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Personal Loans

How to Pay for Emergency Pet Care

An unplanned trip to the vet may be on the agenda when your beloved pet is ill or injured. But emergency pet care can come with a steep price tag. 

On average, an emergency vet exam costs $100 to $200, and an overnight stay can run $1,000 to $2,000. Those fees may include diagnostic tests. The cost of treating a more serious issue, such as traumatic injuries after a car accident, could run as high as $10,000 if your pet needs X-rays or surgery.

If your pet needs emergency care, it helps to know what options you have to cover the expenses. 

In this guide:

Options to pay for emergency pet care

The best option for managing emergency pet care can depend on your financial situation and the expenses you need to pay. Click the options in the table below to read a description of that type of funding and, where applicable, to see our recommended providers.

Payment optionBest for
SavingsPet owners with cash to spare
Vet financingPet owners interested in 0% interest or deferred interest financing
Personal loansPet owners with solid credit
Credit cardsPeople who want to earn rewards or take advantage of a 0% introductory APR offer
Veterinary school People seeking low- or no-cost care
Pet insurancePeople who want peace of mind

Our expert’s take

Chloe Moore

CFP®

Having a pet can wreak havoc on your finances if you’re unprepared. In addition to budgeting for routine costs, you should set aside savings for unexpected expenses. If you’re not in a position to cover an emergency pet expense, pet insurance or 0% financing are options to consider. Credit cards, personal loans, or other alternatives should be last resorts and could signal you’re not ready to own a pet. 

Savings

Pros

  • Savings can help you avoid having to borrow to pay for pet care.

  • Your vet may offer a discount to pay your bill in cash.

  • Savings accounts are liquid, so you can access the money to pay for pet care as needed.

Cons

  • A major illness or injury could wipe out your emergency savings.

  • You may need to explore other options for payment if your savings isn’t enough to cover the entire vet bill.

  • Frequent withdrawals from a savings account could trigger banking fees. 

An emergency fund can make it easier to pay for unplanned expenses, including pet care. If you have cash in an emergency savings account, that might be your first option to cover smaller vet bills. For example, 63% of Americans say they’d rely on cash savings to pay for a $400 emergency expense. 

Best bets

Using savings to pay for emergency pet care could be the best option if you can cover the costs and still have funds left over. Here’s how to decide whether it’s right for you.

  • Decide how much you want to keep in savings. How much you should leave in savings can depend on your comfort level. For example, you might prefer to keep at least three months’ worth of expenses in emergency savings at all times.
  • Calculate the costs. Once you know what you’d like to keep in savings, look at the vet bills. Calculate what you’ll be left with if you use savings to pay those expenses. 
  • Ask about a payment plan. If your vet will offer a discount for cash payments, you might also ask about paying in monthly installments. That way, you don’t have to drain your savings. 

Vet financing

Veterinary financing programs let you pay for the cost of emergency care or other pet care over time, with interest. Your vet might offer an in-house financing program or work with a pet care financing provider such as CareCredit. You must apply and be approved to use this option. 

Pros

  • Vet financing can help you pay for care when you don’t have cash to cover expenses.

  • Financing is available for a wide range of care, from diagnostic testing to emergency surgery. 

  • Vet financing programs might offer a deferred interest option. 

Cons

  • The regular variable annual percentage rate (APR) for vet financing can be similar to, or higher than, traditional credit cards.

  • Financing emergency pet care creates debt, which you must repay.

  • Veterinarians aren’t required to offer financing options to pet owners. 

Best bets

Veterinary financing could make sense if you don’t have cash to pay or don’t want to drain your savings. But consider what you might pay for it. Here are our recommendations for using vet financing to handle the cost of pet care. 

  • Check rates. If you’re looking into a vet financing program that charges interest, know what APR you’ll pay. Be on the lookout for fees.
  • Consider a 0% APR offer. Vet financing programs might offer a 0% APR as an incentive to apply. That could save you a significant amount on interest charges if you’re financing a larger expense.
  • Be careful with deferred interest. Deferred interest vet financing isn’t the same as no interest. This lets you pay no interest as long as you pay the balance in full by a certain date. If you don’t pay it off on time, you’re responsible for paying accrued interest on the total balance. 

Personal loans for emergency pet care

You can use a personal loan for just about anything, including an emergency loan.

If you have a solid credit score, you may be able to qualify for a personal loan with a lower interest rate than a credit card or vet financing. You wouldn’t need collateral to qualify, either.

Pros

  • Personal loans can offer low, fixed interest rates for people with good or excellent credit.

  • Lenders offer flexible loan terms, allowing you to choose a payment that fits your budget. 

  • Depending on the lender, you may be able to get funding as soon as the next business day. 

Cons

  • A lower credit score can make it difficult to qualify for the best personal loan rates.

  • Poor credit may also limit how much you can borrow. 

  • You must be sure you can afford to make ongoing payments on the loan.

Best bets

Using a personal loan to cover emergency pet care could work in your favor if you have good to excellent credit. If you’re looking for a lender that offers loans for emergency vet care, here are our top recommendations. 


LightStream: Best for excellent credit

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Borrow larger amounts, and take more time to repay your loan 
  • No origination fees, application fees, or prepayment penalties
  • Save on interest with an autopay discount

LightStream offers unsecured personal loans for just about anything, including emergency pet care and ongoing veterinary expenses. 

You can borrow up to $100,000, but you’ll need excellent credit to qualify. It’s possible to get same-day funds, which you might appreciate if you need money to cover vet expenses right away.

  • Recommended credit score: 660
  • Rates (APR): 7.99%25.99%
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 – $100,000
  • Repayment terms: 24 – 144 months
  • Funding time: Same day or next business day
  • Disclosed fees: None

SoFi: Best for good credit

Editorial rating: 5.0 out of 5

  • Borrow $5,000 to $100,000 with no collateral required
  • Get funds the same day you sign 
  • Check rates without affecting your credit score

SoFi offers unsecured personal loans you can use to meet different needs, including paying for emergency pet care. It charges no origination fees or prepayment penalties.

SoFi’s low, fixed rates make it easy to budget for monthly payments. The lender also offers unemployment protection benefits to help you keep up with payments if you lose your job.

  • Recommended credit score: 660 
  • Rates (APR): 8.99% – 25.81%
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 – $100,000
  • Repayment terms: 24 – 84 months
  • Funding time: Same day
  • Disclosed fees: None 

Upgrade: Best for fair credit

Editorial rating: 4.9 out of 5

  • Get up to $50,000 with low, fixed rates
  • No prepayment penalty
  • Low rates for creditworthy borrowers

Upgrade personal loans allow you to borrow up to $50,000, which you can repay over 36 or 60 months. The minimum loan amount is $1,000. 

Credit score isn’t the sole factor for approval, so you could get approved with bad credit, though you might pay a higher rate. 

  • Recommended credit score: 580
  • Rates (APR): 8.49%35.99%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – $50,000
  • Repayment terms: 36 or 60 months
  • Funding time: Within one business day
  • Disclosed fees: Origination fee of 1.85% – 9.99%

Upstart: Best for thin credit

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Personal loans from $1,000 to $50,000
  • Flexible credit score requirements
  • No prepayment penalties

Upstart personal loans can give you access to up to $50,000 to pay for pet care, with no collateral required. There’s no minimum credit score in most states, so this could be a good fit for people with low scores or no credit history at all. 

Upstart won’t charge a fee if you repay your loan early. However, origination fees apply when you take out the loan.

