In an ideal world, a pet has a long and healthy life before leaving its family to cross the rainbow bridge when it’s well into old age. Pets deserve to be treated like any other member of the family. This means that not only should you be getting them health treatments as the need arises, but also planning for any eventuality regarding their care. Pets get sick just like humans do, and if you don’t have pet insurance, it can be extremely costly to care for an ill pet. Many people get pet health insurance, which is a great option but is unfortunately not something that many people think about when they’re playing with their young, happy puppy or kitten. Expenses can also start adding up if you like to travel and want to either bring your pet with you or pay for a pet sitter or boarding facility.

If you run into sudden expenses related to your pet’s health, fortunately, there are some options for financial assistance. If you’ve exhausted all of your financial aid options, only then should you think about putting your pet up for adoption.

The Cost of Owning a Pet

Many people don’t do their due diligence in researching pet expenses before getting a new furry friend, which can lead to heartbreak down the road. Even if you think you know all about pets, it can’t hurt to write out a potential budget in advance. That way, you’ll get a realistic picture of the expenses you’ll be facing in the years ahead and can plan out your spending.

Many pet owners find that the first year with a new pet is by far the most expensive. Depending on where your pet comes from, adoption fees plus the purchase price can total upwards of $1,500. Typically, pure-bred dogs from licensed breeders are the most expensive, with shelter or rescue dogs and cats available for adoption for as little as $50 to $200. In the first year, you’ll likely need to spay or neuter your pet, which can cost between $50 and $300, depending on the weight of your pet and your location. You’ll also need to buy toys and other accessories, like leashes, crates, litter boxes, or carriers. These costs add up — it’s estimated that most pet owners spend at least $1,000 in the first year alone.

After these one-time expenses, you’ll still need to pay for regular vet checks, food, and for a sitter or pet boarding if you ever want to go away without your pet. Monthly costs for both dogs and cats have been estimated at around $58 per month. This doesn’t include any fees associated with urgent or life-saving medical care, like a broken bone or treatment for cancer or heart disease.

The longer your pet lives, the more likely it is that they’ll develop a condition that requires more costly treatment. Most pet owners budget around $700 to 1,500 per year for routine veterinary costs, which does not include any preventive or emergency treatments. Emergency vet visits start at around $500 and advanced surgery can cost upwards of $5,000.

Reducing Medical Costs

If you encounter unexpected medical costs for your pet that you’re not able to cover on your own, there are options. Pet financial aid institutions exist so that pet owners have somewhere to turn when they’re faced with large medical bills and unexpected health costs. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can reach out to some of these organizations, which may be able to help.

Best Friends Animal Society has a comprehensive list of pet financial aid institutions, organized by state as well as breed. To help, some of the most well-known organizations are discussed in detail below.

1. RedRover

RedRover is a charity that provides temporary emergency shelter, financial assistance, and resources to people whose pets are in need of care. Their program RedRover Relief helps low-income individuals and families who are facing large vet bills. If you qualify, RedRover will help pay a portion of the bills for your pet’s lifesaving care. Typically, they grant around $200 per application, but because of overwhelming demand, not all pet parents will be able to receive assistance.

If you’re in a difficult situation personally and need someone to care for your pet, they also offer emergency temporary sheltering or fostering through their network of over 4,000 volunteers.

2. The Pet Fund

The Pet Fund is a non-profit organization that offers financial assistance to owners who are not able to afford their pet’s urgent care. Their goal is to cut down on the number of pets who are put down because their owners can’t afford their life-saving care. They’ve been able to save countless pets from cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses that would otherwise go untreated because of the owner’s financial situation. They do not offer funds for basic needs like spaying and neutering or emergency care.

3. Paws 4 A Cure

Another great non-profit organization that helps dogs and cats receive life-saving care is Paws 4 A Cure. The organization’s mandate is to distribute donations from the public to help pets in need. Unlike the Pet Fund, you can apply for funds from Paws 4 A Cure to cover any veterinary bills, including basic spaying and neutering. Many of the pets that they help are service animals or are pets owned by seniors or veterans who are on a fixed income and cannot cover the cost of treatment themselves.

How to Save on Your Pet

There are many ways that you can save money while still giving your pet all the love, care, and attention it requires. Just make sure to consult your vet if you want to change your pet’s medication or food and do your research in advance. Not all food, toys, and treats are created equal. It’s much easier to invest in a good-quality toy that will last for years, rather than purchasing a large number of mediocre toys that will be torn apart in a matter of days.

Here are some expert tips on how to save money on your pet.

  1. Adopt a rescue dog, rather than purchasing a pure-bred dog from a breeder.
  2. Don’t overfeed your pet. You’ll rack up food costs faster and spend more money at the vet trying to keep your obese pet healthy.
  3. Call around to compare veterinary costs. You may be paying too much for basic services, but you won’t know if you don’t shop around.
  4. Consider purchasing pet insurance.
  5. DIY some basic toys, so you aren’t purchasing $15 to 25 worth of toys every time your pet destroys one.
  6. If you do want to buy toys for your pet, don’t purchase them at a pet store where everything is marked up. Instead, buy yarn and jingly balls for cats from a craft store or tennis balls for your pup from a sporting goods store.
  7. Bake your own dog or cat-friendly treats.
  8. Learn how to cut your pet’s nails and groom them at home.
  9. Shop during holiday sales. Your pet won’t care if they’re given a heart-shaped toy after Valentine’s Day!
  10. Ask your vet if some of your pet’s medications can be scripted out to a reputable online pharmacy, where you can use discounts like AAA.
  11. Focus on preventative care. Paying $50 for a heartworm preventative treatment is easier than paying more money to have them de-wormed later.
  12. Buy pet supplies online or in bulk at a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club.

After Reviewing My Options, I Can’t Keep My Pet

Sometimes, the responsibility is just too much for one family and they need to make the heartbreaking decision to rehome their pet. This decision should never be taken lightly and should always be the absolute last resort after exhausting all possibilities for saving money and pet financial aid.

If you’re struggling to work through the financial implication of your pet’s care on your own, you can always consult a financial advisor, who may be able to help. If at the end of this discussion, you still believe that you’re no longer able to care for your pet, the best thing that you can do is help it find a new home. By putting their profile and photos on rehoming or adoption websites, you can help them find a new family without having to leave the security of home.