Trouble always comes in sets of three for me. My husband and I went on a vacation this last Christmas and left our three dogs and the cat at a boarding facility. The vacation went great, as usual, we spent too much money on Christmas gifts, but everyone loved them! When we brought our pets home, we noticed they had a stressful time. Because of the holidays, the boarding kennel was packed, and the staff told us the dogs were a little more vocal than usual. Boy, did we have a disastrous surprise for us when we got the pets home. We were relieved that we had included our pets in our financial planning.
Say what? A financial plan for pets? I know you must think I have lost my mind; however, pets can be expensive at times, and most of the time we are not prepared for it! So how can we be prepared? Here are four examples of why we need to include our pets in financial planning. By the end of this post, you will have some great reasons WHY you will need to be prepared financially for your pets, and some ideas on how to get there!
Accidents and emergencies are never planned.
Hence why we call them accidents. Most pets will experience some sort of accident, injury, or emergency in their life. They are curious and sometimes that curiosity takes them a little too far. Or sometimes stress takes its toll and they get sick.
Back to my vacation story. The first day back from vacation, I noticed one of the Pugs had bad diarrhea and as the day went on it became very bloody. I took him in for a vet visit and he had to be hospitalized for a day with fluids and some antibiotics/pain medications. That visit was around $900.00. That same day I noticed my cat was sneezing and had some watery eyes, but I didn’t think much of it. I at the time was more worried about the Pug. Well, the next day, she sounded like she couldn’t breathe out of her nose, and didn’t want to eat, so I took her to the vet too. My poor cat apparently was so stressed out, she came down with an upper respiratory infection (a bad cold) and sneezing/watery eyes that she needed some antibiotics and eye medications. Apparently when in high-stress situations, sometimes cats can get that sick. That vet visit was another $150.00.
The same day that I took the cat in, the Husky started with some pretty bad diarrhea. Well, I guess there’s nothing like another vet visit and diarrhea medication, right? The vet said it was nothing related to my Pug, but likely he had stressed himself out too. That was another $90.00. All in all, my husband and I decided no more boarding our pets when we go on our vacation. The total extra costs for our vacation was $500.00 to board our pets (we planned on that one) and then $1140.00 spent in vet bills because everyone got so stressed out, they made themselves sick. Expensive vacation! It cost us more with the pets than it cost us for our plane tickets! Good thing they’re worth it!! And it’s a good thing we had included our pets in our budget/financial planning.
Would you deny care to your pet if it was a simple (but expensive) health problem that needed to be taken care of?
An acquaintance I know has a cat which she adores. One day, she noticed her kitty was not eating much, and she usually is very eager to eat. Her nickname is Fatty, after all! She didn’t think too much of it the first day, but on day 2 she noticed she was not eating at all. When she was scratching her kitty under the chin, she noticed her mouth seemed a little swollen. So, she scheduled an appointment for Fatty to go to the vet.
Come to find out, Fatty was not eating because she had a tooth abscess and the tooth needed to be pulled. A tooth abscess is caused by a rotten tooth that has become infected and then creates a pocket of whitish discharge around the tooth, causing the swelling. This turned out to be around $700.00 as Fatty needed to be put under anesthesia to have that tooth pulled, and then because it was an abscess that caused infection, she needed some antibiotics and pain medication. Fatty has had no other major health problems. It was a tough bill to pay, but Fatty’s owner didn’t think twice since Fatty means so much to her. The problem was easily fixed once the tooth was pulled and the pain medication and antibiotics healed the infection/swelling. Fatty’s mom used a credit card to pay for Fatty’s bill, one that offered a very low-interest-rate so that she could take some time to pay it off.
Finances are usually a dirty word for most families.
Let’s not add stress to the situation by not being prepared. I have had sick pets over the years, so it has taken me a few times of going through some financial stress before I decided to have a plan of action. Because, there is one thing for certain, my husband and I cannot see ourselves ever without a pet! My first sick pet ended up having some major dental issues that had to be resolved over several visits to the vet. It ended up costing us around $9000.00 by the time everything was taken care of.
