Most vets would give up almost anything to keep our patients healthy, as long as we could keep our doors open. Many of us decided to be veterinarians when we were in kindergarten. We had the smarts to become doctors or lawyers or dentists, or astronauts or senators or real estate moguls, and make much more money, but gave up a lifetime of higher income for the privilege of participating in the honorable profession of veterinary medicine. We’d do it for free if we could, trust me.
We love the job. We love the patients. We don’t love failing to give the best care because of lack of funds.
Unfortunately, the reality is that we have to ask you for money to pay for our hospitals. Not your neighbor, not the client who came in before you, YOU. It costs tens of thousands of dollars every single month to keep a veterinary clinic open, even a clinic as humble as Leo’s Pet Care. Every dollar that comes in here, every single month, has to come directly out of a client’s pocket. We understand how difficult that can be sometimes.
Believe me, keeping a hospital open without the benefit of organized human medical insurance isn’t easy. Veterinary hospitals are not high profit operations; most of us can barely afford payroll every month, to pay our technicians far below what they’re worth.
(If you want to hear stories of what it’s really like to take care of a house full of pets with zero money, ask a vet tech about paying for their own animals!)
Too much month at the end of the money
As a low-profit business, veterinarians understand what it’s like to have too much month at the end of the money. On the other hand, as a cash business, veterinary care is often negotiable, but it has to be done correctly.
I always recommend that a client will do very well to negotiate with a veterinarian from the standpoint of “here is how much money I am able to commit right now, please help me give my beloved pet the best care I can afford“.
Do’s and Don’ts of Negotiating With A Veterinarian
- Acknowledge that the veterinarian committed his or her life to helping animals. Every person here gets out of bed every day just to do this job.
- Understand that even though your pet doesn’t live in my home, I care about her as though she were my child.
- Assume that if we recommend a treatment, we believe it’s in your pet’s best interests.
- Be willing to give up ideal care if that’s what it takes to fit into your budget.
- Think of veterinary care like groceries. If you want $100 worth of groceries but only have $50, you may have to come back later for the other half.
- Be upfront with your vet about how much money you are easily able to commit to your pet.
- Be upfront with your vet about how much money you could reluctantly give up if asked.
- Recognize your own absolute limitations. Decide how much of your own financial freedom you are willing to sacrifice for your pet’s health if push comes to shove.
- Don’t ever imply your veterinarian doesn’t care about your pet. We care enough to commit every day of the rest of our working life to animals.
- Don’t try to elicit financial sympathy from veterinary staff, most of whom are paid less than a living wage.
- Don’t blame the vet if you can’t afford something.
At the end of the day, no veterinarian is trying to become a millionaire off of you.
These are your veterinarian’s goals in life, in order of priority
1. Help as many pets as we can.
2. Keep the creditors from closing down our hospitals.
3. Pay our technicians a living wage.
4. Retire with a roof over our heads.
They’re humble goals.
Alternative sources of money to pay for pet care bills
OPTION #1: Pet insurance – www.trupanion.com
I’ve talked about pet insurance before, and our favorite company Trupanion. As a quick reminder, for a small monthly payment, you can enjoy the peace of mind of having coverage for 90% of unexpected vet bills after deductible.
The best time to get pet insurance is when your pet is young and healthy and has no pre-existing conditions.
OPTION #2: Sell some stuff
We had a guest write on the blog a while back, who works in a veterinary emergency clinic. She has a single unifying recommendation for any pet owner in need of cash for the vet: “collect money from any source available to you”. She’s had clients sell their car to pay for veterinary care, pawn their stuff, offer up the title to their house, roll an entire coin collection, she’s seen it all.
OPTION #3: Consider asking friends, family, and the bank, for a loan
The same veterinary ER worker has had clients call multiple relatives, and get multiple credit cards to leave a deposit for unexpected care. If you have a personal credit card (or several) you may find their rates are lower than Care Credit…
OPTION #4: Apply for CareCredit – www.carecredit.com
Care Credit is essentially a medically-oriented credit card. Any time of day or night, you can go on www.carecredit.com and apply for instant credit, and use that credit at dentists, doctors, and veterinary clinics. Care Credit is usually the first option most veterinarians will suggest to pet owners when care is needed, and we do a significant amount of business with clients who operate with Care Credit. Most of them are able to finance care over 6 months with zero interest via Care Credit.
If your credit is poor, and you are turned down for Care Credit, your options become more limited.
OPTION #5: Ask your vet if they will hold your check
Do NOT ask your vet to hold your check if you are a new client, please. We are not rude to decline you, we are simply protecting our assets.
DO consider asking your vet to hold your check if you’ve got a long history at that clinic of paying your bills on time, but an unexpectedly large problem came up with a pet and you can afford to pay half now and the rest within 60-90 days.
OPTION #6: If all else fails, search for a benevolent fund
Good luck with your journey! From all of us at Leo’s Pet Care in Indianapolis.