More than 80% of Americans Borrowed Money for Pet Care

Most of us agree that pets are part of the family.

But just like human health care, pet health care is expensive. And as prices continue to remain high and wages are stagnant, a pet illness or accident can be financially devastating. Many simply can’t afford it.

In fact, 83% of pet owners have had to borrow money at some point to pay for routine, non-emergency pet care. Almost 32% have had to decline treatment for their pet because they simply couldn’t afford it. About 8% of those pets ended up dying of natural causes and more than 5% had to be euthanized because owners couldn’t afford treatment. And 31% have used a payday loan or title loan to pay.

Social media is filled with heartbreaking reports of people who are struggling to pay for pet care.

There’s the woman in Louisiana who took on more than $3,500 in CareCredit debt to pay for care for a kitten that was found in the yard, abandoned by its mother.

Or the woman in Texas who couldn’t afford treatment for her dog after the animal was shot by a neighbor. Her application for CareCredit was denied, and she turned to pet rescues, including Dallas-based Doodle Dandy Rescue, for help raising the money to pay for treatment. The dog, named Ellie, survived.

Or the man in Florida on disability whose dog needed immediate treatment, but the vet would not see the animal without a payment of $175. When he didn’t raise enough money through GoFundMe, his dog, Mylo, passed away.

“People get pets on impulse and don’t think about the expense,” said Dr. Amy Attas, founder of City Pets House Call Vets, a Manhattan-based house-call veterinary practice.

Pets became valued members of the family while people were sheltering in place during COVID-19, she said, and people need to remember that taking in a new pet is a life-long financial obligation.

“Pets are members of the family,” she said. “We want to do what’s best for family members.”

Even if people may not be able to afford it.

“The inability of many families to access veterinary care is a pressing issue facing animal welfare nationally,” said Dr. Robyn Jaynes, Director of Veterinary Affairs for PetSmart Charities.

According to Jonathan Wainberg, senior vice president and general manager of CareCredit Pets, one study found that costs, even before the current inflation cycle hit, were often underestimated by pet owners.

Table of Contents

  1. Key Takeaways
  2. More Findings
  3. The Bottom Line
  4. Methodology
  5. From the Experts

February 20 is National Love Your Pet Day. To mark this, Credit Summit set out to learn more about how we pay for pet care. We surveyed 1200 Americans to learn more about the financial impact. Here’s what we found:

Key Takeaways

Almost 32% said they had to decline treatment for their pet because they couldn’t afford it. Of that group, about 8% said their pet ended up dying of natural causes and more than 5% had to have the pet euthanized.

Of dog and cat owners, 7.5% waited for the pet to die of natural causes and 5% had the pet euthanized. 

We’re turning to payday lenders: A little over 31% of Americans have used some type of predatory loan to cover routine pet care, with 21% using a payday loan and 10% using a title loan. Another 15% applied for CareCredit — a line of credit with an APR that averages 26.99% — through their vet. An additional 12% of survey takers used a standard installment loan and another 4% said they borrowed money but are unsure of what kind of loan they got.

Predatory loans are routine: Of Americans who used payday or title loans, 37% said they did it once to cover a pet emergency, 27% use them for vet care once or twice a year, 14% use them once every few months and 5% use them for pet expenses every month.

More Findings

At some point, 83% of pet owners have had to borrow money to pay for routine (non-emergency) pet care. About 6% have had to skip vet appointments because they can’t afford them. The most popular forms of borrowing are:

  • Credit card: 36%
  • CareCredit: 14%
  • Payday loan: 12%

Pets are expensive: 22% of pet owners say they spend between $76-$100 per month on their pets. 22% spend between $51 to $75, another 22% spend between $26 to $50, and almost 20% said they spend more than $100 per month.

More than 8% said their pets are not up to date on exams and vaccinations because they can’t afford it. Another 10% said some – but not all – of their pets are up to date, 9% said it’s too difficult to schedule and attend appointments, and 3% don’t know. 

Of just dog and cat owners, 71% said some but not all of their pets are up to date.

More than 50% used some form of predatory lending to pay for emergency vet care, including emergency surgery, a car accident or cancer treatment. 15% got an advance on their paycheck, 14% used a payday loan, 5.5% used a title loan and 12% applied for CareCredit. Almost 4% applied for a loan but were declined, and almost 10% had to turn to a pet rescue or charity for help.

