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Pet financing: Should you get a pet loan?

Australian Shepard puppy
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Your pet’s health is not something to take for granted. Even the healthiest animals get sick or injured, and if that happens, you may need to seek out medical care to get your favorite furry friend back on their feet.

Advancements in veterinary science have made it easier for animals to get the treatment that they need, though it can still be expensive. You may need to look into pet financing to pay for the treatment. Luckily, a variety of veterinary financing options can help if your pet is sick, from pet loans to vet loans. There are even pet surgery financing options or pet loans for bad credit to help you cover the cost of treatment.

Get pre-qualified

Answer a few questions to see which personal loans you pre-qualify for. The process is quick and easy, and it will not impact your credit score.

What is a pet loan?

A pet loan is just like a personal loan, there is an application process to qualify. The lender will review your credit history and financial information to determine whether you qualify for a loan. If you qualify, the lender will propose terms including a spending limit and the interest rate for the loan.

If you’re seeking a pet loan for help with vet bills, know that these loans have a fixed term, meaning that you have to repay them within an agreed-upon period of time. The other terms of the loan typically vary by lender and your financial situation.

Average cost to take care of a pet

The average cost of taking care of a pet will depend on a number of factors. Among them are the type of pet you own, the size of that pet and the environment in which you raise the pet.


Caring for a dog will cost an average of $1,391 annually. This price includes such expenses as food, routine medical care and preventative medications such as heartworm and flea and tick medications. You can expect to spend about $300 per year on food and about $225 on routine medical visits as part of the annual cost. Additional expenses you should be prepared for as a dog owner include treats, toys and grooming.

Dogs also have one-time start-up costs, which amount to about $1030. These costs include paying for having the dog spayed or neutered, which is about $300, and initial medical and vaccination expenses, totaling another $300. You might also invest in a dog carrier for your furry friend, as well as microchipping and training materials, which cost $50, $20, and $200 respectively.


A cat is slightly less expensive than a dog, according to the ASPCA, costing about $1,149 per year. This estimate includes $225 for food, $160 for annual medical care needs and $140 for preventative medications.

The start-up costs associated with adding a cat to your family are less than half that of a dog at $455 and include $150 for spaying or neutering, $175 for an initial medical visit and $20 for a microchip.


When adding a pet rabbit to your family you can expect to spend from $50 to $100 for the initial purchase, though the price can vary depending on the specific breed of rabbit you select. American rabbits cost between $20 and $50, while Flemish Giant rabbits and Harlequin rabbits cost $50 to $100. Show rabbits or those bred from champion breeders can also cost more.

You will need a variety of supplies required to get set up and maintain proper long-term care. You’ll need to invest in a hutch or enclosure, as well as food bowls, litter box and nail clippers. The hutch for your rabbit will cost far more than the animal itself, about $150 to $200 for an outdoor enclosure and $100 for one that can be used indoors.

Check-ups for your rabbit will run about $20 to $50 annually, and vaccinations are another $20 to $30.


Owning pet fish can run the gamut from a simple goldfish in a bowl to a freshwater tropical tank or a high-end saltwater tank. You can expect to spend less than $1 on a simple feeder or common goldfish to about $5 for a fancy goldfish. The starting cost to purchase freshwater tropical fish is between $3 to $12, and you can expect to pay $30 or more for saltwater fish. Prices will also vary drastically based on whether you purchase juvenile or adult fish. Some adult freshwater fish can sell for as much as $100 to $300, while adult saltwater fish will be more than $100 each.

Before buying a pet fish, it’s a good idea to thoroughly research the care involved and the equipment required for the type of fish you are considering. A simple bowl is just $10 to $20, but fish tanks can cost more than $1000 on the high-end depending how large or elaborate a tank you purchase.

Supplies required for maintaining a healthy fish tank include a filtration system for the water, which generally costs $5 to $15 for every 10 gallons of tank water.

Gravel, fish tank decor and plants for your tank are some of the other start-up costs to bear in mind. Prices for these items range significantly depending on your taste and selection. Gravel will cost up to $50 or more depending on tank size, as will decor. You can expect to spend anywhere from $5 to $25 on plants.


