Dear Daisy Dog: Over the past year, our two Labradors developed medical problems that cost us $14,000. One dog required major orthopedic surgery, and the other needed cancer surgery and chemotherapy.
Fortunately, we’re able to afford these treatments and occasionally assist other people, but we’re concerned about families that struggle to pay for major, unexpected medical expenses for their beloved furry family members. What resources are available to help them?
Daisy Responds: You’ve raised a sensitive topic, one that extends beyond veterinary medicine to human health care. Experts agree that unexpected medical bills were the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S. before passage of the Affordable Care Act.
When four-legged family members suffer from unforeseen medical problems, pet health insurance can help soften the financial burden. Unfortunately, only 1 to 2 percent of American families with dogs and cats have pet insurance.
For those that do, families pay their pet health insurance premiums monthly, and if a medical problem develops, the insurance company reimburses all or most of the bill. Even so, deductibles and co-payments may present a financial challenge for some families.
Another option is a health credit card, the most popular of which is Care Credit. Families can use Care Credit for veterinary and human health care, and interest-free payments are available for new clients. Standard credit cards also are accepted by most animal hospitals.
Some veterinary practices help ease the bills of established clients through angel funds. Clients and employees donate to the angel fund, often to memorialize a beloved pet, and the staff distributes the money. These funds are limited though, so pet families shouldn’t count on them.