Skip to main content

How you can prepare for big, emergency vet bills

If your pet ever gets sick or injured, you may find yourself rushing to the vet. In the middle of worrying about your pet’s health, you may also be worrying about how to pay for his vet bills. Emergency vet bills for tests and surgeries can quickly climb into the thousands of dollars, and if you’re not prepared, you might be scrambling to cover those costs. Luckily, you have many ways to get ready, just in case your pet ever has an emergency. With a little preparation, you won’t have to worry about the bills and can focus on getting your pet the care he needs.

Why having payment ready is so important

If your pet experiences a true emergency, then he may need surgery, diagnostic tests, or other treatment right away. Most vets require a 50% deposit before performing an expensive surgery. In many cases, getting your pet the treatment he needs right away could save his life. Putting that treatment off until you can gather the deposit could make his condition worse and require a more involved and expensive treatment.

Having funds ready means you can ensure your pet gets treated when he needs it.

Vet holding an orange cat
Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock

Start a savings account

One of the best ways to guarantee you can pay for your pet’s vet bills is to start a dedicated savings account. Open up a free savings account and make regular deposits to build up the balance. Consider setting up automatic deposits from your paychecks so that you don’t have to remember to make those deposits. You might choose to deposit a certain percentage from each paycheck or deposit a flat dollar amount each week or month.

Leave this account untouched except for true veterinary care emergencies. With time, the account balance will not only grow to cover your initial deposit, but it also may become large enough to cover the full bill.

Have a spare credit card

Some pet owners may choose to open up a credit card account that they would use only in a pet emergency. This strategy works well if you can find a low-interest card and then not touch it for anything else.

The benefit of a dedicated credit card is that it lets you put down that initial deposit on the spot, rather than having to go withdraw money from your savings account. You may need to make the occasional purchase with the card so that your credit card provider will leave it open, but be sure to always pay off that purchase during your next billing cycle to keep the balance at zero.

Apply for CareCredit

CareCredit is a specialized credit card that helps cover health — including veterinary — costs that aren’t covered by health insurance. CareCredit lets you charge amounts of $200 or more at approved facilities. When you make an approved charge, you’ll have six, 12, 18, or 24 months to pay off that balance without interest. If you don’t pay off the balance in full within that approved term, then you’ll be charged interest going back to the date you originally made the charge.

This can be an excellent method to pay for an emergency vet visit if you are confident that you’ll be able to pay off the balance within the specified period. Check first with your vet to make sure that they accept CareCredit; your vet will tell you how long their approved repayment term is.

Be aware that CareCredit has high interest rates outside of that promotional no-interest offer, and that offer is good only during your promotional period. You can apply for and be approved for CareCredit within minutes, making it a practical option during emergencies.

Vet listening to a dog's heart with a stethoscope
Chlorophylle Photography / Shutterstock

Sign up for pet insurance

Pet health insurance can help cover some emergency care costs. Some insurance policies also offer coverage for more routine care. Most insurance policies reimburse your costs, so you’ll need to cover the initial vet bills, and then your insurance provider will send you a check. So, it’s important to be prepared with another payment method, like a credit card, to initially cover your vet bills.

When shopping for pet insurance, request quotes from multiple companies and carefully read each policy so you know just what’s included and what’s excluded. Remember to consider not just the difference in premiums but also the difference in deductibles, coverage, exclusions, and copayments.


Friends, family, and even strangers might be willing to help you cover emergency vet bills, which is great. But crowdfunding sites and social media are often saturated with vet bill appeals. Sure, you can set up a crowdfunding campaign to help raise money for your pet, but don’t rely on this method as a primary way of funding your pet’s emergency care needs.

Crowdfunding tends to take time, and different platforms have their own schedules for paying out the money that’s been raised. Better to focus on other payment methods first.

Paying for emergency bills

In exceptional instances, your vet may allow a payment plan. You can see if your vet offers this option, but be forewarned that many vet practices don’t.

Instead, be prepared to pay for your pet’s vet bills — or at least to put down a deposit — at the time of his treatment. There are many steps you can take ahead of time to ensure that you’re financially prepared. Knowing you have a plan to pay the bills can help reduce your financial stress, so you can focus entirely on what your pet needs from you during this time.

Editors' Recommendations

Paige Cerulli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paige's work has appeared in American Veterinarian, Business Insider, Healthline, and more. When she's not writing, Paige…
5 must-see, dog-friendly places in New York to visit this fall
New York provides the perfect escape for you and your pup
Dog with human and orange suitcase

Without question, fall is one of the prettiest times of year on the East Coast. Nature puts on quite a display as the sugar maples change color, dotting the landscape with brilliant shades of red, yellow, and orange. The weather is cooler, too, making it a great time of year for the whole family to plan a getaway and explore this annual phenomenon up close and personal.

Which East Coast state should you visit? We recommend New York, mainly because accommodations, parks, and attractions welcome your four-legged family members, too. No matter what part of the state you choose to explore, these dog friendly places in New York are fantastic to visit with your pet.

Read more
8 autumn Instagram pet photographs that will get you excited for the gorgeous season ahead
Fall Instagram pet photos sweeter than a pumpkin spice latte
a dog and woman cuddling on fall woodland walk

Fall is such a fun and inspirational time of year. Nature offers up some awesome colors as leaves turn from lush green to stunning shades of red, yellow, and orange. Farm fields are dotted with orange pumpkins, and people and pets get to dress up for Halloween. It’s the perfect season for taking photos of your pet. We scoured social media. Here are our favorite autumn Instagram pet photos.

Dogs falling for autumn on Instagram
These pups have an extra pep in their steps as the seasons change. They're dressing up, winding down, and taking scenic routes.

Read more
The 6 biggest myths about Chihuahuas, debunked once and for all
Chihuahua fact or fiction? Here's the truth behind 6 common myths about these small dogs
A black Chihuahua against a yellow backdrop

Chihuahuas are a small breed with a big personality. Some have a Napoleon complex — they totally think they can take on the mail carrier, and they will threaten to do so. Purebred Chihuahuas don’t exceed 6 pounds, so their valiant efforts can be more comedic than anything. Their reputation as an opinionated, snuggly, and incredibly loyal breed precedes them, and more than a few dog owners dream of being a Chihuahua's favorite person.
However, not every part of their reputation is true, and there are more than a few myths about these lovable dogs. We’re debunking them and giving you straight Chihuahua facts.

Myth 1: Chihuahuas don’t need much exercise
This statement is one of the biggest Chihuahua myths. Though the breed is small, Chihuahuas are full of energy and need stimulation. Any dog can become overweight, and Chihuahuas are particularly prone to obesity. Physical activity is one way to keep your Chihuahua healthy. While they don’t need as much physical activity as a larger breed, such as a Labrador Retriever, they need frequent exercise. About 30 minutes of walking and playing per day should do, and it’s a great way to bond. Some dogs may need more or less, depending on their age and overall health. Talk to your vet.

Read more