How to Talk to Your Vet About Healthcare When Your Budget is Tight

By Kathleen Rodgers

We’re all familiar with Murphy’s Law: “what can go wrong, will go wrong.” There seems to be a version pertaining to pets too: your pet will get sick on Friday night of a three-day weekend, probably when your budget has already been strained to capacity.

If you’re feeling the pinch of difficult economic times – and who isn’t? – but your cat needs veterinary care, you might have to weigh the cost of healthcare against your budget. Before you make any decisions based on costs, talk to your vet about your situation.

I know, talking about money isn’t easy between friends, much less with someone you only know in a professional capacity. Here are some tips and suggestions:

Get to know your vet and the office staff. Cultivate a good relationship from the beginning. Be pleasant and courteous at all times. Ask about their pets, or get to know the “office dog”. You might bring a plate of home-baked goodies once in a while.

  • When an emergency strikes, ask for an estimate of the costs. It’s better to be prepared than to be faced with a huge bill when you pick up your cat after an emergency procedure.
  • Be up front with your situation. Whether your strained budget is caused by job loss, your own healthcare crisis, or just a general lack of funds, be honest and explain your circumstances.
  • Are there alternatives to the suggested treatment that might cost less? Would it be less expensive to purchase a prescribed medication from a human pharmacy, or online?
  • Ask if you can barter goods or services for your vet bill. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
  • The office staff might be able to help you apply for veterinary financing through a company such as Care Credit, or recommend a pet health insurance company.
  • Realize that preventive care can cost less in the long run. 
  • Check out the Washington Humane Society and Washington Area Rescue League who provide affordable services  to low  income qualified residents of Washington, DC.

Even if you never have to rush your feline companion to the vet in an emergency, remember Tip #1 above: always be pleasant and courteous. A good relationship is a good investment, no matter who it’s with.