It’s every pet owner’s worst nightmare: a true medical emergency. Your dog or cat has ingested something toxic, or been injured in an accident. As you’re driving your beloved pet to the veterinary emergency hospital—or to your trusted family veterinarian—your thoughts are racing. “Is my pet going to be okay?? Is she in pain? What would I do without her??” And the question that none of us want to think about: “Am I going to be able to afford what she needs? How much does a vet visit cost? ”
When trying to pay for an emergency vet bill as a pet parent, there is nothing like having financial assistance set aside in case your companion animal needs emergency care. A pet emergency fund lets you focus on your pet’s well-being during a true medical emergency, without many of the financial worries that complicate the cascade of emotions when a beloved pet is ill or injured. While nobody enjoys spending money, the peace of mind that comes from knowing your family companion is able to get the life-saving healthcare she needs is truly priceless.
For some pet owners, that peace of mind comes from having pet insurance with an affordable deductible, and it is important to understand what is pet insurance and what it will actually cover. However, for other pet owners, it makes more sense to have a dedicated pet emergency fund to cover unforeseen accidents, illness, or injury.
Common Pet Emergencies
You might think that just because you are a loving, attentive pet owner who follows all of your veterinarian’s pet preventative care recommendations, an emergency just can’t happen to your pet. We SO wish that were true! Unfortunately, some things are just out of our control (similar to our own health sometimes!).
The most common symptom that leads pet owners to bring their cats and dogs in for urgent treatment is vomiting and diarrhea. While most pets suffering from these common symptoms just need help controlling their nausea and diarrhea, these signs can also be the tip of the iceberg that indicates a severe illness. Testing such as bloodwork, a fecal exam, radiographs (x-rays), and even an abdominal ultrasound is often recommended to look for some of these more serious conditions—and the costs of testing alone can quickly add up.
Other common, potentially life-threatening symptoms that lead pet owners to an emergency visit are straining to urinate and the inability to urinate, difficulty breathing, collapse/weakness, loss of appetite, and limping (often a strain or a sprain, but sometimes due to a broken leg or a torn cruciate ligament—known as an “ACL tear” by all you sports buffs!).
Of course, this list of possible reasons for an emergency visit wouldn’t be complete without all the animals who are hit by a car, attacked by another animal, or who ingest something poisonous. In these cases, diagnostic tests are even more important to identify your pet’s underlying medical problem and/or injuries and to determine the proper course of treatment to save their life.
Treatments and interventions, such as emergency surgery and prolonged hospitalization, are often necessary and add to the cost of a pet emergency.
Pet Emergency Fund
As you can see, the cost of emergency veterinary care for your beloved companion can quickly add up. Veterinarians always communicate with pet owners the benefits and risks of performing or forgoing certain tests, and of performing certain treatments in each patient. However, not knowing how to pay for vet bills is a tricky situation for both the pet owner and the veterinarian alike. The sad reality is that most of the time, decisions are made according to financial limitations, and not necessarily what is the best medical care for the pet.
Veterinarians are used to working with pet owners on a budget—we do it all day, every day!—but having an emergency fund can give you the peace of mind that you are able to authorize the best medical care for your pet without having to weigh the pros, cons, and possible outcomes based on finances alone.
If you decide that pet insurance is not right for your family, it makes sense to set up a bank account or obtain a credit card that is to be used ONLY for pet expenses and emergencies. Some pet owners prefer to deposit a certain monthly amount in a pet savings account, or to fund it all at once when they obtain their pet—and not use the funds for other expenses. See our article on “how much does veterinary care cost?” for more on how much you think you need to budget.
AskVet Rainy Day Fund
Our veterinarians are here to help you identify what qualifies as a pet emergency 24 hours a day, seven days a week! If you are chatting with one of our veterinarians and a trip to the emergency room—or an urgent visit to your family veterinarian during business hours–is recommended, you can use your AskVet Rainy Day Fund to pay towards the care your pet needs. It’s a great way to supplement your own emergency fund (an HSA for pets, so to speak)!
Once you enroll in an AskVet membership, there is a 7-day waiting period until these Rainy Day funds are available to you. Your balance grows by $45 a month for each month you are a member, with a cap of $1,000. (Hint: every month, a higher dollar amount than you pay in membership fees is added to your balance!) If an AskVet veterinarian recommends an emergency visit, you can use your Rainy Day Fund balance to pay the hospital directly for your previously approved emergency visit.
As you can see, AskVet is here for your pet’s daily needs, as well as when you need us the most—in an emergency situation. For most pet owners, it is sadly not a case of “if” but WHEN a pet emergency will happen—and our Care Squad is here to help you during these difficult times.
We are available to discuss all of your pet’s needs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whether you have an immediate need or are looking to improve your pet’s overall wellbeing, just sign into your account and one of our friendly and knowledgeable veterinary experts will attend to your needs, no appointment required!
Allison Ward, DVM
Dr. Allison Ward grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and started working in veterinary hospitals when she was 14 years old. After graduating from veterinary school in 2011, she completed a small animal rotating internship in New Jersey, followed by a neurology/neurosurgery internship in Miami. After completing this advanced training, Dr. Ward then moved on to general small animal practice. Dr. Ward’s professional interests include feline medicine, neurology, and pain management. Her passion for educating pet owners carries over into her work with AskVet, and she loves being able to help pets and their parents at all times of the day (and night!). She currently resides in sunny south Florida with her two cats, Larry and George.