Tuesday, June 7, 2016

When the Cost of a Veterinary Emergency Means a Decision Between Life & Death

Twice in my life (so far) I've ended up at the emergency vet facing an astronomical bill. The first time was the Saturday morning I brought Tara in for a recurring UTI only to receive her diabetes diagnosis. They kept her for the weekend to stabilize her and start her on insulin. The cost was close to $1500. (A year later she also needed a cardiologist and oncologist, and by that point I completely lost track of her veterinary expenses. I've kept all the bills and really should calculate it someday.)

Then just last summer was Truffles' blood clot. Two short hours and $1,000 later she was gone.

Photo Credit: depositphotos/© photo-deti

There are many reasons why emergency vet care is so expensive. Continuity of care means these offices are open 24/7, therefore it must be fully staffed by vets and technicians able to perform advanced procedures around the clock. Emergency vets see the most serious illnesses which require state-of-the-art medical equipment and specialists who know how to use it. I know my regular vet wouldn't have had access to the oxygen cage that Truffles needed, and I was so grateful that it was available to her at the ER even though I knew it was going to cost me an arm and a leg. The care she received that night was second to none. 

Thankfully both times I was able to agree to the estimate knowing I would be able to pay for my cat's care, and even if I couldn't my parents would be more than willing to help. Sadly though, that piece of paper containing the estimated cost means the choice between life and death for many pet parents.


Four Paws Lifeline is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization whose goal is to provide financial assistance to those pet owners who are not able to afford critical care or emergency veterinary care for their furry loved ones. They feel that an animal's life should not have to depend on their owner's ability to pay and are working towards a future where decisions about companion animal medical care need never be made on the basis of cost.

Founded by Karen and David Brothers, Four Paws Lifeline relies solely on the support and contributions of individuals who love animals to create a pool of financial assistance. Contributions go directly to the treating veterinarians. Applicants need only fill out a form stating their need.


Four Paws and 31 Tales is a collection of pet stories donated by members of Twitter’s Anipal community to benefit Four Paws Lifeline. All proceeds from sales will benefit this wonderful organization.

Only $10 for a pawsome book and the knowledge that your money will be helping a cat or dog in need! I've already purchased my copy and would encourage you to add it to your library as well. I can't wait to read it!

Have you ever had trouble paying a steep vet bill? What did you do?

22 comments:

  1. Informative post! I always have trouble paying vet bills, large or small!

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  2. Good post.
    Mum has experienced lots of high Vet bills.
    Some when kitties have passed on and some for medical reasons(such as Georgia's constipation issues)
    Mum has a line of credit and always seems to be paying into it.
    It does not leave much money left over.
    She loves us so she does not mind.
    Our Vet has an Angel Fund for people who cannot pay.
    They have fundraisers to earn money . We think that is a good thing :)
    Purrs Georgia and Julie,
    Treasure and JJ

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  3. A large potential vet Bill will be death for Molly. I have no family and no one to help. On a fixed income savings are impossible. Where we live the vets are horribly greedy and cruel. I called 20 to request payments for my Brothers cats cancer tumor surgery and they all refused. We had to have her killed. He is mentally disabled and she was the love of his life. It nearly killed him. Vets are greedy driven only by money. I doubt this organization really helps. The non profit here that is similar told me cats lives don't matter, only dogs. It's a sad reality of being a pet owner with the greedy vets of today.

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    1. I am the founder of Four Paws Lifeline - all lives matter. The clients we have had consist of 3 dogs 3 cats and a rabbit. We are just getting started, so our funds are limited which is why we can only help with $200 or $300 dollars. I am the guardian of 8 cats and I started the non profit because my cat swallowed a rubber plug and required surgery. I know that had I not been able to come up with the money - I would have lost her. Sadly, some vets are greedy, but not all.

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  4. This post is so wonderful in its own way. I have long since lost track of how much money I've spent on my furbabies. At least three times that I can remember, one of my furbabies in my life has had an emergency that resulted in a bill of $1000 or more. I'm pretty sure my angel Rosie is in the lead, but I could never bat an eye at care she needed. Like you, I've always been lucky enough to afford care for my own furbabies, but if ever I couldn't, my parents would never hesitate to help me.

    That all being said, I used to work at a veterinary clinic, and I know exactly what it's like to see the distress in an owner's eyes when they know that they simply cannot afford the care their furbaby needs. This organization you bring to our attention here is new to me, but it sounds like a godsend. I applaud them so much.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Melissa and Mudpie!

