Every pet owner wants to do the very best by their pet, and being financially prepared for both routine pet needs, and unfortunately unexpected emmergency veterinary treatments, is a very real part of being a responsible pet owner. Quality food, bedding, collars, leads, deworming, flea treatments, dental care, annual health checks... It all adds up. Add in an emergency or a serious illness, and the care of one pet can add up to thousands of dollars a year. Planning ahead can make the difference between going ahead with life saving treatment, and having to decline on the basis of finance. Often considering multiple strategies can assist in keeping pet care affordable and achievable.
Vet clinics and Veterinary Hospitals are not in the fortunate position of being financed by the government and there is no government provided “medicare” for pets . Due to both the increasing expectations of clients to good, high quality veterinary care, and the increasing ability of the Veterinary profession to deliver that care, at a level which in a lot of cases is easily on par with what would be expected in large human hospitals and clinics, the cost of veterinary care has risen considerably over the last 10-15 years and will inevitably continue to rise. To provide good, high quality care in a modern , well equipped hospital, staffed by experienced, highly trained Veterinarians does unfortunately cost money. This is also why there is a difference in pricing between different hospitals; in the majority of cases it is merely reflective of the standard of service and care provided, and the level of diagnostic and surgical equipment that must be on hand to provide that service.
On a more positive note, the cost of veterinary treatment compared to the true cost of human medical treatment and surgery (with-out medicare or private health insurance) is still extremely cheap. Even though we use the same surgical techniques, the same drugs,the same eqipement, the same levels of intensive hospitalization if needed, and your veterinarians have been trained, and have had to study for a similar number of years as human doctors and surgeons. The downside is that unlike the human field , in which the accounts are generally completely covered by medicare or private health insurance, in veterinary medicine it is up to the animals owners/care givers to pay the final accounts.
There are thankfully a number of ways of alleviating these costs or at least being able to spread out the burden of unexpected veterinary fees.
There are over a dozen companies offering pet insurance for the Australian market, so choosing the policy that is right for you and your pet is not always straightforward. Some policies can reimburse up to 80% of veterinary bills, which can significantly offset yearly expenditures on pet healthcare.
In choosing an insurance policy, it is important to consider what level of cover you require. Some pet owners would like to cover their pet for major medical, surgical and emergency conditions, but would prefer to pay directly for routine care (vaccinations, desexing, dentistry) in lieu of paying higher yearly premiums, whereas others may gain piece of mind by purchasing policies which cover all facets of their pets care. Investigating the different insurance options can help to save money in the long run - for example, some human insurance companies are offering pet insurances, and adding a pet policy to your existing private health or other insurance through that broker can result in a multiple policy discount. Varying the deductible on your policy can also result in cost savings, as can paying your premium yearly rather then monthly.
In choosing an insurance provider, compare the policies carefully to ensure there are not breed or condition exclusions which could make your pet ineligible for coverage, and that there are no set limits for emergency conditions, which may be much lower then the actual fees that are charged by good quality hospitals, not low ball arbitary fees set by insurance companies.
It is also important to remember that pet insurance policies generally only reimburse the owner for incurred fees, and that the vet's bill will need to be paid in full by the owner before a claim is made. Additionally, guidelines on claim time and number limits should be carefully followed, as filing a claim to long after the event or trying to file to many claims at once could lead to denial.
As veterinary fees must be paid before any claims are made (and generally before your pet will be released from hospital), owners must ensure they have sufficient funds available prior to commencing treatments. Additionally, owners may find their pet has breed or previous conditions which exclude it from insurance coverage. To prepare for these scenarios, consider setting up a savings account capable of covering for the maximum amount you have budgeted to spend on your pet. Every time a claim is made, the reimbursed funds should be deposited back in this account, as well as regular deposits to maintain an appropriate balance to see to your pets needs. Another approach would be to open a credit card account for pet care, with special care being taken to regularly clear any balances.
In the event that sufficient funds are not available to cover a large veterinary bill, borrowing money may be the only available option. Some owners are lucky enough to have family or friends which are happy to loan money in an emergency, but not everyone has this option. In these cases, loans may help to achieve the care your pet needs.
Short and medium term loans are often available from your regular banking institutions, and these loans often have much more favorable rates then credit cards. VetPay is a new way to finance unexpected veterinary bills, which can be applied for online at participating veterinary practices. A deposit payment is required to commence treatment, and then the authorized balance is deducted from your account on a predetermined basis.Vetpay pay the clinic or hospital the billed amount(minus the owners deposit) directly, and that amount is then set up as a loan between Vetpay and the client, who then pays back Vetpay the pre determined amounts on a predetermined timeframe. If you feel your pet's condition may require VetPay financing, please contact the reception staff to discuss identification requirements prior to your appointment to allow this process to move as quickly and efficiently as possible, and get your pet back on the path to good health.