  • Recommended credit score: No minimum credit score in most states
  • Rates (APR): 5.20% – 35.99%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – $50,000
  • Repayment terms: 36 or 60 months
  • Funding time: Within one business day
  • Disclosed fees: Origination fee of 0% – 12%

Credit cards for emergency pet care

Credit cards can offer flexibility when you need to pay for veterinary care, but they can charge higher interest rates than personal loans. Consider credit cards with a 0% introductory period, which would allow you to pay off your vet bills within a specified time interest-free.

Pros

  • If you already have a credit card, you won’t need to apply for financing to pay for pet care. 

  • A rewards card might allow you to earn points or cash back on vet expenses. 

  • A 0% introductory APR card could help you pay for pet care interest-free. 

Cons

  • Maxing out one or more cards to pay for vet bills could hurt your credit score.

  • Credit cards can have higher APRs than personal loans. 

  • Interest charges could negate the value of any rewards earned. 

Best bets

If you’re thinking of using a credit card to pay for pet care, it helps to choose the right one. Here are a couple of cards we recommend for pet expenses. 


CareCredit

  • Covers a wide variety of pet care expenses 
  • Deferred interest financing is available
  • Joint and co-applicants are accepted

CareCredit offers financing to help pet owners pay for routine veterinary care and emergency care needs. 

Coverage applies to cats and dogs, as well as birds, horses, reptiles, rabbits, and guinea pigs. Deferred interest financing and special financing are available. 

  • Rates: Variable, but CareCredit offers promotional financing
  • Limits: Up to $25,000
  • Fees: No annual fee
  • Rewards: Earn 2 points per dollar when using the CareCredit Rewards Mastercard to pay for pet care

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card

  • Earn unlimited cash back on purchases
  • 0% introductory APR for purchases and balance transfers
  • Introductory cash bonus offer

The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on purchases, including emergency pet care and other pet-related expenses. 

The card offers a low introductory APR as well as an introductory rewards bonus for qualifying cardmembers. 

  • Rates: Low introductory variable APR for purchases and balance transfers
  • Limits: Vary
  • Fees: No annual fee
  • Rewards: Earn unlimited 2% cash back on purchases

Contact an animal welfare organization

Nonprofit organizations can offer financial assistance to pet owners with limited resources to pay for care. That can include help with emergency situations or aid to pay for ongoing health issues, such as feline cancer or heartworm complications in dogs. Pet owners may need to prove financial hardship to qualify.

Pros

  • May provide aid may be provided with no repayment obligation 

  • Help may be available for emergency and ongoing care, as well as routine pet care

  • Credit scores aren’t a consideration to qualify 

Cons

  • Aid may be limited based on the organization’s resources 

  • Organizations may restrict assistance to certain kinds of care and exclude emergency situations

  • Funding speed may not be as fast as loans or vet financing 

Best bets

Getting help from animal welfare organizations can be tricky because they may not have enough money to help everyone who requests it.

You might need to meet strict guidelines to qualify. If you’re unsure where to look for aid, here are our recommendations. 

  • Joshua Louis Animal Cancer Foundation provides financial help to pet owners in need who can’t afford the cost of cancer treatment. Pets diagnosed with cancer must have a good prognosis from a veterinary oncologist to receive help.
  • The Pet Fund offers aid for nonbasic, nonurgent care only, which includes treatment for cancer and heart disease. The Pet Fund maintains a list of resources and tips for financing assistance in emergency pet care situations. 
  • The Humane Society can help you get in touch with federal or state organizations that provide funding for pet care. That might include local animal rescue organizations in your area. 

Seek care at a veterinarian school

Local veterinary schools might offer free or low-cost clinics to pet owners for nonurgent needs. You get the benefit of affordable care, and veterinary students get a chance to practice their skills and test their knowledge ahead of completing a degree. 

However, veterinary schools could direct you to a local vet instead in emergency situations. 

