Despite all the economic indicators, some of us are still living in recessionary times. When we are experiencing tough financial times, so are our pets.

A common assumption is because veterinarians are compassionate and love animals, they are willing to provide treatment and services at reduced cost or for free when finances are an issue. Such expectations are unrealistic taking into consideration the cost of medical supplies and operating expenses, along with your vet making a living. Here are some suggestions on how to be financially prepared for your pet’s medical fees and ways to help during financially challenging times when a pet is sick or injured.

Good preventative care is essential in reducing long-term pet health care cost. Regular examinations help detect problems earlier, when they may be less expensive to treat and treatment is more likely to result in a good outcome.

Health Maintenance Plans that are offered by some veterinary practices may be helpful in managing your pet’s health care cost. The services covered by these plans can vary and are honored only by the issuing practice.

Pet health insurance is available from a variety of insurance companies. Do some online research to find a company that offers the product best suited for your pet’s needs. Be forewarned: most pet insurance policies don’t work like human policies with copays. They are structured to reimburse you for expenses once they are paid in full. Also, pre-existing conditions are often not covered.

Shop around for veterinary services when you can and if your situation warrants. Prices can vary significantly depending on the part of town in which a veterinarian is located.

Be honest and upfront with your veterinarian and let him or her know if you have financial limitations. By knowing this info in advance, your vet can make treatment recommendations that will provide the most efficient use or your financial resources and provide the best possible care for your pet.

Request a prescription from your veterinarian for dispensed medications. One major discount store pharmacy hits the bull’s-eye (Get It?) by providing up to a 30 day supply of select prescription medications for $4.00. The list of drugs is pretty extensive. Some other pharmacies will match the offer for select drugs.

Ask your veterinarian about payment plans, deferred payment and financing options or credit plans that are available for your pet’s care.

In the event you are unable to make arrangements to pay your bill, there are organizations that may be of assistance. Municipal animal services agencies and the local humane society may be able to help or provide referrals to animal aid organizations. Research the Internet for national organizations that help owners with medical financial assistance or grants on a case-by-case base. Many of these organizations are funded by donations so when you can, be sure to pay it forward by making a contribution so these organizations can help others.

Dr. Pierre Bland is the owner of “Dr. Bland’s Vet House Calls,” a veterinary house call service. He can be reached at 954 673-8579 or at