What happens if I can't pay my vet bill in the UK?

22 November 2023 - 3 min read
Money in a dog bowl

We all want to take care of our pets, which is why it’s upsetting to feel like we can’t afford to get them medical treatment - especially if they’re suffering. If you can’t afford a vet bill, or treatment for a pet’s illness, don’t despair: there are ways to manage the cost. 

Let’s take a closer look at the best strategies to cope with the financial cost of your pet’s medical care.

Communicate with your vet

If you’re struggling to meet the financial costs of your pet’s illness or injury, your first step should be to talk openly about the problem with your vet. They may offer advice on alternative or cheaper treatments, or write a prescription that you can obtain cheaper elsewhere.

Do vets offer payment plans? 

It’s worth asking whether you can spread or reduce the cost of your pet’s treatment. Some vets can provide services at a reduced cost via payment plans, or offer certain services for free through your insurance provider. If you opt for this approach, don’t forget to look into interest-free payment options, and always carefully consider whether the arrangement will be manageable for your budget over time​​.

Explore charitable options

In the UK, certain charities, including the PDSA offer help with vet bills:

  • PDSA: The PDSA provides free or subsidised treatments to pet owners who meet certain criteria, including owners that receive specific state benefits. 

  • Cats Protection: Cats Protection offers means-tested financial help for neutering, spaying, and microchipping cats. 

  • Dogs Trust: Dogs Trust provides subsidised treatments of up to £350 for dogs that need emergency care.

Can I get help with vet bills on universal credit?

Some pet charities will use benefits, like universal credit, as a means to test whether you qualify for financial assistance with your pet’s medical care. Get in touch with individual charities to learn more about their means testing policies. 

Seek debt and budgeting advice 

If a payment plan for your vet bill isn't an option, organisations like Citizens Advice can offer guidance on managing debt, and could even help you work out a budget that might make your vet bill more manageable​​.

Look for low-cost clinics 

Costs for veterinary care can vary significantly based on location, available equipment, and a vet's experience. If you’re worried about the prices at a particular veterinary practice, it's worth shopping around for more affordable options, or seeking out not-for-profit clinics in your area​​.

Check symptoms online

Not all sick animals will need medical care. Before going to the vet, use online resources like VetHelpDirect to check your pet's symptoms. In some cases, you may be able to identify the problem and manage it at home​​. Don’t rely on online resources as a way to diagnose your pet: if there is any uncertainty about your pet’s condition you should always opt to take them to a vet to get the correct medical treatment. 

If you have insurance cover for your pet, your provider may be able to help you determine what kind of medical care they need. ManyPets offers 24/7 online vet advice for customers that need information quickly. 

Don’t delay care

You should never ignore your pet’s health issues because of cost concerns. Delaying treatment can lead to more severe problems and higher costs in the long run​. 

While the tips listed above are a good starting point, you should explore all possible options to get your pet the care they need. If you're struggling with vet bills, taking proactive steps to discuss payment options, seeking help from charities, and exploring alternative treatments all have the potential to make a significant difference.

Be proactive with pet insurance

Your furry friend’s health should always be a priority. The best way to manage the cost of a pet’s medical care is to put protection in place before they need it, which might include getting a pet insurance policy. 

ManyPets provides insurance for pets of all shapes and sizes, with coverage for accidents, illnesses, pre-existing conditions, dental treatments, and more. Our policies help pet owners across the UK, offering both peace of mind and financial support when you receive your vet bills. 

Learn more about how ManyPets can support you and your pet's health with our pet insurance plans.

Lewis Martins
Communities marketer

Lewis has worked in pet health since 2017. Before joining ManyPets in 2021, he led content production at VetForum and PetsApp. Lewis has collaborated with some of the world’s biggest vet groups and suppliers to write educational articles for vets and pet parents. His Instagram feed is 60% dogs, 40% cats.