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Don’t get vet debt: Low cost pet care alternatives exist

Susan Ladika

C.C., the neighborhood stray that people and other cats love to love, had been limping for several days when I noticed he also had a gash on his side. Clearly, it required medical care. A neighbor offered to take him to her vet, and we were both almost stunned into silence when she called to say the vet wanted to charge $900 to $1,500 for surgery. And that’s for a cat that isn’t even ours.

Because my friend is involved with an animal rights organization, we decided to work the phones and emails instead to see what other options we could find. Within minutes, the director of a low-cost spay/neuter clinic was telling me to bring the cat in for care. Who would have thought a place well-known in town for its spay/neuter program also provided emergency medical treatment?Don't get vet debt: Low cost pet care alternatives exist

C.C.’s back now, recuperating in my garage, and the whole shebang — wound care, neutering and basic shots — cost less than $200!

It was a stressful, but powerful, lesson to learn. In a time when so many people are stretched thin paying for basic necessities, they don’t have to skimp on pet care — even in case of emergencies.

Alternatives do exist. While it may take some time surfing the Internet to find a low-cost location, or standing in line waiting for services, in many communities you can find reasonably priced spay/neuter programs, low-cost shot clinics, and even reduced price veterinary care.

Periodically I’ve seen signs outside a major chain drug store and a grocery store in my neighborhood advertising low-cost pet vaccinations on certain weekends. And on occasion, the local Humane Society offers free shots for the first 1,000 pets on a particular day.

While those free days draw throngs, there are other means of low-cost care that don’t even require standing in line. A couple of months ago I made an appointment and took a stray mama cat and her little son to the local Humane Society. Getting both of them fixed and the shots they needed was only $170 for the pair.

For most of us, our pets are part of our family, and just like us they need routine medical care, as well as vaccinations for protection against diseases. But that doesn’t mean you need to go into debt to finance that care.

Instead, you’re better off investing your time in ferreting out your options before an emergency arises or Max and Mittens need their next annual exams.

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  • Angie Boyd

    I have a ferret that has adrenal gland disease. The exotic pet vet that I took her to be seen at quoted me anywhere from over $700-the $1,200. range for surgery. I don’t have that kind of money to throw out there, but the ferret might end up not being able to pee because her genital is so swollen. It looks vey uncomfortable.
    Do you know of any place that I can take her to have the surgury for a lower cost? Please let me know….

  • Maria Ortiz

    I need a place to take my cat. I am on social security and have already spent $650 at the Banfield hospital. I live in Deptford, NJ. 08096. I need low cost pet care.

  • Dr. M

    Vaccination clinics are fine if you can’t afford to go to your vet, but just remember that when you take your pet to a vaccine clinic, it is not replacing an annual medical exam. They are just popping shots… that’s why they can charge less. Its important to still take your pet in for exams and preventative care, because that’s how problems are detected early.
    Also, you get what you pay for. Low-cost options are just that – low cost. Its not that they have all the same equipment and supplies and just charge less to be nice…. its that they don’t have those same equipment and supplies. Low cost options are definitely necessary for some things and some people, but not for everything, especially true emergencies.

  • Eloisa Morales

    I have a ferret that has adrenal gland disease. His belly is so big he need surgery soon.But the vet quoted me from $1.000 to $1500. I don’t have that kind of money. Since I also lost my job.I need some to help me a low cost surgery soon. I live in Newark NJ. Please help!