At one point, 38% of respondents applied for a loan to cover pet care but were denied. 25% said they had to borrow money from friends and/or family, 10% asked a charity or pet rescue for help and 9% started a crowdfunding campaign.

About 44% have struggled to pay when their pet needed to be euthanized: 10% declined the procedure and allowed the pet to die naturally, 11.5% used a short-term loan, 7% used CareCredit, 6.5% used a credit card, 2% got help from a pet rescue or charity and in 4% of cases, the vet euthanized the animal at no cost.

29% have had to surrender a pet to a shelter or give it away because they couldn’t afford pet care. 4% did this more than once. About 5% have had to sell a pet because they needed money, and about 4% bred their pet and sold the offspring.

The percentages for dog and cat owners are similar to the overall percentages.

Just 22% of Americans have pet insurance policies. 10% have considered it, another 10% say it’s too expensive, 22% say they’re already struggling and can’t afford another expense and 32% simply aren’t interested.

The Bottom Line

Pets are a major financial commitment, and costs for their care can add up. But if you are in a position where you simply cannot afford it, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Meg Marrs, a professional dog trainer, discovered this when her own pet needed ACL surgery.

“When I was considering a double ACL treatment for my own dog, our veterinary surgery specialist was very understanding of what a tough decision it was,” she said.

The vet acknowledged that there was nothing wrong with a decision to medicate the dog and accepting limited mobility.

“I ended up choosing to do the surgery since he was so young,” she said, “but it was comforting to have him acknowledge that I had other options.”

“Long-term medical management can be quite expensive,” said Dr. Robyn Jaynes, Director of Veterinary Affairs for PetSmart Charities.

Dr. Jaynes recommends looking for clinics that offer payment plans, and contacting local shelters to ask about grants or funding options that could help offset the fees.

To that end, Dr. Jaynes said PetSmart Charities has committed $100 million over the next five years to address the geographic, cultural, language and financial barriers that prevent pets from receiving the veterinary care they need.


Dr. Amy Attas, founder of City Pets, the largest house-call veterinary practice in New York City, offered some of the following recommendations for those who need help paying for pet care.

First, she recommends pet insurance. She said the policies don’t need to be expensive. There are different tiers of care, and a simple plan could protect your pets in case of a catastrophic accident or illness.

If you can’t afford pet insurance, she suggested creating your own “insurance” by setting aside a small amount of money, like $25 a month, in a savings account so that if your pet needs treatment, you have some buffer.

Third, she says there are many financial resources available based on breed, location and other factors. She suggested approaching pet care as though you’re “looking for a university scholarship.”

Research the options and apply for as many different forms of aid as possible. Some options include:

  • RedRover (formerly United Animal Nations) works to bring animals from crisis to care and to strengthen the bond between people and animals.
  • The Pet Fund provides financial assistance to owners of domestic animals who need vet care. They also provide information about preventive care, pet insurance programs, and financial services to help prevent future emergencies. Note: All applicants are required to contact the Pet Fund by phone at 916-443-6007 before applying for funding. Emergency funding is not available. The Pet Fund has a waiting list for those needing non-basic, non-emergency care. There are links for other funding organizations on Pet Fund’s website.
  • Paws 4 A Cure is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance throughout the United States to those who cannot afford veterinary care for their beloved furry family members. Paws 4 A Cure helps dogs and cats with all illnesses and injuries and does not discriminate against breed, age, or diagnosis. Please visit the Ask For Help page to read the guidelines and policies.
  • The mission of the Pet Lifeline Program is to help provide financial assistance to pet owners who are struggling to cover their pet’s veterinary bills. The program is exclusively for non-basic, non-urgent care cases only. Go to the Pet News Daily website for more details.

For a complete list of resources, including a guide by state, visit


Credit Summit collected survey responses from a random sample of more than 1,200 Americans from February 10-13. Only pet owners ages 18 or older were eligible to complete the survey. Each response was anonymized using a unique user ID.

Of those we surveyed, 56% were female and 44% were male. A little less than 96% of respondents earn less than $150,000 per year. Just over 4% either didn’t disclose their income (2.08%) or reported earnings greater than $150,000 per year (2.25%.)

