Protect your pet’s health
Show how much you love your pets by protecting their health during the cost-of-living crisis
February is the month of love – from Valentine’s Day on the 14th to Love your Pet Day on the 20th. One of the best ways you can show your pets just how much you love them is by protecting their health.
There’s no doubt that this can be especially challenging during the current cost-of-living crisis. However, there’s lots you can do – and help is available for people and pets most in need.
The world's oldest and largest animal welfare charity RSPCA: states: “It can be stressful when your pet is unwell and, if you're also worried about money, this can make the situation feel worse.”
Rehoming charity, Dogs Trust, agrees, revealing: “Our monthly poll of the UK’s dog owners, run by YouGov, shows that 48% of respondents thought they would find it more difficult to give their dog all they needed, compared to before the cost-of-living crisis began. Vet bills continued to cause the most worry; around half (48%) of dog owners said vet bills were currently their biggest financial canine concern for the coming year.”
Don’t wait and worry – it’s much better to seek advice quickly
Hoping that the problem will go away on its own really won’t help. The RSPCA advises: “The longer your pet is unwell the worse their illness can become. Getting your pet to the vet quickly tends to lower the long-term cost of vet bills, as well as helping improve your pet's wellbeing sooner.”
The charity recommends that the first step towards helping your pet is to get in touch with your local veterinary practice: “Although it can feel awkward to talk about money, it's good to speak honestly with your vet about what you can afford as there may be alternative options.”
TOP TIP – HOW TO CHECK IF YOUR PET IS UNWELL
If you're unsure how quickly to contact a 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. Vets aren't normally able to prescribe medications through virtual consults, but they can help determine whether your pet needs urgent attention.
Practical tips when money is tight
To help you take care of your pets’ health when your finances are stretched, the RSPCA has these useful tips:
- Avoid DIY remedies to cut costs – When you have money worries, it can be tempting to try home remedies. Unfortunately, many common human products and medications can be very harmful when used on pets. For example, paracetamol is highly toxic to cats and ibuprofen is very toxic to cats and dogs. Complications can be serious and lead to much higher vet costs. In some cases, it can result in the loss of the pet, as symptoms may not be seen until serious damage has been done.
- Don’t rely on the advice of untrained people – Well-meaning friends, who are not professionally trained, may offer you pet health advice, but this may not be suitable or safe to use on your pet. This is why it's very important to always speak to your vet first if you notice a change in your pet's health or behaviour.
- See if you can get medication at a cheaper cost – Costs can vary for the same medication, so it's worth asking your vet if they can write a prescription to use at an online veterinary pharmacy, where the price may be lower. Veterinary pharmacies that buy large amounts of medications can often put a lower price tag on them. By contrast, many vet clinics are small businesses, and they cannot purchase large amounts of medication and use it all before it expires, which is why prices can be higher. Be aware that your vet will still need to charge for writing the prescription.
What to do if you can’t afford a vet treatment estimate
- Ask if there are alternative, less expensive treatments – Unfortunately, there's no NHS for pets and vets need to charge fees to keep their clinics running. While vets are usually unable to lower the cost of their treatments, there could be other treatment options your vet can offer. 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.
- Find out if you could sign up to a payment plan – Some vets offer payment plans through a credit company if you need help spreading the cost. Not every vet can offer this, but it's worth asking if this is an option. To decide if signing up for a payment plan is right for you, the RSPCA suggests contacting: The Money Advice Service, Citizens Advice, Step Change or National Debtline.
- Consider changing your vet – Vet fees vary based on location, which equipment and tests are available, the vet's experience and speciality. You may want to get a second opinion from a different vet clinic or hospital. There are some vets that set out to provide low-cost services and, in some areas, you may find a not-for-profit clinic through companies such as the Animal Trust. You can also find a list of vets in your area here >>
- Find a charity that could 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. To see if any of the below charities offer services that are available in your area, check out their websites. You may find there are charities for your area.
Animal charities that may be able to help include:
- People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) provides low-cost and free vet care to the sick and injured pets of people in need. Depending on your location and benefit status you may be eligible for support.
- Cat's Protection offers free and low-cost neutering schemes throughout the UK.
- Dogs Trust offers free and reduced-cost vet assistance for people who are in housing crises or are homeless.
- RSPCA – Through its local branches and hospitals it can sometimes help with vet bills. Check with your local RSPCA to see if you are eligible for low-cost vet care.
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