If you can’t afford the vet, should you have the pet?


Is what a significant majority will say, especially those in the veterinary profession who are often faced with sick animals whose owners are unable or unwilling to pay for their care.

I am not quite as hardline as this. I think animal ownership is a wonderful thing, brings joy to many, many people and it makes me sad to think that the costs involved would prevent people from experiencing it.

However, this is neither my fault nor my problem.

Despite this, I have been told many times that it is by owners who have a poorly pet but do not have the ability to pay. Who think is not their issue, it is mine, and, as an animal lover and vet, I should do something about it.

If you have a pet that gets sick, you MUST be able to pay for their care.

If you have a pet that gets sick, you MUST be able to pay for their care.

To which I say, owning an animals is a privilege and not a right.

If you are going to invite a living creature into your home and your family, then you must be prepared for the responsibility and all that it entails. Which means, as well as feeding and caring for them correctly, you must be able to provide (i.e be able to pay for) all they need to stay in good health. This means firstly preventing disease; by ensuring they are fully vaccinated, regularly treated for parasites and, if appropriate, neutered and – and this is the biggie – paying for their care when they are poorly.

It's not just about treating them when they are poorly.  It is really important to ensure your pet stays well in the first place!

It’s not just about treating them when they are poorly. It is really important to ensure your pet stays well in the first place!

Which is where my colleagues and I come in.

Veterinary care is costly. There is no getting away from that fact. I have discussed before in blogs how  vets provide great value for money and also why most don’t offer credit but there will still be a bill to be paid. Can you afford it? Because if you can’t there are plenty of people who will wonder what you are doing with a pet in the first place.

If you think you might struggle but still want a pet, there are things you can do to make this achievable.

Firstly, budget for what you know will be needed. The annual cost of vaccinations and anti-parasitic treatments will likely be around £150 for a cat or average sized dog. In addition most pets will need to be neutered and microchipped in the first year of their lives; a quick call to your local vet will let you know the costs involved.

Secondly, take out pet insurance. Policies vary in costs and some of the cheaper options should cover you in the case of one off large bills but they probably won’t pay for on-going care of some medical conditions. Prices for this kind of cover can be as low as £10 a month for a cat or small dog. If this isn’t within your reach then I will ask again, should you have a pet?

In the UK the RSPCA and PDSA provide veterinary care to those on benefits and low incomes. However, and I cannot say this enough, they do NOT exist so you can indulge every pet whim you have or to clear up any messes you make by buying low quality animals, not vaccinating or neutering them so they get sick, not training them so they fight or run away and get injured, or any of the other scenarios many people get themselves into.

If you qualify for their care, treat these charities with respect, contribute towards the treatment as much as you can and don’t abuse their services by making poor choices with your pets.

Rescue centres often have residents with on-going medical conditions and will pay continue to pay for this care when they are rehomed. Taking on one of these animals gives you the security of knowing the charity will support you. However, they often don’t pay for any new illnesses which develop.

You could also consider volunteering. Spending time at your local shelter will allow you to have hands on time with animals without actually owning them, many rescues operate on a home fostering basis and wonderful charity The Cinnamon Trust, which operates nationwide, always needs volunteers to support elderly or infirm owners care for their pets in their homes.

You could even sign up to websites like Borrow My Doggy which let you walk dogs for owners in your area or, if you have one, visit your local cat cafe!

However, at the end of the day if you decide own an animal yourself, then you are responsible for it’s health and welfare and must to be able to pay for all that entails.

So, if you don’t want to, can’t be bothered to or genuinely cannot afford to, budget for the vet.

Then the answer is no, you shouldn’t have the pet.

You can follow me on Twitter; @cat_the_vet or find me on FaceBook;  Cat_The_Vet

If you liked this blog, why not read; ‘Why Your Vet Won’t Give You Credit’ 

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