Vet Care: Finding an Emergency Veterinarian Near You

It can be hard to find a cheap veterinarian, let alone a cheap emergency vet


Cat Veterinarian, cat vet

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When you’re dealing with an emergency situation like a pet poisoning, the cost of an emergency veterinarian can be one of the most stressful parts of making a decision. Depending on where you live, driving to an after-hours vet may even take you several hours, which is  bad when you need immediate attention for your pet.

When you arrive, you find that just seeing the vet may cost you upwards of $100., let alone any procedures or treatment your pet will need. This can make an owner hesitant to even call a clinic when something goes wrong and increases the likelihood that they will try a “wait-and-see” approach instead of seeking appropriate care.

While prevention is the most assured way to  keep you out of the emergency clinic, accidents happen.  When you can’t avoid a trip to a clinic, use some of these tips to find care and keep your costs down:


1. Call your own vet first

Even when they are closed, your own veterinarian is the best resource to putting you in contact with emergency care.  The majority of vets will connect you to either a message or an answering service.

An answering service will take a message from you and directly contact your veterinarian.  Sometimes this might even mean that your own vet is available on-call to deal with your emergency.  If this is something your clinic does not do, they will often leave a message on their voicemail with a phone number to an emergency clinic with whom they share a close relationship.  The next best thing to your own vet is another veterinarian they recommend.


2. Search the web with location-based tools

If you are not happy with your own vet’s suggestion or you are unable to obtain any information from their after-hours service, the next place to look is on the web.  You can use a search engine like Google, but filtering through the results can add stress to an already difficult situation.

Luckily, there are specific sites you can use to search for a vet.  Both Vet Locator and AAHA have specific forms to allow you to search for an emergency veterinarian based on your zip code.  Vetstreet also has a search function, but it’s a bit more difficult to narrow your search down to emergency clinics.  Keep in mind that clinics may forget to update their information to webmasters when they change locations or phone number, so always call first before heading into a vet.


3. Be prepared and invest in pet insurance

Pet insurance works differently from health insurance. When your pet is insured, you have to pay your vet bill up-front.  This means that you have to have some form of payment at the time of the emergency visit (I’ll get into some tips about how to cover that payment further down).  However, some companies will cover up to 90% of your vet bill after a claim is submitted.

You will want to research the companies available before you choose one.  Different places have different plans, and sometimes the cheaper plans do not cover as much care.


4. Apply for CareCredit

CareCredit is a card that will pay your expensive vet bill and allows you to pay them back in small increments over a period of up to 18-36 months.  What makes this different from any other credit card?  If you pay your bills on time and pay them back within that initial 18 month period, the card charges no interest. It’s free to apply, so this means at the end of 18 months, your vet bill will still only have cost you what the vet charged.

Beware the common mistakes made with your CareCredit card: they only charge no interest if you pay them back within the specified time.  If you miss a payment, your interest rate climbs back up to a whopping 27% for new customers.  The no interest policy also only covers charges over $200.  If you are going in for routine care and your bill is under that amount, your interest will again be 14%-27%.

5. Get to know assistance programs in your area

Believe it or not, there are people out there who will help you pay your vet bill if you are really strapped for cash and unable to get care:

If all else fails, contact your local animal shelter.  My goal is to give you resources for people who wish to keep their pets, but if all else fails, there are many shelter programs that will provide care to your pet should you choose to relinquish your animal to their program.  I would consider this to be a last-ditch effort since relinquishing your pet to a shelter organization only adds to the homeless pet population, but it could keep your pet alive.

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