Owning a pet can be expensive. From everyday expenses to unexpected medical costs, it is important to set aside funds for your pet’s needs. This is especially true if you have or are looking to get a service, therapy or emotional support animal because they often need specific training that can be expensive.

Luckily, various veterinary financing options can help if you need assistance financing your pet’s needs, 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.

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Pet cost statistics
  • The most common animals to own in America are dogs with 38.4%, followed by cats with 25.4%
  • The most common health concern for dogs is skin allergies, with an average medical bill cost of $189.
  • Approximately 500,000 service dogs are currently helping people in the U.S.
  • Service dogs can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 upfront

What is a pet loan?

A pet loan is a personal loan that can be used to cover pet expenses. Pet loans are offered by banks, credit unions and online lenders. Once you apply, 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. The other terms of the loan typically vary by lender and your financial situation.

When you look for a pet loan, know that any personal loan can be used for almost any purpose, so you will find the most results by looking at personal loans.

Average cost to take care of a pet

Pets can vary widely in popularity, with dogs and cats being the most common to animals like lizards or rabbits being less popular. No matter what kind of pet you get, there will be expenses associated with having one.

The average cost of caring for a pet will depend on factors like the type of animal, the size of that pet and the environment in which you raise the pet.

Dog

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 for about $300 and initial medical and vaccination expenses, totaling another $300. You might also invest in a dog carrier for your furry friend and microchipping and training materials, which cost $50, $20, and $200, respectively.

Cat

According to the ASPCA, a cat is slightly less expensive than a dog, 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, including $150 for spaying or neutering, $175 for an initial medical visit and $20 for a microchip.

Bird

The initial cost of buying a bird can vary widely, anywhere from $15 to over $5,000 for more exotic breeds. The average cost to buy a bird is $295.

Once you have purchased your pet bird, the average cost of caring for the bird is $185 a year. This estimate includes $75 for food, $25 for toys and treats and $85 for vet bills.

In addition to regular expenses and the initial cost to buy the bird, you also need to account for the cost of a bird cage, which is about $70 on average, a travel carrier, bedding and cage additions like perches and a cage cover.

Fish

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, research the care and equipment required for the type of fish you are considering. The average annual cost to care for a fish is $520, but the actual cost depends on the choices you make for your pet. A simple bowl is just $10 to $20, but fish tanks can cost more than $1000 on the high-end, depending on 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 other start-up costs to bear. 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.

Reptile

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

Image summarizing the costs listed in the sections above

Reasons to take out a pet loan

It is generally a good idea to have money aside for your pet’s needs to avoid debt. However, medical expenses for your pet are often unexpected and expensive, creating a need for pet financing. Service animals can also require financing because they tend to be expensive but their services are essential.

A pet loan could help if you need a service animal or your pet needs medical treatment. 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.

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

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

Surgery or major treatments

The bills can be astronomical if your pet needs surgery or major treatments. 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 if 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. With the help of a pet loan, you can make a quicker 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.

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.

Service, therapy and emotional support animal financing

If you need a service dog, therapy or emotional support animal, a pet loan could help you offset the immediate cost.

Service animals and emotional support and therapy animals are different. Only some animals, such as dogs and horses, can be considered service animals. Service dogs must undergo special training to learn skills that meet a specific need. Any domesticated animal can be considered an emotional support or therapy animal.

The average cost of a service dog can be anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. Because any domesticated animal can be registered as an emotional support or therapy animal, there is no overall average cost for these pets. Emotional support animals also do not have any official certification programs. Still, you will need to pay to visit a doctor or licensed therapist who can attest to your need for an emotional support animal.

Alternative financing options

If you need help financing your pet’s medical bills or you want to purchase a service or emotional support animal, a pet loan is not the only option. Depending on the circumstances, alternative financing options can be just as useful as a pet loan:

  • Credit: Using credit allows you to pay for the high costs of vet bills or service dog training over time. However, the average credit card interest rate is about 16%, which means you will be paying a lot of interest with this method unless you have a credit card with a low or introductory zero interest rate.
  • Nonprofit assistance: Many nonprofit organizations work with people who need service animals. There are programs for veterans specifically, as well as programs for people with autism and physical disabilities.  Some non-profit organizations offer grants or loans with low interest rates to help pet owners finance their pet’s medical treatment. For example, The Magic Bullet Fund helps pay for pet cancer treatment.
  • Payment plan: Your vet may be willing to negotiate a payment plan, which can lighten the financial blow by breaking it into increments. However, not all vets offer this option.
  • Pet insurance: Pet insurance covers all or a portion of veterinary expenses, like procedures and treatments resulting from accidents, illness or general wellness bills. Prices vary between insurance companies and policy coverages. Insurance can help you avoid high emergency costs.
  • Vet schools or low-cost vet options: Vet schools often have affordable clinics that allow students to practice, so your pet can often get the treatment it needs at a fraction of the cost quoted by other clinics. Some areas may also have low-cost vet options.

The bottom line

If your pet needs a veterinary procedure or you need a service dog or emotional support animal, a pet loan can be a useful way to cover the expense at an affordable rate.

However, a pet loan is 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 promptly. Reach out to a handful of lenders to find the most competitive rate and terms before applying for a pet loan.