Help, My Bearded Dragon Is Sick And I can’t Afford To Pay Vet Bills
This can be a distressing time for any pet owner. Your beloved pet is sick and you know you need to visit the vet. But the vet is expensive and you’ve just had to spend this month’s savings on a new fridge already. Or car repairs, new shoes for the kids. Whatever it is, there’s never a convenient time for your bearded dragon to require a vet visit and it can be difficult to pay vet bills.
This has been a subject that’s come up on our Facebook Group quite regularly recently. And every time it does someone chimes in with the line “If you can’t afford your pet you shouldn’t have one”. But in reality it’s never quite that simple. When you took on your pet you probably could afford them, but now, due to a combination of circumstances you can’t afford the vet right now.
Prevention Can Be Better Than Cure
Nobody wants to hear about preventing illness and disease with their pet. It won’t happen to my pet. That’s something that happens to someone else. But unfortunately it could happen to your pet – and it may be very avoidable with the right knowledge.
Many of the illnesses also have some remedies you can try at home before embarking on an expensive vet visit. Check our articles relating to Bearded Dragon Health to see if there are any answers there and potentially avoid a vet visit. Our book Bearded Dragons: The Essential Guide has all the information you need to look after your bearded dragon and prevent unnecessary vet visits.
But, if you’ve done all the prevention you can and still need a vet visit then in this article we look at different ways that can help you to afford those visits to the vet for your bearded dragon when they come up.
1. Pay Vet Bills By Prior Planning
1.1 Saving Up
This is by far the best way to afford unexpected bills. Presently though, don’t expect to get a great return on your savings. Interest rates are at historically low levels and you’ll earn less interest than the rate of inflation. Given this fact, savings probably aren’t the best investment strategy right now.
But as a way to pay for unexpected bills they’re still the most reliable way to afford them. Of course, emergency savings funds aren’t restricted to just paying vet bills. They can cover unexpected car repairs or household emergencies.
Most financial experts agree you should aim for 3 to 6 months monthly income in a savings account. Shopping around for different financial institutions to store your savings can yield some interest rates around 2 – 3% per year. This is roughly the rate of inflation at the present time, so at least your money isn’t devaluing while you await that inevitable emergency.
Of course, saving up is by far easier said than done, so here’s some more alternatives if your unexpected vet bills end up being more than you’ve managed to save.
1.2 Find The Right Vet
Normal vets are fantastic of course. They’ve studied for years at university and probably have years of experience. But when it comes to bearded dragons, many vets don’t have a lot of experience. You need to find a specialist bearded dragon vet. Even ‘reptile’ vets are sometimes not all that experienced with dragons (specialising instead on snakes for example).
Finding the right vet will get you the right diagnosis quicker and result in you needing to pay less in the long run. The bearded dragon specialist vet will recognise signs and symptoms, potentially without requiring expensive imaging or blood tests – or if they do require these, they’re more likely to ask for the right ones the first time.
So when choosing a vet, ask them whether they specialise in bearded dragons. If they don’t, ask them if they can recommend a vet that does. If you’re reading this and you have a snake, or chameleon for example, then substitute bearded dragon for your particular pet when asking the questions.
1.3 Exotic Pet Insurance
This is a tough one, particularly in the UK. I’ve looked high and low and there appears to be only one provider of pet insurance for bearded dragons. ExoticDirect are the only insurer providing vet bill insurance for bearded dragons.
Their plan covers up to £1000 per lizard and at the time of writing the fee is around £12 per month. It’ll take you around 8 years to save up £1000 at £12 per month. If your pet lives longer than 8 years you’d then be out of pocket by paying for insurance versus saving. But the benefit of going for insurance is that if your pet requires a significant vet visit after only 2 years, you’d have saved only £240 but the bill might be that full £1000.
Pet insurance gives you peace of mind of knowing that you can take your bearded dragon to the vet when they get ill without having to worry about the cost.
I haven’t as yet been able to find any pet insurance scheme in the US or Canada that covers bearded dragons so if you know of any please leave a comment below so that I can update the article.
2. Pay Vet Bills By Asking For Help
2.1 Ask The Vet Themselves
Most vets get into the profession because they love animals. They also understand that cost of treatment can be expensive and that not everyone can afford to pay for expensive treatment up front.
If you’re looking at the probability of an expensive vet bill for your bearded dragon it can be worth asking whether the vet will allow you to pay the bill in instalments over a few weeks or possibly months.
