Sarasota, Fla. -- Medical expenses and pets go hand in hand. Even the healthiest of dogs, cats, and other types of pets require regular checkups and veterinary visits to maintain licensing and tags. Over your pet's lifetime, there may be unexpected costs that you will be thankful you have a backup plan in place.
Special financing companies, do-it-yourself fundraising efforts, veterinary payment plans, and pet insurance companies offer ways to help meet expenses. Some pet insurance plans even cover genetic diseases in specific breeds.
Sarasota residents Eugene & Sara Clark are without insurance and currently face a $4,000 procedure to help their dog, Keeva. Keeva is a 13 month old Bullmastiff puppy in need of heart surgery and she was just admitted at the time of this article’s writing to drain fluid from around her heart until funding can be secured and a surgery date can be scheduled. Sara has managed to raise about $1000 through a local grant but still hopes to raise the remaining funds in her community through a GoFundMe account setup at www.GoFundMe.com (more on this later).
We spoke with Kim Moreland at CriticalVetCare of Sarasota, Fla. and she recommends pet owners carry insurance for their animals. “Our pets are part of the family and we want the best for them. Having pet insurance can relieve the financial stress when they contract unexpected health problems,” she said.
If you decide to shop for pet insurance, carefully read the details. You may want a plan that has no lifetime limits or one that covers alternative treatments, like chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical therapies, herbal treatments, massage, nutritional supplements and even homeopathic treatments. You’ll also need to determine what’s covered for what you can afford. Each breed and the age of which your pet is can markedly impact the cost of premiums. Furthermore, not all pet insurance companies are nationwide, so if you move or travel with your pet, it’s possible that there will be gaps in available coverage forcing you to pay out of pocket until you can submit a claim for reimbursement. Some plans will only cover illness and accidents; others include your regular veterinary visits.
Typically, pet insurance works as a reimbursement program. There generally are no networks and you pay your animal’s bill and then file for reimbursement with your chosen insurance company. Note that most will not cover pre-existing conditions and if they do, there is a waiting period before the plans will go into effect. It can’t be stressed enough to read the fine print and do your homework by reading reputable reviews.
Owners without insurance or the ability to pay out of pocket face limited options.
One such option is a credit line that operates like a credit card but is tied directly to veterinary care. CareCredit is one such company. Though they offer plans for people too, our focus is on your pets here. Among the plans they offer for those that meet credit requirements is up to 18 months interest free payments for your pet’s procedures. CareCredit can be used to finance a regular check-up at the vet, an emergency after hours admission or even a house-call visit for your horse.
Another option is asking you vet for in-house financing. This isn’t readily available as most vet practices are small businesses and can rarely extend lines of credit, but if you have exhausted your other options, it’s worth asking.
SAFI (Specialists for Animal Foundation ) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization chartered to help with the cost of specialized veterinary health care for owners of small animals who have demonstrated an inability to pay for such specialized veterinary care. They receive and administer grants and contributions of money or property from individuals, private organizations and public sources. Applicants are carefully screened and presented to their board only after determining there is no other alternative. In this way, dog, cat, and other pet owners can be guided toward alternate avenues of paying for their animal’s care so the non-profit can fulfill its mission of helping those truly in need.
Finally, a contemporary method for raising funds is via online fundraising (also knows as crowdfunding) with a service such as GiveForward, GoFundMe or others . Friends, family, and the broader community can make micro-donations that add up to help those in need or with other goals (people use these accounts to fund anything from medical expenses to weddings). You can learn more about GiveForward and GoFundMe at their websites, www.GiveForward.com and www.GoFundMe.com respectively.
If you’d like to help Eugene & Sara and their Bullmastiff puppy, you can donate at this GoFundMe link: http://www.gofundme.com/aby1ik
We were able to speak to their vet and verify the expenses they're facing but our audience should understand that any funds raised are not tracked or audited but a cap on the account for $4,000 that correlated to the vet’s estimate goes a long way toward establishing a feeling of comfort when donating to this cause and verification is a good guideline whenever donating on the internet.