We didn’t have a savings account at the time, so we ended up using credit cards and praying that we can cut our expenses to help pay it off. That took us a few years to dig out of that debt while living as comfortably as possible. It was stressful. Since that experience, we have always included a line item in our budget to include setting money aside for pet care expenses. We broke this up into two parts- Immediate needs such as food and medications, and future needs, such as an emergency visit.
I don’t think you can be fully prepared for an emergency visit, but what we have done is put aside a non-touchable amount of funds that we can utilize when something unexpected happens. Our pet emergency savings number we were comfortable to start with was $1000.00. I know this seems like a lot, but in an emergency (think my pug with bloody diarrhea), it would have helped tremendously. We saved up a little bit each month until we had that $1000 set aside. With the “planned” items such as food and medications, we also factored that into a separate line item into our budget.
Another option, if you are disciplined enough, is to have a credit card that you could use for only an emergency. I know most people frown on this as it is encouraging you to live beyond your means and have more bills added to your monthly budget. There are certain types of credit cards that offer no interest if you pay off the balance in full in 6 months. That way it’s a temporary loan and it is not costing you interest! Just think- if you had that $1000.00 emergency fund and also a credit card set aside for emergencies, you would be feeling much less stressed financially if something comes up.
Your pets make up a huge part of your life. Why not keep them healthy?
Your pet gives you unconditional love, yes even cats do, in their own special way, even if it’s NOT pooping in your shoes! My pets are my sounding board at times when I’m having a stressful day. They never judge me! Unless I’m late feeding them… but that’s another story.
Part of your financial plan for your pets needs to include keeping them healthy. The healthier a lifestyle you can provide for them, the more likely they will save you money in the long run. A lot of pet sicknesses and emergencies can be prevented. Not all, but a good majority of them. Remember Fatty, my friend’s kitty? That visit could have been prevented if she would have had regular dental cleanings done on her kitty and made sure to feed good quality dry food to help with some tartar buildup. She knows that now! Part of a regular healthy lifestyle for your pets is keeping them current on their vaccinations to prevent disease, getting them spayed/neutered to prevent cancer and other behavioral issues, and as they get older regular dental cleanings to keep their teeth as well as the heart and internal organs healthy.
The good news is, you can budget for all of these routine items! With the advancements in medical research, scientists are coming to the conclusion that adult pets don’t need all vaccines done every year. Your veterinarian can go over their vaccine schedule with you, and you can then save up for their visit! Most veterinarians have dental cleaning specials too, during certain times of the year, so you can get an estimate and save up for that as well! Save up for your healthy items separately from your emergency fund for the pets. Find out the total cost of what your pet would need healthcare wise in a given year (vaccines, dental cleaning if they are older), and break that out into a monthly cost for your budget.
Some veterinary clinics even offer wellness plans for your pets, which are a cost-effective way of getting your pet’s wellness care broken up into payments as well. Sometimes, pets enrolled in wellness plans get discounts on non-wellness items at their veterinarian, as a way of celebrating you taking care of your pet.
You could even go a step further and research getting pet insurance for your pet, too! This is inexpensive, and it helps with accidents, emergencies, and sometimes wellness items too! The trick with pet insurance is getting it while your pet is YOUNG and does NOT have any health issues, as just like with human insurance, pre-existing conditions are sometimes not covered.
Without a financial plan for your pets, you may be forced to make some hard decisions when something happens. Although one can argue that no one can be 100% financially prepared for an accident, having a plan in place will help ease a little stress when the time comes to make some decisions. Whether it be a pet emergency fund, a credit card with a low-interest rate, savings account for wellness care, a pet wellness plan at your vet’s office, or pet health insurance, there are many options you have available to ease the financial stress of pet expenses! If you have something that works really well for your family, let me know I would love to share it!