Money Wellness
Image of a pet cat at the vets. Rising vet bills drive growth in DIY pet care. Where to find cheap or subsidised vet treatment
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calendar icon14 Mar 2024

Rising vet bills drive growth in DIY pet care

A growing number of British pet owners are searching online to find human DIY remedies for their pets because the cost of vet treatment has become unaffordable.

A study by Origin, a pet pharma packaging company, revealed that more than 35,000 people a month seek online help about safely administering over the counter (OTC) medicines designed for humans, such as antihistamines, painkillers, and remedies for cold and flu, to their pets.

Searches for antihistamines – most commonly used to treat allergies – tops the list. With a 300% growth in pet owners asking questions like ‘can my dog have Loratadine?’.

Search data also indicates a significant level of interest in the safety of giving pets medications like paracetamol, ibuprofen, and aspirin.

But owners beware - the potential dangers of giving these medicines to pets are considerable, especially when they haven’t been recommended by a professional vet. E.g., paracetamol can be fatal to dogs if given in incorrect dosage or to those with pre-existing conditions. And it is totally unsuitable for cats because of their inability to metabolize it.

What happens if I can’t afford to take my pet to the vet?

There’s nothing more distressing that seeing your pet in pain and not being able to afford to seek medical treatment.

If you can’t afford to see a vet – or for treatment and medication – there are ways to manage the cost and support available depending on your circumstances.

Speak to your vet

Talk to your vet and explain your financial situation. They might be able to offer advice on alternative or cheaper treatment or write a prescription so that you can buy the medication cheaper elsewhere.

Low-cost vet practices

The price of seeing a vet can different considerably from practice to practice. It’s worth shopping around to find one that’s more affordable. Also check to see if there are any non-for-profit clinics in your area.

Online pharmacy savings  

Unlike the NHS, vet practices don’t have a standard price for prescriptions, so prices vary. Research by ManyPets suggests the average price of a pet prescription is £21.06.

However, you don’t need to buy the medication directly from the vet. There are a number of online pet pharmacies in the UK that offer prescriptions for less.

Do some research online

Before going to the vet, check your pets symptoms online using websites such as VetHelpDirect. You might be able to identify the problem yourself and manage the condition at home.

However, don’t rely on online resources too much. If you’re concerned about your pet take them to a vet immediately.

Pet insurance

If you can afford to, you should take out pet insurance as soon as you get your furry friend.

Dog insurance costs from £10 a month (£125 a year), which covers accident and illness. And cat insurance starts around £10 a month. Plans go up or down depending on the breeds and the age of your pet.

Payment plans

It’s worth asking if your vet offers payment plans to spread the cost of treatment. If you opt for this, look for interest free payment options, so you don’t end up paying more, and carefully consider whether the arrangement will be affordable over time.

You can reduce the price of your premium by paying annually, shopping around or increasing the excess you pay for treatment.

Help from charities

Certain charities offer reduce-cost treatment or financial help.

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

Dogs Trust – provides subsidised treatment of up to £350 for dogs that need emergency care.

PDSA – gives free or subsidised treatment to pet owners who meet certain criteria, including owners that receive means-tested benefits.

Pet food banks

If you’re struggling with living costs and finding it difficult to afford pet food, you could get help from a pet food bank.

You can contact the RSPCA and BlueCross who can tell you where to find your nearest pet food bank.

Can I get help with vets bills on universal credit?

Some charities will use means-tested benefits, such as universal credit, as a means to test whether you qualify for financial assistance.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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