Pros

  • Vet schools can offer care at reduced costs or free of charge

  • May be suitable if you need basic or routine care 

  • Consider a clinic for care if you don’t have a regular vet 

Cons

  • If you don’t live near a veterinary college, this may not be an option 

  • You may not be able to get help with emergency care

  • Clinics may only operate on selected dates each week or month

Best bets

Contacting your local veterinary school is the simplest way to find out whether any free or low-cost pet care clinics are available in your area. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association maintains a list of accredited veterinary schools and colleges, which you can download. You can also search for nearby veterinary colleges online. 

Pet insurance

Pet insurance can pay for emergency care, but you should consult your policy to find out what’s covered or excluded. 

If you file a claim, you’ll pay a deductible in addition to the monthly premium. According to our research, the monthly cost of pet insurance is as low as $17 a month for dogs and $9 per month for cats.

Pros

  • Pet insurance can cover emergency and nonemergency care

  • A policy can offer peace of mind in case your pet gets sick or hurt

  • Pet insurance policies can be affordable, depending on your location, pet’s age, and their breed 

Cons

  • Insurers may include exclusions that limit what your policy covers

  • You must pay a deductible

  • If your pet remains healthy, you might pay premiums for nothing


Our expert’s take

Chloe Moore

CFP®

Pet insurance is a terrific option to help you cover unexpected expenses from an illness or injury. When considering pet insurance, think about your current financial situation (discretionary income, savings, and debt), the age and health of your pet, and any breed-specific health issues that could cause problems down the road.

Best bets

If you’re interested in a pet insurance policy, we recommend you shop around and compare costs and coverage. Here are two pet insurance companies to consider. 


Embrace

  • LendEDU editorial rating: 4.7
  • Accidents are covered after just two days versus the usual 14-day wait period after your policy begins
  • Use at any vet

Embrace pet insurance reimburses you for covered pet care expenses. You can visit any vet to get care, submit your claim, and get your money back. 

Exam fees are covered. Plus, you can get a 10% discount when you insure multiple pets on the same policy.

  • Coverage: Wellness visits, dental care, accidents and injuries, prescriptions, illnesses, and ongoing conditions
  • Reimbursement: 70% – 90% of covered expenses
  • Deductible: $200 – $1,000 annual deductible per covered pet
  • Waiting period: 14 days for illnesses; 48 hours for accidents; 6 months for dogs requiring orthopedic care

Figo

  • LendEDU editorial rating: 4.4
  • 24/7 access to licensed veterinary professionals
  • Coverage for curable pre-existing conditions

Figo pet insurance offers flexible plans to cover routine wellness checks and emergency care for accidents and illnesses. 

Coverage is available for cats and dogs, and you can tailor your policy to fit your needs. Filing a claim is quick, with most claims closing in three business days. 

  • Coverage: Preventive care, accidents, illness, diagnostic testing, surgery, and specialty care
  • Reimbursement: 70% – 100% of covered expenses
  • Deductible: $100 – $1,500
  • Waiting period: 1-day waiting period for accidents; 14 days for illness; 6 months for orthopedic conditions

Want to ensure you choose the best pet insurance company?

Our expert’s take

Chloe Moore

CFP®

Before comparing companies, it’s important to understand the types of pet insurance plans and how they work. This includes any exclusions or out-of-pocket costs you would still be responsible for. Knowing this helps you make an informed decision when comparing specific policies so you can make the right decision for your finances and your pet. 

Plan for future emergency pet care costs

Planning ahead can make it easier to manage unplanned pet care expenses without scrambling for a way to pay for them. Two ways you can do that include setting up a pet emergency fund and getting pet insurance

To save for pet-related emergencies, you might set a small goal of $500 or $1,000 to start. You can then work on adding to your savings with monthly contributions to reach a larger goal. For example, you might earmark $50 or $100 a month to your pet account until the balance reaches $5,000. 

Pet insurance could also be wise if you anticipate your pet needing costly care. When considering pet insurance, remember to look at what the policy covers and what it doesn’t, as well as the cost. Requesting rate quotes from different insurers can make it easier to choose the best policy.