From the Experts

What advice would you give someone who is struggling to afford routine pet care, like checkups or vaccinations?

Loretta Kilday

Juris Doctor – DePaul University College of Law

If you are struggling to afford routine pet care, there are several options that you may consider:

  • Look for low-cost veterinary clinics: Many animal welfare organizations and shelters operate low-cost veterinary clinics, offering services such as vaccinations, spay/neuter surgeries, and other routine care at reduced prices. You can search for such clinics online or contact your local animal welfare organization for more information.
  • Ask for payment plans: Many veterinary clinics offer payment plans or financing options to help pet owners cover the cost of veterinary care. Contact your veterinary clinic and ask about their payment options.
  • Apply for financial assistance: Some animal welfare organizations, such as the Humane Society, offer financial assistance to pet owners struggling to afford veterinary care. You can contact these organizations to see if you are eligible for assistance.
  • Consider pet insurance: Pet insurance can help you cover the cost of routine care and unexpected veterinary expenses. Find an insurance plan that fits your budget and covers your needed services.
  • Budget and prioritize: Make a budget for your pet’s care and prioritize essential services like vaccinations and preventive care. Consider cutting back on non-essential expenses to make room for pet care expenses.

Chyrle Bonk


The best way to find affordable pet care is to shop around. If you live in an area with multiple options, don’t be afraid to check prices at different veterinary clinics. It may be that some clinics offer less expensive routine care and another offers less expensive emergency services. Most clinics are more than willing to give you a quote. Many areas also offer discount or low-cost vaccination clinics or spay and neuter clinics on certain days every month where you can get your pet up-to-date on vaccinations and preventative medications at a reduced price. Shelters and humane societies may be another option that will have discounted prices.

It’s no secret that long-term treatment can really add up price-wise. Try to work with your veterinary clinic to do a payment plan or to source medications from a less expensive place, if possible. Some clinics will also have Good Samaritan, or similar, funds that will help pay for expenses if a pet and owner apply and qualify.

Of course we wish that money didn’t matter when it comes to our pets, but unfortunately that isn’t true. Money can be a big hinderance in providing our pets with the kind of care that we want to, especially since most of us are so emotionally connected with them. That being said, veterinarians still need to charge fees that help to cover salaries, equipment costs, and clinic upkeep costs. While most veterinarians would gladly offer services for free or less just to help the animals, it’s just not possible.

What advice would you offer someone whose pet needs long-term treatment and may not be able to afford it?

Dr. Robyn Jaynes

Director of Veterinary Affairs for PetSmart Charities

Dr. Robyn Jaynes, Director of Veterinary Affairs for PetSmart Charities

“Long-term medical management can be quite expensive. After pursuing all low-cost options, if you can still not afford care, I would recommend contacting your local shelter to see if they have any grants or funding options that may be available to offset the fees. You can also look for clinics that offer payment plans to allow for payment over time.”

Meg Marrs

Professional dog trainer and founder of K9 of Mine

Animals live in the present. If there is a huge treatment your pet needs that you can’t afford, there is no shame in using medication or more affordable treatments to ensure good quality of life and pain management, while accepting that your pet may not live as long a life as you’d like.

It’s also worth remembering that we can’t explain to our pets what they are experiencing, and a major surgery or burdensome treatment can be extremely stressful and scary for them, making some question whether such procedures are worth it.

How does our emotional connection to pets affect our spending choices?

Daniel Caughill

Co-founder of

Many people roll their eyes at how much others spend on their pets—until they get a pet themselves. Pets form an incredibly meaningful emotional bond with their families, and their health and happiness quickly takes first priority over saving for most pet owners.

However, tools such as payday loans should be avoided at all costs. These lenders use predatory tactics and unethical interest rates to trap people into a profitable debt cycle. Even credit card debt, as expensive as it is, is preferable to a payday loan.

Before taking on high interest debt, see if your vet will work with you to set up a payment plan so that you can cover your pet’s bills over time rather than taking on a loan.

Patrik Holmboe

Head Veterinarian for Cooper Pet Care

Our emotional connection to pets generally affects our spending choices by making us more willing to spend money on their care and well-being. However, it’s important to consider our financial resources and plan for pet expenses accordingly to avoid taking on more than we can afford. It’s also important to remember that there are low-cost options available for routine care and treatment, so don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek out alternatives!

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