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  5. Great post. About 14 years ago, I had to rush my dog Bucky to the emergency vet at 2:00 on a Sunday morning. He had taken a sudden turn for the worse from an infection diagnosed by my regular vet that Friday. Sadly, they couldn't save him, and the bills totaled up to well over $1,000. On the credit card it went, and I spent years paying it off. I think it's great that vets can do so much more for our pets these days than when I was a kid, but sometimes I worry that a lot of people will be priced out of having pets because the cost of even basic care has gotten so high.

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  6. The worst bill I ever had from our vet was when I stepped back on Hannah's back paw (she is like a stealth bomber and you never know she is there until it's too late!). She had to have several visits there until her paw started to be improve again. I now watch her like a hawk so I don't do it again!

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  7. I think the moment you enter the ER VET it starts at like $500. Within two weeks of two different ER trips for Abby we were way over $3000. Not to mention the cost of the specialty vets that ensued. I now know it was all an exercise in futility. There was no saving her, but my head was too emotional. I still carry with me the baggage that I should have let her go before she had to endure all of that and still die in my arms while her heart failed. It will be the guilt I always carry. The only thing 'good' that came of it was when it was Gracie and I knew there was no getting better I let her go as terribly painful as it was for me I let her go to suffer no more. I still miss my Abby. Everyday.

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  8. Great post and Four Paws Lifeline sounds like a great organization! It's sad to think that a vet bill would get in the way of saving a life. But I do understand. Luckily when we had to take our pup into the ER for his (first) back surgery, we had family step up and pay the $6,000 bill! We have insurance for our kitties, and hopefully we will never have to use it.

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  9. what a great organization....it is always sad when we hear about animals that can't be saved due to money or are left at shelters or rescues for the same reason. mom says she is going to look into getting a copy of this book

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  10. mudpie; thiz izza grate post; N Fourpaws Lifeline an awesum organization.... for sure we will tell de food servizz gal ta chex out thiz book ♥♥♥

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  11. What a great article. I've had some high vet bills from a speciality vet hospital for my 18 year old cat just recently and they gave me an estimate of $400 for an ultrasound and it ended up being almost $900. Luckily,I was able to pay for it, but I can't understand how the estimate and the final bill could so different.

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  12. What a great article. I've had some high vet bills from a speciality vet hospital for my 18 year old cat just recently and they gave me an estimate of $400 for an ultrasound and it ended up being almost $900. Luckily,I was able to pay for it, but I can't understand how the estimate and the final bill could so different.

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  13. I've been fortunate enough to have a good job and have been able to afford the vet care for my cats, though some of the bills can get quite high. I'm glad there are organizations like Fourpaws Lifeline to help those that need the assistance. ~Island Cat Mom

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  14. When Nicky and Dusty got sick a few months ago, it cost me $6000. My carecredit is maxed out again. When I lost Callaway it cost me over $6500. I can't make decisions based on dollars. I did add up my bills for Sasha in her last 10 yet as of her 20 1/2 year life- nearly $50K. Credit cards and home equity followed by a refi. He condo is under water now but I'd do it again in a heart beat. I have no regrets. Some may think I'm crazy, but it's how my heart works. I'll eat pb&j and skip vacations for the next ten years to care for my cats.

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  15. What a great organization and wonderful fundraiser!

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  16. Luckily TW was working a good job and could pay Chizzy’s medical bills when he kept getting blocked and had the surgery. Now money is scarce so I’ll prolly meet my maker cos the peeps can’t pay for me and refuse to borrow money. I’m not on Twitter that much anymore but would have loved to participate. I bet there’s a lot of my furrends in there.

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    1. Great pic of Duffy and Tsk on the cover.

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  17. Excellent post. I know all too well about 24 hour care expenses. I always feel bad for those that can't afford to use it when it could save their pet.

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  18. Care Credit has been a lifesaver for our ER vet bills. They give you a year to pay the bill without any interest. We are lucky to have a great ER vet nearby.

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  19. Thank Heaven for organizations such as this !

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  20. Great info. We've had occasion to use the 24 hour VET and the prices are very high but that's for all the reasons you stated. We have found that there are HUGE variations in the prices of the ER Vets here. It's not a bad idea to check out your local options. The less expensive place was actually the one Mom liked the best because of the care they gave Sniffie and Cubby.

    The Florida Furkids

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