The success of this strategy depends on a number of factors, many of which will be out of your control, but not all are. The number one factor determining the success of this strategy will be the relationship you have with your vet. If you visit regularly or at least semi-regularly and normally pay on time then there’s a good chance that on this occasion the vet will look favourably on you. If you’ve never been before and now turn up wanting a payment plan the chances are a lot less.
It can also depend on the previous experiences of offering such an arrangement by the vet. If they’ve offered this sort of thing before and then never seen the client again they’re a lot less likely to offer you the chance to pay by instalments as a result.
Just because a vet refuses a payment plan doesn’t make them a bad person, or a bad vet. They’ve got years of learning, very expensive equipment and up front costs to pay off themselves. So, if the vet refuses, don’t take it personally – we’ll just need to find you an alternative pathway. And don’t think bad of the vet – that’s life and we need to stay positive and find a different way.
2.2 Ask Friends Or Relatives
There’s a few ways you can do this and a few ways that your friends / relatives can send you donations in order to help you to pay your vet bills. The success of this strategy also depends on how often you’ve done this in the past and whether you’ve paid people back in good time if you have asked before.
Nevertheless, as difficult as it can be to swallow our pride the important thing to remember is that you have a sick bearded dragon that needs some veterinary help. If you know how much it’s going to cost you can know how much to ask people for.
Don’t expect one person to come up with the whole amount. They might, but it might be easier to ask a few people to chip in rather than just one person to bail you out for the whole amount. Let them know how much the whole bill will be and then ask for a part of it. It can help if you can say “It’s going to be £100 but I already have £80 sorted – I just need to borrow another £20 to cover it off fully”.
You can ask friends or relatives privately in person, by phone or even ask friends on Twitter or Facebook. If the latter you might need some way of people sending you the money. PayPal would work well for this, or some form of money wiring service such as below;
2.3 Set up A GoFundMe Page To Pay Vet Bills
GoFundMe allows people and organizations to set up fund raising campaigns on their platform. Animals and pets have their own GoFundMe category and a quick look through the system shows that there are many animals requiring significant and expensive surgery have been supported through the platform.
Originally GoFundMe took 5% of the donations in fees to run the platform. This doesn’t seem unreasonable to me as the system requires people to take care of it. Nevertheless it seems that they have recently switched business model in the US, Canada and UK and for personal campaigns no fee is charged for the platform. There is a credit card processing fee which they cannot avoid since Visa and Mastercard will charge them for accepting credit card payments.
You can then use GoFundMe to promote your campaign on Facebook or Twitter or other social media platforms. This can be a bit less embarrassing than asking friends or family directly and perhaps has a level of credibility that is lacking if you ask personally. However, this system is designed as a donation system, so people would have to be aware that they’re not providing a loan here, they’re making a donation.
3. Paying Vet Bills Using Loans / Credit Cards
If you have asked friends and relatives, or can’t face asking them then there’s the possible option of taking out a loan or credit card for the purposes of paying the vet bill.
3.1 Credit Cards
The flip side to low interest rates not giving a good return on savings is that there’s plenty of cheap credit around if your credit rating is OK. Many credit cards will give you a 0% period ranging from three months up to eighteen months or even beyond. These promotional rates are usually only for new customers and the amount of credit you’ll get and the length of time the promotional rate will apply for will very much depend on your credit rating.
Nevertheless, if you’ve exhausted all the other options of help, a credit card with a low or no interest can be a good way to spread the cost of the vet bills. Just make sure you can afford the minimum payment per month and if it’s a promotional interest rate try to pay off the balance before the promotional rate ends.
Whilst credit cards often have 0% interest for promotional periods, it’s rare to find a loan with such a low interest rate. But, loans can work better than credit cards even though their rate may be between 2% – 10% or more because the amount to be paid per month is fixed and known in advance. The loan will be set up to be paid over a specific period of time, often up to 3 – 5 years. For Bearded Dragon vet bills it’s probably unwise to make the payment period too long because there’s always a chance you’ll have further bills in the future. But if the vet bill is particularly large and you need longer to pay it off then a personal loan might be a better option.
4. Earn Money To Pay Off Vet Bills
We’d all like to earn more money wouldn’t we? If it was that easy to earn more money we’d all be rich beyond our wildest dreams. There are some ways you can earn some extra money relatively quickly though. The ways I’m going to list here won’t make you rich (probably) but might earn you another couple of hundred pounds or dollars to put towards that vet bill.
