For many of us, our pets are companions who help us manage our spiritual and mental health.
Like you, pets also need health care, which means the cost of ownership means you need to pay for more than food and toys. You also need to pay regular vet bills.
According to the ASPCA, pet owners spend $235 a year on vet bills for their dog and $160 for their cat.
Being unable to take your pet to the vet can damage their health and even risk the health of the animals they interact with.
That’s why it’s so important to find ways to save on vet bills. Here’s what you should expect to spend as a pet owner, and how you can make paying the bills more manageable.
Vet Appointments You Should Expect Each Year
The rule of thumb for vet bills is bigger animals come with higher bills.
At a minimum, you should plan to take your pet in for an annual medical exam.
For dogs, the annual exam can set you back between $200-$250. Cats cost less — $100 to $150. A health check-up is a good time to focus on preventative care and give them any updated vaccinations, like rabies.
These are the bare minimums you need for a healthy pet.
If you plan to board your pet at any point, you will need more frequent check-ups for things that don’t come up at the annual check-up.
For example, if you board your dog for the first time, the kennel will likely expect you to vaccinate your dog against Bordetella at least two weeks before they arrive at the kennel. This is your kennel cough vaccine, and you shouldn’t board your dog anywhere that doesn’t require it. Some may also require you to vaccinate for the canine parainfluenza virus.
The exam will set you back around $50, depending on where you live.
These are your general pet health costs. They don’t include illnesses, injuries, or hospitalizations that pop up in the meantime.
How to Budget for Vet Bills
There are two primary ways the pet owners create room in their budgets for vet bills: pet insurance and pet health savings accounts.
Pet insurance is like your health insurance. You pay a premium every month and choose a deductible, then your insurance takes care of any disastrous medical expenses, like hospitalization.
Pet health savings accounts encourage you to save money for bills in advance by providing you with higher interest rates or rewards. They may even donate some of their proceeds to a local animal shelter or rescue society.
Both tools help manage your pet’s finances.
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
Pet insurance offers an insurance policy that’s not dissimilar to other types of insurance.
You pay a monthly premium based on your pet’s breed, age, and health, and the deductible you choose. You can also select what reimbursement level or co-pay works best for your finances.
It’s worth keeping in mind that while hereditary and congenital conditions are covered, your pet’s pre-existing conditions won’t be. This is why it’s good to buy pet insurance when they’re young and healthy.
Now, your pet insurance isn’t designed to cover trips to the vet. Their annual medical check-up is your responsibility. Pet insurance kicks in when expensive care pops up, like surgery.
The Benefits of Pet Insurance
Pet insurance is a must-have product for anyone who has a (mammal) pet.
We spend so much on toys, food, and even choosing pet-friendly hotels and restaurants. It only makes sense that you buy insurance to protect your pet and your finances if their health takes a turn.
The joy of pet insurance is that it’s much easier to navigate than human health insurance. You can visit any vet you like – all you do is send your bill to the insurance company.
You can also buy insurance for any breed, no matter their age. You can even purchase guinea pig insurance if you want.
Pet insurance also prevents you from making hard decisions. So many families have to weigh up whether to go to the vet or even whether to seek life-saving treatment based on cost. It’s a decision no one wants to make, but choosing insurance means you don’t have to choose between significant debt and vet care.
How Do Pet Health Savings Accounts Work?
Pet health savings accounts complement insurance by building up an emergency fund that covers your deductible or other costs for emergency care.
You can also use them to save up for their annual treatment over the year.
It may sound strange to open an account for your pet, but it keeps their money and your money separate. Plus, there are real savings accounts available catered to pets. Many of them come from local credit unions.
To sign up, you need to either make a deposit or sign up for a monthly auto-transfer.
The Benefits of Pet Health Savings Accounts
Both you and your pet enjoy the benefits of health savings accounts.
The details depend on the account opened. But most do more than store your money for a rainy day. Many will offer you savings on veterinary services in the local area. You might even get free pet tags and a pet locator service. It’s also common for the bank or credit union to donate to a local charity in your pet’s name.
Perhaps the most significant benefit is the higher interest rates. You may get a 3-5 percent interest rate when you make a significant deposit, which helps your pet’s account earn money and better prepares you both for the future.
Protect Your Pets with the Right Financial Accounts
An annual checkup for your pet won’t be much more than a few hundred dollars.
It’s a small price to pay for how much our beloved animals do for us.
But in an emergency, vet bills can be astronomical and can easily send you into debt.
By buying pet insurance and starting a health savings account for your pet, you can make sure you don’t have to choose between treatment and your finances.
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