Cat being held by veterinarian
When it comes to veterinary visits for a sick pet, the elephant in the room is always the cost. As much as you may love your dog or cat, when your veterinarian tells you that your pet needs lab tests or surgery or a special procedure such as an MRI or echocardiogram, your first thought is likely to be “How much is that going to cost?”

Heck, I wonder that myself sometimes. Even with my own animals, the cost of care can be high. Our little QT Pi had an intensive care bill of $4,000, and my daughter Mikkel’s Pug, Bruce, who recently passed away, was treated for cancer at a cost of about $6,000. I will be the first to say that high-quality specialty and emergency veterinary care is not cheap. Paying the bill with cash can be a hardship, and not everyone has a credit card with a high enough limit to cover the expense.

Talk About Costs

The important thing I want you to know is that it’s okay to engage your veterinarian in a conversation about cost. It’s the thing that everyone dreads the most, but I’m here to say that there’s nothing wrong with saying, “My budget is a concern today.”

Some of my clients are comfortable bringing up their financial concerns when we’re discussing treatment, but not everyone is — sometimes I sense a tension in the air that alerts me that cost might be a concern. If I think that it could be a worry, I will bring it up myself.

In fairness to yourself and your vet, it’s important that you be willing to discuss what you can afford to spend. This can help your veterinarian to prioritize what your pet really needs versus what would be nice but maybe isn’t necessary just yet. The discussion can be about what’s best for your pet as well as for your pocketbook.

This is also the time to ask if your veterinarian has any special promotions or discount programs that you might not be aware of and that you and your pet may benefit from. For example, maybe your pet has a dental problem and needs multiple teeth cleanings throughout the year. In a case like that, where a pet requires numerous treatments, your veterinarian may be willing to offer you the same discount year-round that he or she gives during National Pet Dental Health Month.

Think Outside the Box

When you’re looking for ways to pay your vet bills, be creative. In some situations, bartering may not be out of the question. If you have a skill such as laying tile, landscaping, web design or legal services, you may be able to work out a trade for all or part of your pet’s care. Your veterinarian might not always be able to say yes, but it never hurts to ask.

You may also be able to pay off the bill interest-free over a period of up to 18 months. Many veterinarians now offer Care Credit, a healthcare financing credit card. It provides short-term financing options of 6, 12, 18 or 24 months. You pay no interest if you repay the entire amount within the allotted time.

There are other alternatives as well. Depending on your circumstances, your pet may qualify for help from a nonprofit organization that helps pet owners in need. You may also want to consider starting a GoFundMe account or looking for items that you can sell to help finance the cost of your pet’s care.

When it comes to medical care, nobody wants to say “I can’t afford it,” but when your pet’s life is at stake, you can’t afford not to say “Let’s talk about the cost.”

More on Vetstreet: