Advice on how to get help with Vet costs

Taking on a pet comes with financial implications, which is why we always recommend Pet Insurance for unforeseen illness, injuries and accidents that our furry friends can suffer.  There is no NHS for pets, so veterinary treatment can be expensive. Dogs and cats can live well into their teenage years, so bring with them a long-term financial commitment to their care.

It can be stressful when your pet is unwell and if you’re also worried about money this can make the situation feel worse. The longer your pet is unwell the worse their illness can become, so seeking advice quickly may reduce costs overall and be best for your pet’s health.

Some Vet practices offer schemes where owners can pay a monthly subscription to help cover consultation fees and certain treatments.  If your pet needs urgent and expensive treatment, you may also be able to arrange a payment plan with your vets to pay by instalments. Please speak to your vet immediately if you are struggling to pay.

We also advise you to check the cost with other vets as prices can vary.  You are not tied to a particular practice to treat your animal, so shop around or get a second opinion if possible.

We receive calls daily from owners who are struggling to pay for veterinary care for their pets, so we have put together some information and advice below on various way to reduce or spread the cost, as follows:

Get advice from your vet first

The first step towards helping your pet is contacting your local vet.  Although it may feel awkward to talk about money, it’s best to speak honestly with your vet about what you can afford as they may be able to offer alternative options.

Your vet will give advice on how best to help your pet, but there may be other options depending on your circumstances and location. Different but equally effective treatments can sometimes reduce costs.

Avoid DIY remedies to cut costs

If you’re worried about money, you may be tempted to use home remedies or ask people without professional veterinary experience for help.  Well-meaning people may offer you pet health advice, but this may not be suitable or safe for your pet for reasons only a trained vet who can thoroughly examine your animal would know.

Unfortunately, many common human products and medications can be very harmful to pets. For example, paracetamol is very toxic to cats and ibuprofen is toxic to both cats and dogs. Even external products (creams and sprays) may also contain ingredients which may harm your pet.  Complications can be serious and result in much higher vet costs than the original condition. In some cases, the effects can be fatal to your pet, as symptoms may not be visible until serious damage has been done.

It is also not wise to use medication prescribed for another animal to try to help your pet.  What works for one dog or cat could cause complications for others due to allergies, underlying health issues etc, so never borrow or share medication from friends, neighbours, etc.  A lot of medication also has a shelf-life, so once opened may no longer be effective.

This is why it’s very important to speak to your vet practice if you notice a change in your pet’s health or behaviour. Getting your pet treated quickly may help lower the long-term cost of vet bills, by preventing their conditions from deteriorating and needing more intensive and expensive care.

Check if your pet is unwell

If you’re unsure how quickly to contact a vet, you can check your pet’s symptoms for free using Vet Help Direct’s online symptom checker or book an online or virtual consultation. Vets aren’t normally able to prescribe medications through virtual consults, but they can help advise whether your pet needs urgent attention.

How to get medication at a cheaper cost

Costs can vary for the same medication, so it’s worth asking your vet if they can issue you a prescription to use online or take to a pharmacy where the price may be lower.  The vet will charge for the prescription-only service, but pet pharmacies buy very large amounts of medications at a time, so can often offer a lower price for each one.  Many vet clinics are small businesses, so cannot buy this large amount of medication and use it all before it expires, so their costs can be higher.

Can’t afford a vet treatment estimate

Unfortunately, there’s no NHS for pets and vets need to charge appropriate fees to keep their business running.  Medications are expensive and costs increase all the time, so vets are usually unable to lower the cost of their treatments.

Alternative treatments

There could be other treatment options your vet can offer. Lower cost treatments can give good results, but may come with less certainty or with more risks than the higher priced alternatives. This is something your vet can explain to you.

The more recent advances in medicine and equipment come with an increased cost, and on a low budget, the sort of things you might see on TV programmes probably won’t be available. However, there may still be an option that might help your pet feel better.

