PET PLANNING

My Dog Is Dying and I Can’t Afford a Vet: Here’s What You Can Do About It

Five minutes Jul 27, 2022

The last thing you want to hear is that your best friend is sick or even dying. Even worse, your veterinarian is asking for thousands of dollars to treat your dog’s illness, but you can’t afford it or you don’t have pet insurance. However, you still have options. Here are some of the avenues pet parents have to obtain the vet care and treatment their pet needs.

How Can I Help My Sick Dog if I Have No Money?

If you’re like 56% of American pet parents, you can’t afford an unexpected emergency vet visit.³  The comforting news is that nonprofits, veterinary professionals, and interest groups have stepped in to ensure that families aren’t forced to euthanize their pets because they can’t afford treatment. Economic euthanasia, the practice of euthanizing pets due to financial limitations, is a sad reality but it doesn’t have to be your reality.

Ask for a payment plan

Talk with your vet frankly about your economic situation. They may have programs in place to support your family.⁴ Ask them about payment plans available that you can pay by a specific date or time frame.

Your vet’s office manager may request additional documentation such as pay stubs or bank statements before enrollment. Keep in mind that the practice may keep your pet in their care until you pay something for the care you received. Open and honest dialogue is key during this process, so it’s best to be forthright and patient.

Find a free or low-cost clinic

Consider finding a different vet to use and get a second opinion.⁵ There are clinics across the country that are committed to serving families who need affordable veterinary care. If you aren’t caught in an emergency situation, request the medical records and take them to an affordable vet for care. This can be a great option if your pet needs cancer treatment, surgery, or medications.

Look for a veterinary teaching college

Similar to free or low-cost clinics, an accredited teaching college typically offers reduced rates for veterinary care.⁶ Students at the college will be supervised by experienced veterinarians so you can trust your pet is in good hands. These universities usually have access to the necessary equipment and facilities to conduct MRIs and CT scans, surgeries, and other specialized care that your vet may not be able to do.

National Organizations That Provide Financial Assistance to Pet Owners in Need

Euthanasia is not your only option. There are thousands of resources available to families who cannot afford surgery for their dog or cancer treatments. Here are a handful of organizations that can help you avoid choosing economic euthanasia.⁹

Financial and natural disaster assistance

Sometimes, your dog is hurt or sick because of no fault of your own — maybe an accident happened or your home was hit by a hurricane or tornado. Maybe you or someone in your family are simply too old to care for the dog. The following organizations specialize in working with pet parents in crisis.

  • Brown Dog Foundation is dedicated to helping families who find themselves in a temporary financial crisis at the same time their pet requires life-saving treatment or life-sustaining medications. They are designed as a one-time benefit. They are committed to maintaining and strengthening the bond between pets and their families during times of unexpected financial crisis.
  • The Onyx & Breezy Foundation provides funding for families experiencing financial hardship. Their foundation offers many initiatives, including dog food and supplies.

Cancer assistance

A cancer diagnosis is heartbreaking, but very common in dogs. Approximately 1 in 4 dogs will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime with the risk of cancer increasing as a dog ages.10 Reach out to one of these organizations for treatment if you’ve recently been told your dog has cancer.

  • Joshua Louis Animal Cancer Foundation was created to assist owners and families of pets who are in need of cancer treatment and provides grants for pets under the care of a board-certified veterinary oncologist.
  • Magic Bullet Fund helps people who have made room in their homes and hearts for a canine companion but do not have the financial resources to provide cancer treatment.
A homeless person sitting on the ground with a dog in their lap.

Heart disease and other illness support

Like cancer, heart disease is a common affliction in dogs. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, roughly 10% of pets seen have some form of heart disease.¹¹ Here are a few sources of money that can support you if you find yourself among that 10%.

  • The Pet Fund provides financial assistance to owners of domestic animals who need veterinary care and their owners cannot afford expensive surgery or medical treatment. The Pet Fund works only on treatment that isn’t basic or urgent, such as cancer treatment, heart disease, chronic conditions, endocrine diseases, eye diseases, etc. Eligible pet owners can apply for a one-time grant.
  • The Mosby Fund was developed to assist in the care of critically sick, injured, abused, and neglected dogs through financial support and public education.

Homelessness and domestic violence support

  • RedRover Relief program provides financial and emotional support to Good Samaritans, animal rescuers, and pet owners who care for animals in life-threatening situations while also providing resources to help victims of domestic violence escape abusive environments with their pets.
  • Pets of the Homeless can feed and provide basic emergency veterinary care to relieve the anguish and anxiety of the unhoused, who cannot provide for their pets.

Should I Put My Dog Down at Home if I Can’t Afford a Vet Bill?

If you’ve exhausted all your options, you may have to say goodbye to your furry friend. However, you shouldn’t put your dog down at home by yourself — a veterinarian is trained to ensure that your dog's last moments are painless and peaceful. This is why euthanasia is often said to “put a dog to sleep.” Talk with your care provider about euthanasia and what to expect.

It is inadvisable to attempt putting your dog down at home because you don’t have access to the sedatives and other medications that allow dogs to die peacefully. Any other methods you use may traumatize yourself and your family. Worse: You can find yourself facing criminal charges for animal cruelty.⁷ If you choose to euthanize your dog at home, you may be able to hire an at-home veterinarian to conduct the procedure in your home.⁸ These services can provide an intimate experience worthy of saying goodbye to your family member.

A volunteer petting two homeless dogs.

Pet Insurance Can Help You

There are many options if you are already in a tough spot. Talk with your vet about payment plans, referrals to economic support programs, or simply take your business elsewhere. A second opinion may not be on your mind but a second look at your dog may be the line between life and death.

Unfortunately, many pet parents — a staggering 27% — regret not insuring their pets when faced with a mountain of veterinary bills. Consider insuring your dog’s medical expenses. MetLife’s dog insurance may cover cancer treatments, heart disease care, and euthanasia.¹’² Our plans also feature grief counseling to support you after you’ve laid your friend to rest.

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¹ Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

² Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

³  “Access to Veterinary Care: Barriers, Current Practices, and Public Policy”, Access to Veterinary Care Coalition, page 17

“Why Vets Don’t Like to Offer Payment Plans,” Vet Billing

 “Are You Having Trouble Affording Your Pet?,” The Humane Society of the United States

“Accredited Veterinary Colleges,” American Veterinary Medical Association

“Can I Kill a Terminally Sick Pet Myself, or Do I Need a Veterinarian?,” LawInfo

“Pet Euthanasia at Home: 6 Ways to Make Putting Down Your Pet Easier on Them — and You,” Self.com

“Ending Economic Euthanasia,” Waggle

¹⁰ “Cancer in Senior Dogs: Signs and Symptoms to Watch For,” American Kennel Club

¹¹“Heart Disease in Dogs,” Merck Veterinary Manual