Nov 06, 2023

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Couple sits on their living room floor with their golden retriever and a laptop.

Pets are members of our families, and pet owners want to give their furry (or scaly) friends the best possible love and care.

But pets may also be expensive, especially if you are considering a pure breed or are facing a large vet bill. Luckily, there are many ways to pay for pet expenses, including a pet loan. A pet loan is a personal loan you could use to pay for pet expenses.

With careful planning, pet financing options could help you keep your pet both healthy and happy.

Table of contents

What is a pet loan?

A pet loan is a personal loan used to pay for pet expenses. A personal loan may be used for life’s big expenses, so it might not be labelled a “pet loan” exactly.

Personal loans do not require collateral. They have a fixed rate and repayment term, which means you can plan for one set regular monthly payment.

How much does a pet cost?

Dogs and cats are the most common household pets. Adoption costs may range from a few hundred dollars at a rescue shelter to much more for a purebred kitten or puppy.Each breed and breeder may be different, so cost should be part of any research you do before adopting.

Adoption costs are just the start. In the first year alone, large dogs could cost $1,500 when you factor in the price of food, medical services, grooming, and other needs.Cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs may also be costly, running several hundred dollars the first year. Small birds and fish are often the cheapest.

But even fish may get expensive as the cost could vary widely depending on the type of fish, tanks, filtration equipment, and food that you need. While common goldfish or minnows may cost as little as $1 and don’t require heaters or complex aquariums, many saltwater fish could cost well over $100. They also need specialized tanks and equipment that could cost from a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars each year to maintain.3

Depending on the pet, after the initial setup costs, of course, there may be ongoing expenses for things such as food, toys, treats, and medical care. If you adopt a dog, you may think about paying for a training class. And no matter what kind of pet you choose, you could need someone to care for it when you go out of town.

For most pets, it’s also important to factor in the cost of an annual vet visit. “The average cost of a cat’s annual wellness visit ranges between $200 and $500, the low end often including a physical, rabies, and distemper vaccinations,” said Dr. Sheena Dadkhah, veterinarian at Animal Hospital of West Lake Forest, Illinois. “Average costs for dogs start around $250 for an examination and rabies and distemper vaccinations. They go up to $1,000 for additional vaccinations and medications for heartworm and flea and tick prevention.”

While these services may seem unnecessary because your cat or dog is healthy, many cities and states require certain licenses and vaccinations for pets. In particular, almost all states require that pets be vaccinated for rabies.

No matter whether or not vaccines and medical care are required, it may sometimes cost less to get preventive care and keep your pet healthy than to care for them when they are sick.

“Preventive care is not only more affordable but can also be lifesaving. Heartworm prevention may cost as little as $120 a year, compared to thousands of dollars and months of therapy to treat a potentially fatal disease,” Dadkhah explained.

Depending on the pet you bring into your home, things to budget for might include:

  • Adoption fees or the cost of purchasing a new pet
  • Spaying/neutering when adopting a puppy or kitten
  • Food
  • Routine medical expenses like vaccines and dental care
  • Preventive medication like flea and tick treatment
  • Toys and treats
  • Cat litter
  • Aquariums and filtration equipment
  • Training
  • Pet sitting or daycare

It’s important to know your budget and how much you could afford each year. If you need extra financial support, a pet loan may be right for you.

“Preventive care is not only more affordable but can also be lifesaving.”  

Dr. Sheena Dadkhah

What could pet loans pay for?

Pet loans could be used to pay for more than adoption costs. They may also help with medical bills like spaying or neutering, vaccinations, and microchipping. And you could use them to buy aquariums and fish, especially if you are setting up a large tank or getting specialty fish.

In addition, a personal loan for pet care could pay for pet surgeries or medical emergencies for your cat or dog, which may be expensive.

“There is a wide range of costs if your pet gets sick or injured. These can be a few hundred dollars for an emergency room visit to over $10,000 for emergency procedures such as back surgeries,” Dadkhah said. “The costs can quickly add up in critical situations, hospitalizations, or long-term treatments for diseases,” she added.

If you are interested in owning a service dog to help with a disability, a personal loan could help cover the costs of adopting a trained dog. Depending on the type of service needed and the sponsoring organization, fees may vary widely for a service animal, ranging from minimal fees to tens of thousands of dollars.4

How could I manage pet care costs?

Pet owners may have options when it comes to lowering the cost of caring for a pet. One strategy is to shop around for vets and sources of prescriptions. There are online resources for finding low-cost vet services for income-qualified pet owners. Veterinary colleges may also provide low-cost services, so check your local area for nearby schools.

Another way to reduce pet care costs is to groom your dog or cat at home. A local pet store may have a self-service grooming booth. This could help you save on grooming costs while also letting you avoid the mess of giving them a bath in your own bathtub. If you need pet sitting, think about asking friends or family to watch your pet rather than boarding it at a kennel or hiring a pet sitter.

What are some other financing options for pet care?

If you are facing a large vet bill, you might also talk to your vet about setting up a payment plan for unexpected expenses. You could be able to pay the charges over time.

Pet insurance is also an option. “Pet insurance is a great resource to cover costs of an unexpected illness or injury,” said Dadkhah. “But insurance companies typically do not cover pre-existing conditions, so establish your coverage right away.”

Before you decide on a provider, you may want to explore what your premiums and deductibles would be with different plans, just as you would with your own health insurance. Also, be sure to ask your employer if they offer pet insurance as a benefit.

If you do not have pet insurance, or for expenses that are not covered by the policy, you could use a credit card to pay for a large expense like a vet bill. But remember: Credit cards have variable interest rates, so if rates increase, the higher interest could increase your minimum payments. They are also a form of revolving credit. That means if you don’t pay off your balance in full every month, you could end up paying a lot in interest.

There are also healthcare-specific card programs that can be used for pets.5 To use these payment options, your vet must be part of their network. Be sure to check before signing up or planning to pay with these types of programs.

Explore your options, so you can focus on your pet

Pets can be wonderful companions and beloved members of our families. If a pet gets sick or injured, it can be stressful and upsetting.

But remember: If you need help covering the costs, a pet loan that fits into your budget may take some of the financial pressure off. Then you could focus on helping your pet get better. And if you’re considering adopting a new pet but are not sure how to pay for it, a personal loan for pets might help.

Are you interested in exploring how a personal loan may help with up-front or ongoing pet care costs? Use our calculator to see what your monthly payments could be for a Discover® Personal Loan—with no impact to your credit score.

Estimate Your Payments

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