Credit-based payment plans

Some vets offer payment plans through a credit company if you need help spreading the cost. Not every vet can offer this, but it’s worth asking if this is possible.  To decide if signing up for a payment plan is right for you, please see:

 

Change your vet

Vet fees vary based on location, which equipment and tests are available, the vet’s experience and speciality.  You may want to get a second opinion from a different vet clinic or hospital. Some vets also provide low-cost services and in certain areas, you may find a not-for-profit clinic through companies like the Animal Trust.  You can also find a list of vets in your area.

End of life decisions

At times, very sadly the only way to help your pet is for you to make the final decision about their life. If you would like to talk to someone about this, please know that free help is available through:

 

Other charities that can help

Some animal charities help owners with vet bills, either by covering some of the payment or offering reduced costs through their own clinics. In most cases, you will need to fit specific criteria to use them so please check first.

To see if the charities below offer services that are available in your area please visit their websites.

  • Cat’s Protection offers free and low-cost neutering schemes throughout the UK.
  • Dogs Trust offers free and reduced-cost vet assistance for people who are in housing crises or are homeless. Visit Dogs Trust to find out more.

 

Carefree Credit service

This service provides low interest loans specifically to help with veterinary treatment and allow you to make monthly repayments.  Details are available from the Care Free Credit website here

Please note: The Care Free Credit service is not affiliated to the RSPCA or Cornwall Branch, so we cannot assist with queries about their loan schemes.

How to apply for financial help from RSPCA Cornwall Branch

 

RSPCA Cornwall – Welfare Assistance Scheme

If none of the above options have helped your situation, you may be eligible for some help through our Welfare Assistance Scheme.  This offers owners on means-tested benefits, a contribution towards the cost of veterinary treatment. The Cornwall Branch finance the cost of welfare vouchers from our local funds, so we can only offer a small percentage towards any vet costs.   

In order to qualify for Welfare Assistance, you must provide proof you are in receipt of means-tested benefits* (this can be a screen shot from your bank statement, a copy of a benefits agency letter etc).

You also need to provide a quote or estimate from the vet showing the treatment required and their cost.  Your proof of benefits and vet quote should be submitted with your application.

PLEASE NOTE: We can only offer a contribution towards unpaid amounts, so we are unable to refund the cost of any treatment you have already received and paid for.

Our Finance Department review all Welfare Assistance applications, so once you have provided all the information above, if they agree you are eligible for support with your vet bill, they will issue a voucher made payable to your chosen vet.  This will be sent to you to give to your vet as a contribution towards the cost of treatment, as we cannot fund the whole amount.

If you are looking for assistance with neutering of an XL Bully, you can apply to be condisidered for a welfare assistance contibution.  You may also be eligible for support under the XL Bully neutering scheme which is being offered via the Blue Cross.  You can find details here – https://www.bluecross.org.uk/neutering-your-xl-bully-support.  Your vet will need to apply for this funding on your behalf, so please speak direct to them to ask if they can help you with this.

If you would like to be assessed for RSPCA Cornwall Welfare Assistance and meet the eligible benefits criteria listed below*, we have an online form which you need to complete and submit – Welfare assistance application.

It can take up to 7 working days to process applications, so please ensure you have provided all the information above to prevent any delay in responding to your application.

*  To be considered for Welfare Assistance, you must be in receipt of at least one of the following:

Universal Credit, Working tax credit, Income support, Housing benefit,  Council tax benefit, Income-based Jobseeker’s allowance, Employment support allowance, Guaranteed pension credit

Please Note:  Welfare assistance does not cover the cost of worming or flea medication, vaccination or other routine treatments as these are the responsibility of the owner.  We do not have our own vet at the Animal Centre, so cannot provide any subsidised vet care here.

If you need assistance with the cost of neutering your cat, please see our separate page for details of how to apply for vouchers under our Cat Neutering Scheme.

If you have any difficulty downloading the form, please contact us by email –info@rspcacornwall.org.uk to request a copy is sent to you.  Completed forms returned by post must be accompanies by proof of benefits and vet quote for the treatment needed.