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Cost of living: What can you do when you can’t afford vet’s bills for your pet?

Many of us wouldn’t be without our pets, but there’s no doubt about it, they can be a big expense when things go wrong.

It can be stressful when your pet is unwell and if you’re also worried about money this can make the situation feel worse.

The longer your pet is unwell the worse their illness can become. Seeking advice quickly will likely reduce costs overall and be best for your pet’s health. But unlike our human friends, pets can’t access free NHS treatment – and anyone who’s been faced with an unexpected vet’s bill knows the cost can be something to win over.

Read more: Warning to dog owners after painkillers are found in Newcastle park

The RSPCA has taken 3,644 calls from pet owners asking for guidance or help with their vet bills last year – an increase of 12% on the year before.

Below we take a look at what you should and what you shouldn’t do if you find yourself unable to pay for your pet’s care, and also some organizations that may be able to help.

DO talk to your vet about your situation. The RSPCA says your vet should be able to provide advice on how best to help your pet should it be ill or injured as there may be alternative options. But, if not, it says your vet should be able to offer other, cheaper options depending on your circumstance and location. Sometimes vets will offer services at a reduced cost or you may be able to get it for free via some pet insurance providers.

DO ask your vet for a prescription for you to purchase elsewhere. Buying medication online or somewhere else. can often be cheaper, as pharmacies that buy large amounts of medications at a time can often lower prices when compared to a local vet. Your vet will probably charge you for writing the prescription, so make sure you’ve worked out which option is cheaper.

DO consider your payment options. Some vets offer payment plans through a credit company, so if you need help spreading the cost then it’s worth seeing what your vet can offer. But remember – you’re still paying the money so make sure you’ll be able to pay it back each month.

DO check your pet’s symptoms before automatically taking it to the vet. You can check your pet’s symptoms for free using Vet Help Direct’s online symptom checker or book an online or virtual consultation to help determine whether your pet needs urgent attention.

DO consider alternative treatments. Lower-cost treatments can offer good results but these options may come with less certainty or with more risks than the higher-cost alternatives. This is something your vet can explain to you.

DO look around for a cheaper vet. Vet fees vary based on location, which equipment and tests are available, the vet’s experience and specialty. There are some vets that set out to provide low-cost services and in some areas, you may find a not-for-profit clinic.

DON’T ignore the problem. As well as leaving your pet in pain, Caroline Allen, chief vet at the RSPCA, said: “It may be tempting to bury your head in the sand if your pet seems unwell and you are worried about costs, but this can lead to increased problems later down the line.”

Where you can find help

Some animal charities help owners struggling with vet bills, either by providing some of the payment or by offering reduced costs through their own clinics. In most cases, you’ll need to fit specific criteria to use them so check first.

PDSA offers free veterinary treatments and medications to pet owners who live within the catchment area of ​​one of its hospitals in Newcastle, Gateshead or Sunderland and are in receipt of Housing Benefit, Council Tax support or Universal Credit with a housing element. Only one pet per household qualifies for free help, although additional pets will qualify for the charity’s low cost service. This is available to pet owners who receive benefits such as Working Tax Credits, Pension Credit and the Disability Living Allowance. Retired state pensioners who live in properties in Council Tax bands A to D may also qualify for help.

BlueCross is another charity that offers free treatment, but unfortunately there is nothing on offer in the North East.

RSPCA The primary focus of the RSPCA is to rescue and rehabilitate animals who have been cruelly treated. The RSPCA Newcastle & North Northumberland Branch may, however, in rare circumstances, provide welfare assistance to pet owners who can provide evidence of financial hardship who receive at least one state benefit.

Dogs Trust provides free and subsidized treatments to pet owners who are homeless or in a housing crisis. The scheme runs in 112 towns and cities in the UK, including Darlington, County Durham.

Cat Protection offers financial assistance to cash-strapped owners wishing to spay or neuter their cat. Unfortunately, they don’t offer further assistance with veterinary procedures or bills.

Street Paws can support people who are homeless and may be able to help those who are in sheltered housing.

Have you had to pay out a big vet’s bill? Let us know in the comments

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