• Gerard Donley


Updated: Dec 14, 2019

We do love our dogs, don’t we? Sure, cat people adore their sensitive, shy, playful little kitties. But as a dog person, I can’t resist the rambunctious, slobbering, little knuckleheads that are our dogs.

Americans are estimated to spend more than $75 billion (yes, billion!) on their pets in 2019 according to the American Pet Products Association. https://www.americanpetproducts.org/

And of that gargantuan amount, more than $18 billion will go just for veterinarian care and related services. I know I’ve contributed more than my share to that pot.


My wife Lena and I thought it would be great fun getting three dachshund puppies within a span of a few weeks way back in 2003. Living with three young, miniature hounds in the house tested our patience and our sanity, but it was also a joy for us both. We didn’t think then about what we’d face when they were all senior dogs needing elder health care at the same time.

Here is a partial list of procedures my own dogs required in these 16 years:

· Hospitalization for two vertebral disc surgeries on Simon

· hospitalizations for Simon and Butch who found poison mushrooms in the yard

· hospitalization of Butch in an oxygen-tented cage for aspiration pneumonia

· hospitalizations for Butch and Simon for bouts with pancreatitis

· echocardiograms every six months for Angus’ congestive heart failure ( now 4 meds daily)

· Simon is now blind and needs artificial enzymes added to his food at every meal because his pancreas stopped working

How much did it all cost? I don’t know the figure and I’m sure I don’t want to know. But what if you can’t find the money to pay the vet bills? Over the years, I’ve seen too many dogs whose owners had to decide between a financial catastrophe or losing their four-legged buddy to euthanasia.


Last year we met Mia, a beautiful, two-year-old, black pitbull mix who swallowed something seemingly impossible to swallow. (I told you; they’re knuckleheads.) The doctors told her humans Mia needed surgery to remove the item or she would die painfully from the obstruction. But Mia’s human parents didn’t have the $1,500 minimum the surgery would require. Lena and I left some money on deposit with the vet to help Mia, but she needed much more.

Mia’s family was just one of thousands of dog owners facing the awful dilemma of being unable to pay for emergency treatment when accidents and disease strike their animal children unexpectedly. Too many of these dogs end up suffering economic euthanasia.


I told Mia’s owners about the many organizations devoted to helping people who can’t afford to pay for urgent veterinary care their dogs need. The 10 best resources are listed below. Don’t be shy. If you need help with vet bills, call these generous groups until you get what you need. With persistence and a little luck, you may find just the funds your dog needs to come home healthy again.


Each one of these organizations has its own eligibility requirements. Some offer help with only one disease, like cancer or heart failure. Proof of financial need and documents from the animal hospital where you're seeking care are required. But don’t give up if you don’t find a match right away. You may need help from more than one source to raise all the money you need.

If you are lucky enough not to need help paying your vet bills, please consider donating to these or any other charitable organization whose goal is to help sick and injured pets get the medical care they need.

These are the 10 best places to find help.

1. CareCredit

This is often the first stop for people needing help financing vet care for their pet. CareCredit offers no interest of up to $1,000 if the loan is repaid within a set number of months. Bigger loans are offered with interest, but some rates are low depending on the length of the loan period.


2. Scratchpay

Another lender who specializes in emergency pet care loans, Scratchpay determines the size and terms of your loan based on your individual financial circumstances. And you can apply online and receive a virtually instant response. An especially important feature for some pet parents who need help is that applying for Scratchpay won’t affect your credit score like some other loan applications.


3. Shakespeare Animal Fund

Pets who live with disabled, elderly, or low-income families are this organization’s target population. Their website says they “pay the veterinarian directly, reducing out of pocket costs for low income pet owners who need to save their pet's life.” They do not pay for routine treatment, vaccinations, or spay and neuter. But they will pay for pets inured by cars, toxins,

lacerations, respiratory difficulty like pneumonia, paralysis, infections, and lots more. Even torn toenails are eligible for Shakespeare funds.


4. Harley’s Hope Foundation

Up to $500 is available to eligible pet owners who have provided routine care for their dog.

Like most of these organizations, Harley’s Hope won’t assist if the illness or injury is due to neglect or failure to seek care earlier.


5. The Magic Bullet Fund

‘Fighting Canine Cancer One Dog at a Time’ is their motto. Magic Bullet’s model is to raise funds for you to help pay for cancer treatment. Because cancer treatment is a long-term process, this group does not work in emergency situations. But ,the cost of cancer treatment can be prohibitive for most families and dogs with the best chances of survival get help from Magic Bullet.


6. Waggle

Waggle boasts that it is the only pet-dedicated crowdfunding platform that partners directly with veterinary providers. Once you enter your dog’s name and information into the Waggle database, Waggle’s team of writers creates a compelling fundraising plea that you and your social media friends can share with others. When the fundraising campaign is closed, the money is paid directly to the animal hospital involved.


7. The Mosby Foundation

The people at the Mosby Foundation emphasize that they were organized “exclusively for charitable purposes, to assist in the care of critically sick, injured, abused and neglected dogs through financial support and public education.” They can’t help quickly enough if your dog needs immediate life saving medical care. The approval process may take a bit more time than you have. But they will try hard to review your application as fast as possible.


8. Paws 4 A Cure

Like the others, Paws 4 A Cure won’t provide funds for routine care. If you do qualify for their help, the top grant amount is $500. For many low-income dog owners, $500 will save the life of the pet who means so much to them.


9. The Brown Dog Foundation

This foundation’s approval process can take between 2 and 5 days to complete. They aim to help pets with treatable but life-threatening conditions or illnesses and funds are limited, as they are in all these groups. The nonprofits-rating website Great Nonprofits lists The Brown Dog Foundation as having saved 150 animals lives this year.


10. Riedel & Cody Fund

The Riedel & Cody Fund (RCF) offers grants and matching grants to families who cannot afford the cost of their pet’s cancer care. Families with combined income under $50,000 are eligible with documents from a veterinary oncologist confirming the diagnosis.