking. It's true that dogs have survived for much longer periods without food, but there is a great risk of irreversible damage to their organs and tissues, or death.

How do you say goodbye to a pet? ›

Give them all the things they enjoy most – their favourite toys, their favourite food. You know what will make your pet feel most at ease in the time that remains. If you become tearful, ask a family member, friend or other trusted person to take care of your pet so you can leave the room and have a cry.

What can you give a dying dog for comfort? ›

A favorite blanket and a soft toy are very common items that you may choose to bring with to help comfort him as he passes. Favorite blankets or a dog bed will also be much more comfortable for your dog than the exam table, especially if he's already in discomfort.

What do you say when a dog dies Rainbow Bridge? ›

Over the course of several years, the term Rainbow Bridge has become synonymous with animal lovers who have lost a pet. You may hear a grief-stricken owner say their deceased pet has “crossed the Rainbow Bridge” or say “I'll meet you at the Rainbow Bridge” in reference to the pet.


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