Every day, dog owners at vet clinics across the country receive the devastating news that something is seriously wrong with their pet. When the unexpected happens, the cost of pet healthcare can quickly break the bank, andaccording to the American Academy of Actuaries, only 1 to 2 percent of AmericansPets are insured. So what can you do if your dog needs urgent or life-saving treatment and you can't afford it?
First: don't despair. Funds exist in the United States to help pet owners access affordable pet grooming, and even free pet grooming, and keep their dogs healthy and thriving for as long as possible.
Saving Dog Lives Through Health Grants
When Emily Brown realized that her eight-year-oldGolden RetrieverGertie had problems with a hind leg, then she found a bump near her butt, she took it with her immediatelyFlint Animal Cancer Centerat Colorado State University (CSU) Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. Although it was more than 100 miles from her home, Emily knew the facility would provide Gertie with the top-notch care she needed — partly because of its worldwide reputation and partly because Emily herself had received exemplary care at CSU while she was Had fought cancer for 20 years earlier.
When eight-year-old golden retriever Gertie was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, her owner applied for financial assistance to help her treat it.
The vets diagnosed soft tissue sarcoma and Gertie underwent surgery as soon as possible. The tumor was successfully removed and Gertie needed no further chemotherapy or radiation - a happy ending. But with her own medical expenses to pay, the bill for the surgery was more than Emily could afford.
Gertie's treatment team suggested that Emily's family applyHolly's legacy, a fund for the treatment of dogs with cancer in families with financial difficulties, disabilities or old age. "We wanted to do everything we could," says Emily. "It was just such a great relief for us to know that there are people out there who have the love and care to give back in honor of their dogs."
Danielle Klaus is just as grateful to the CSUVeterinary Teaching Hospital. As theybulldogZeek ate rodent poison, there was no time to lose: Danielle rushed him to the CSU emergency room, where vomiting was induced. Zeek vomited up most of the venom, but not all - which meant Zeek also needed an endoscopy. By the time all the poison was settled and Zeek was home and healthy, the bill had reached more than $3,000 — something Danielle couldn't pay as a student.
Fortunately, the hospital recommendedThey Funds, which provides dog owners in financial need with grants of up to $1,100 for dogs with a good prognosis who need lifesaving or emergency medical care. In return for the donation, pet owners volunteer with an animal care organization and repay the loan at a rate of $13.50 per hour.
Bulldog Zeek was able to receive life-saving treatment after swallowing rat poison thanks to a health grant.
Danielle is looking forward to starting her volunteer work again at CSU and working with the emergency liaison officers at the same ER where Zeek received his life-saving care. "I definitely know I will be donating to this fund in the future because, my goodness, this has helped me so much," says Danielle.
Where can you find financial aid for pet health care?
How can other dogs be as lucky as Gertie and Zeek? We've spoken to numerous financial aid recipients, as well as veterinary teaching hospitals, nonprofit organizations, and other animal health providers, and the most common advice for anyone facing a financial barrier to treatment is:questions.
"Don't give up hope right away," advises Emily Brown. “Because there are options and many places either have funds set up for you like Holly's Legacy or have options to treat your animal. They are part of your family and they recognize that and they will try to help you in any way they can.”
If you're wondering who and where to ask, here's a list of resources:
- Consider applyingCareCredit, a health loan that can also be used for pet health care. To access charity funds at some hospitals — CSU, for example — you must first prove that you were denied CareCredit or that your account with them was drained.
- Look for a veterinary teaching hospital or non-profit hospital, many of which offer charitable funding - although some we contacted noted that they do not have the resources to provide subsidized care. You canSearch for veterinary colleges by stateon the American Veterinary Medical Association website and call your local facility to check. The final section of this article provides more details on how these funds work.
- Several animal health providers told us that they refer customers in financial need to resource lists published byRedRover. RedRover President and CEO Nicole Forsyth says, “We recommend applying for more than one grant (from different organizations), asking other clinics in the area for a quote or second opinion, and applying for nursing care loans, to name a few to name."
- Search these resource listsrassenspezifische HundegesundheitsfondsAndstate-specific canine health fund, who are often national and operate outside of hospitals.
- Check forfederal financial assistance programs for pet health care.
- If there is no fund tailored to your specific situation,RedRover'SUrgent Care Grantscould help. RedRover offers nearly 700 grants each year for pet owners whose owners cannot afford treatment, with an average grant amount of $200. In 2018, the organization approved 80 percent of applicants who qualified for a scholarship. Decisions are based on medical urgency, financial need, and other factors.
- Several hospitals and non-profit organizations have seen clients successfully apply for treatment through crowdfunding sites such asGoFundMe.
And if you're reading this before emergencies, vets we consulted repeatedly gave the same two pieces of advice:
- Consider gettingpet insurance. Monthly costs are often low, and when the worst happens, pet owners can make decisions based on their dog's health rather than money, knowing that insurance will cover most of their beloved pet's treatment.
- Set up an emergency fund.
Charity funds in veterinary clinics - how to find them and how they work
If you're considering asking a veterinary clinic for financial assistance, here's how they work.
You will most likely find these remedies at a veterinary teaching hospital (see above for details on finding your nearest one) or non-profit veterinary clinic, such as:Veterinary Centerin New York City, the largest non-profit animal hospital in the world. In 2018, AMC awarded a total of $1.7 million to care for more than 600 pets.
The funds are often set up by individuals and families who have lost pets, and the founder of the fund often determines how the money can be used — for example, recipients may be required to volunteer, or a fund may be set aside are used for specific medical disorders or populations.
To qualify, you'll often need to prove your financial need (e.g. by showing you've been denied CareCredit), and your dog may need a good prognosis — although some funds don't consider prognosis. For example, all funds from the Flint Animal Cancer Center of the CSU. Many insurance companies require that the treatment is life-saving or due to an emergency situation and that the treatment is carried out in the respective hospital. Grants are often capped at $1,000 per pet, although some funds offer more. We could not find funds to cover the entire cost of treatment.
Funds across the country include Washington State UniversityGood Samaritan Fund, which typically offers up to $1,000 for treatments that need to be performed at WSU's Veterinary Teaching Hospital — and in certain cases, the fund has awarded up to $1,300 or $1,500. Last year the fund received 713 applications, of which 168 were funded. Midwestern University's College of Veterinary Medicine in Glendale, Arizona also offers a hardship fundAnimal Health Institute. For funds near you,Check your local vet school.
How you can help other pet owners
Finally, these funds rely on donations and sometimes don't get enough. This means that even if a pet owner is entitled to an allowance, there may not be enough money in the fund to pay it. If you are reading this and are not currently in financial distress, you can help pet owners in need by contacting your local hospital or nonprofit organization to offer a donation.