Every pet deserves the best care possible. Sadly, not every owner provides it. In fact, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, vet visits for dogs slipped 21% between 2001 and 2014. The news was actually worse for cats, with the number of vet visits for felines falling by 30%. At the same time, however, emergency vet visits increased, which seems to indicate that many owners are avoiding the veterinarian unless their pets are in dire need of care.
This creates a situation that every veterinarian dreads. You now have a very sick or injured animal requiring treatment and an owner who could not afford standard wellness checks - let alone costly emergency care or long-term treatment for a serious illness, such as cancer. This can be a very stressful, emotional, and awkward moment for all involved. Even worse, some owners will decide that economic euthanasia - putting a pet to sleep because they can't afford treatment - may be their only option, even if it's very likely the animal could survive with the proper care.
As a veterinarian, you can, however, provide options to a client that could make it financially feasible to pay for a pet's care, including the following:
Offer Different Treatment Plans
The first thing you'll need to do is to lay out what treatment plans are available for the owner and an estimate of what the various costs would be. This way, owners can calculate for themselves the level of care they can afford for their pets. At this point, don't be surprised owners ask you questions, such as, "How much to put down a dog" or "What will happen if we don't treat the issue" as they struggle to make the right decision for their families’ finances and their pets.
Make sure to include several options for treatment, from a high-end solution that includes all necessary tests and lab work, medication, and any possible surgical treatments to a low-range estimate for the bare minimum you can do for the pet. By giving an owner choices ahead of time, you will hopefully avoid having them claim that they didn't realize how costly your services were going to be and then refuse to pay for treatment that has already been rendered.
Offer a Payment Plan
Although it's always better if you can collect your money at the time of service, for hardship cases, you may want to set up a payment plan (with or without interest). When it comes to getting paid, it's definitely better late than never.
Ask for a Deposit
Before admitting a pet for treatment, collect a deposit in advance for your services. This is especially true when admitting for new patients. Don't be shocked if an owner becomes irritated or is surprised by the request, and make sure to stick by this policy to ensure that you are fairly compensated for the medical care you'll be providing.
Veterinarian-endorsed Crowdfunding Option
If an owner still cannot afford to pay for treatment and he or she has a compelling story, ask if you can place the pet's information on Waggle, a crowdfunding platform that works with veterinarians to pay off a client's bills. Examples of pets that other veterinarians have placed on Waggle include a dog with a broken leg whose owner lost his job and a puppy that was thrown down steps by a child and had to have its leg amputated. The latter dog was in the care of a rescue that needed funds to pay for the puppy's surgeries. Waggle could also be used to obtain vet help for low-income families or for free, emergency pet care. And because the pets on Waggle are posted through a veterinarian, people know that these are approved animals in need of vet bill assistance and not fraudulent campaigns. Thus, donors will be more likely to contribute to their care.
In the end, your ultimate goal should be to maintain a lasting relationship with your clients, so always remain sympathetic and understanding of the stress they are feeling, while presenting them with these options. To get started with a crowdfunding option for your clients pets, contact Waggle today.