The cost of owning a reptile can vary significantly depending on the specific type of pet you choose. A lizard can cost $190 to $260 per year, while an iguana may be as much as $250 to $350 annually. The annual costs of a pet snake range from $250 to $450. Each of these annual estimates includes such expenses as veterinary care, food, and start-up supplies like cages or tanks and heat lamps.

Reasons to take out a pet loan

If your pet needs surgery or major treatments, the bills can be astronomical, and most vets won’t offer in-house financing for your vet bills. This can cause an issue if you can’t afford to pay out of pocket, or you don’t have enough room on your credit cards to finance them.

Pet loans can help to pay for major costs if you don’t have pet insurance or the free cash to pay for expensive medical treatment for your pet. This means your dear pet gets the necessary treatment they deserve without additional delays. With the help of a pet loan, you can make a decisive decision about your pet’s health care so they receive comfort sooner. In an emergency situation, having access to a pet loan can be a life or death scenario for your pet.

Additionally, like other consumer installment loans, a pet loan lets you break up a large, lump-sum expense into smaller monthly payments. A pet loan provides the option for manageable payments without compromising your pet’s well-being.

As a bonus, some vets or lenders offer special zero-interest financing on charges over a certain amount. Financing through these lenders can make more sense than putting a major pet surgery on a credit card with high interest.

Although pet loans can be useful financing options, remember it’s still a debt that you’re taking on. Since it charges interest, you’ll pay more to finance your pet’s needs, compared to using cash.

If you’re considering a pet loan, compare rates and terms across a handful of personal loan lenders. Lenders impose different underwriting criteria so shop around to find the best repayment term and lowest interest rate you qualify for.

Alternative financing options

If pet surgery financing expenses are piling up, a pet loan isn’t the only way you can get help with vet bills. Depending on the circumstances, alternative financing options can be just as useful as a pet loan. You may be able to:

  • Set up a payment plan: It isn’t common, but your vet may be willing to negotiate a payment plan, which can lighten the financial blow by breaking it into increments that are easier to handle.
  • Pay with credit: Another financing option is to pay for medical expenses with a credit card, but it can be risky for a number of reasons. Using credit allows you to pay for the high costs of vet bills over time, but the average credit card interest rate is about 16%, which means you’re going to be paying a lot of interest with this method unless you have a credit card with a low or introductory zero interest rate.
  • Look for help from a non-profit: Some non-profit organizations offer grants or loans with low interest rates to help pet owners finance their pet’s medical treatment. For example, if your pet has cancer, The Magic Bullet Fund is a foundation worth checking. It provides support and assistance in helping your pet get the medical attention it needs.
  • Vet schools or low-cost vet options: If you can’t find a non-profit that can help, look into vet schools or low-cost vet clinics. Vet schools often have affordable clinics associated with them, and your pet can often get the treatment it needs at a fraction of the cost quoted by other clinics. Some areas — rural or low income areas, for example — are serviced by low-cost vet options, which can also greatly reduce the cost of your pet’s treatment if you qualify.
  • Secure pet insurance. If you’re not facing a pet emergency, but want to prepare for an unexpected high-cost vet expense, pet insurance can help. Typically, you can purchase pet insurance that covers all or a portion of veterinary expenses, like procedures and treatments as a result of accidents, illness, or general wellness bills. Prices vary between insurance companies and policy coverages.

Get pre-qualified

Answer a few questions to see which personal loans you pre-qualify for. The process is quick and easy, and it will not impact your credit score.

The bottom line

The price for vet treatments can be extremely high, but taking care of your sick pet doesn’t have to ruin you financially. If you’re preemptively planning for a worst-case scenario, consider adding pet insurance to your plan. It can help reduce the out-of-pocket cost you experience if you ever need to submit a claim for a covered vet expense.

If your pet needs to undergo a veterinary procedure or treatment urgently, a pet loan is a useful way to finance your pet’s medical expenses at an affordable rate, compared to using a credit card.

However, it’s still an additional debt that impacts your finances. It can jeopardize your credit if you don’t stay on top of the payments and pay the loan off in a timely manner. Reach out to a handful of lenders to find the most competitive rate and terms before borrowing a pet loan.

Written by
Ethan Jacobs
Ethan Jacobs is a former contributor for Bankrate.
Edited by
Loans Editor