It’s a one-two punch to your heart and your wallet. First, you learn your pet has an illness that needs immediate treatment or surgery. But when you get the estimate from your veterinarian, the price tag overwhelms you—you simply cannot afford it.  

What should you do? Check out Waggle’s top ten resources to help you pay for your dog or cat’s medical bills.

1. Negotiate

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recommends trying to negotiate a payment plan with your veterinarian and/or animal hospital. “If you're a client in good standing, they may be happy to work out a weekly or monthly payment plan. However, a vet you've never been to may not agree to such a plan,” the HSUS cautions on its website.

2. Care Credit and Special Financing Offers

Some animal hospitals want payment upfront and won’t negotiate financing. If you don’t have the cash or credit line on your charge card to foot your pet’s bill, Care Credit offers short-term financing and an interest-free period on charges of $200 or more for up to 24 months.

Other companies and banks also offer lines of credit, like the Wells Fargo Health Advantage Veterinary Client Financing card.

Before you run up charges on any credit card, be sure to read the terms and conditions, so you know what to expect. Find out: What happens if you can’t pay the balance by the end of the interest grace period? What kind of interest rate applies after the special offer ends? And is interest charged back to the date of the original purchase?

3. Shop Around

Shopping around for the best deal on your pet’s care can be worth it. If you know specifically what your pet needs—for example, you know your cat has six teeth that need to be extracted—contact other respected animal hospitals in your area and ask what they would charge for the surgery. Some veterinarians may want to see your pet first; if that’s the case, be sure to include the price of that office visit in your calculations.

Seeing another veterinarian is also a good way to get a second opinion on your pet’s condition. There may be other treatment options you have not considered or even knew about. Always have your pet’s records from your original veterinarian transferred to the second animal hospital, so you don’t have to pay to repeat tests.

Of course, make sure any veterinarian you consider is licensed and read up on reviews of the second practice. The HSUS recommends calling local veterinary schools to see if they offer low-cost clinics.

4. Breed-Specific Organizations

There are many nonprofits ready to assist owners of certain breed types. You can find some of these groups by just Googling words like, “medical assistance for _____” [fill in the breed’s name], or, “medical grants for _____.”

Labrador Life Line is one of more than a dozen breed-specific organizations we found. The group says it is committed to offering financial assistance to owners and rescuers of Labrador Retrievers in need, including dogs who require urgent and short-term medical treatment.

Have a Westie? WestieMed helps rescued Westies in need of medical attention. The group offers financial aid to sick or injured rescued Westies in foster care or within six months of being adopted.

5. Grants to Help Treat Certain Conditions

Some organizations aim to help pets suffering from specific medical conditions.

If your dog or cat is fighting cancer, The Riedel & Cody Fund offers lifesaving grants made possible by the Petco and Blue Buffalo Foundations, along with many other business and retail partners. The nonprofit group believes pets are family members and deserve the best possible care.

Live Like Roo also offers financial support for pets with cancer.

Bow Wow Buddies provides funding for dog parents struggling to cover veterinary bills for serious conditions.

6. Assistance for Residents of Certain States

Some nonprofit groups will help your pet just because you live in a certain state.

Operation D.O.G. provides financial assistance for veterinary care for Oregon dog owners living in Marion County and Polk County.

If you live in New England or Florida and need help paying for your pet’s cancer care, you can apply to Emma’s Foundation for Canine Cancer.

The Jake Brady Memorial Fund is dedicated to supporting Ohio residents afford their pet’s veterinary care.

7. Assistance for Specific Groups of People

Are you a veteran? Do you have limited income? Are you in a housing crisis? There are organizations that want to help you and your pet.

The Street Dog Coalition provides free medical care and related services if you are experiencing, or are at risk of, homelessness. And Pets of the Homeless offers pet food and emergency veterinary care.

If you’re a military member, Dogs on Deployment offers a grant program to assist with emergency treatment, as well as spay and neutering. The group also has an online network of volunteers who can help care for your pets while you are deployed.

The Brown Dog Foundation and Frankie’s Friends provide financial assistance grants, if your family can’t afford the full cost of emergency or specialty veterinary care. And Frankie’s Friends Hope Fund offers assistance for pets at some BluePearl Veterinary Hospitals.

Paws LA helps low-income seniors and people disabled with life-threatening illnesses care for their companion animals by providing veterinary care, pet food and supplies, temporary foster homes, and volunteer services — all at no charge.

8. Low-Cost Spay and Neuter Resources

Talk to your veterinarian about spaying or neutering your pet. Experts say finding a low-cost clinic and having the procedure done can save you thousands of dollars in possible, future medical bills.

Unneutered male dogs, for example, are more prone to testicular cancer. And not spaying a female cat or dog can create a long list of expensive issues, from unwanted litters and pregnancy complications to increasing an animal's chances of several kinds of cancer.

North Shore Animal League America’s SpayUSA® offers a nationwide referral network for affordable spay and neuter services.

9. Help for Rescues and Nonprofit Groups

Many veterinarians and animal hospitals offer discounts to nonprofit, animal rescue organizations, if the group can present proof of its 501(c)(3) designation.

There are also organizations dedicated to helping shelters pay rescued animals' medical bills, like ISF Emergency Medical Care Grant for Animals. The group assists animal welfare organizations, and in some cases, individual rescuers, to pay for the care of animals who were abused, neglected, or suffered a traumatic event.

10. Waggle

Waggle.org would love to hear from you! The organization welcomes pet owners and animal rescue groups to create crowdfunding campaigns on its website. The money raised is paid directly to the pet’s animal hospital. That helps eliminate doubts about fraudulent fundraising campaigns. Moreover, Waggle strives for complete transparency: Donors know exactly where their money is going, something that is not always so apparent on other crowdfunding websites.

The organization’s goal is to end “economic euthanasia.” Waggle estimates a half-million pets are put to sleep each year because the animal’s owner can’t afford the pet's care.

The organization's founder and CEO, Steven Mornelli, calls it an innovative solution for saving beloved pets. “Waggle is a trustworthy means to help families who have lost hope. We provide a trusted solution,” he notes.

To upload a campaign, go to Waggle.org.

For more information and resources, check out the HSUS website.

This list is meant to be an informative resource for pet parents, not an endorsement of any organization or service.