4.1 Sell Some Of Your Old Stuff On eBay
It sounds cliched but it’s absolutely true that one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Some of the stuff I’ve sold on eBay in the past I was pretty much certain I should just chuck in the bin. But it went. Some of it only went for £5 or so. But it’s another £5 in the coffers toward that vet bill and if you’re struggling for ways to fund that bill then every fiver counts.
EBay will charge a percentage (which differs somewhat depending on what type of item you’re selling) from 5-10% of the final selling fee. If your item is going to sell for more the £10 then it can be worth waiting for one of eBay’s promotional ‘sell it for £1’ day. I’m sure they have similar promotions in the US. PayPal will also charge a fee which is around 4%.
When listing your item, if it’s not an expensive item then make sure to charge the correct amount of postage. If you charge too little for postage then you’ll end up losing money as you’ll have to pay the difference. If you charge too much then your buyer might complain about unfair postage fees. Don’t forget to include the packing materials in the postage fee though, so there is some wiggle room.
If you’ve got stuff sitting on the shelves or up in the attic then putting it on eBay (assuming it doesn’t have sentimental value) could be a way to release some cash to help pay off that vet bill.
The best time for an eBay listing to finish is around 8pm on a Sunday evening. There’s some evidence that this time of the evening is when most people are on eBay and more people looking and bidding on your item will give you a better price. List the item for 10 days to get maximum exposure and hope for that last minute bidding frenzy on Sunday evening!
4.2 Sell Stuff Elsewhere
Whilst eBay is the most popular online platform for selling your unwanted stuff, there’s plenty of others. I’ll not go into them all here, but here’s a few;
- Facebook Marketplace – this is good for items that aren’t easy to post. It’s also free to list your item and tends to be quite easy to set up. The item will stay on the marketplace until you mark it as sold. Most items on marketplace are for things that people will come and collect from you and usually pay in cash.
- Facebook Buy Swap Sell groups – similar to above.
- Gumtree – similar to Facebook Marketplace. I haven’t used Gumtree in a while but I think it’s still free to list personal adverts. Business probably has to pay, but if you’re selling stuff privately to pay your vet bills then it should be free. Again, people will generally expect to collect items they find on Gumtree.
- Supermarket Noticeboards – these are a bit of a dying format now, but depending on what you’re selling and your target audience you may find that sticking a notice up on the supermarket noticeboard works for you. Some of the older generation who don’t use Facebook or mobile phones as much as the youngsters might well be browsing the supermarket noticeboard.
4.3 Do Online Surveys For Cash
Make sure you do your research before embarking on this mission to earn some extra cash for your vet bills. There’s plenty of online survey places that only pay in Amazon vouchers or some form of points system which you can only redeem for items not cash. You’re going to need a system that pays in cool hard cash. Also check to make sure they don’t make you wait too long before making the payment. If it’s a vet bill you’re needing to pay it’s likely that the need is fairly urgent, so you’re going to need the cash quickly.
4.4 Do Online Testing For Cash
A better way, if you’re pretty good with computers, is to perform online testing. There’s various companies and I’m a tester myself to help with my expenses. I use UserTesting.com as I’ve found their interface to be the best and the amount of tests I’m eligible for seems to be the best with them. There’s others such as Validately too, but their system relies on reading your e-mails and clicking links. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to do a test for them but in general I found Validately was generally too busy every time I tried to take a test.
5. Consider Re-homing Or Rescue Centre
If none of the above options work for you and you simply cannot afford to get the treatment needed for your bearded dragon then, as heart breaking as it may be for you, you may have to consider rehoming them to someone who can afford to pay the vet bills.
Finding someone to rehome your bearded dragon to can be notoriously difficult. Facebook’s policy prohibit the sale or rehoming of animals through Groups and I’m not sure you can even use the Marketplace to rehome. The best bet when it comes to Facebook is to join a bearded dragon related group (such as ours) and ask for advice on rehoming.
Surrendering your bearded dragon to a rescue centre can be another option. Rescue centres for reptiles exist across the country – whichever country you’re in. You may need to use Google to find a rescue centre near you. The rescue centre may have a charitable status and may, possibly, be able to help you out with the vet bills from that charitable fund for people in extreme circumstances. It’s worth asking when you’re having the discussion about surrendering your pet.
We know this can be a really distressing time for you. Vet bills are never pleasant and often unexpected. We hope this article has helped you to think of some ways to pay for the treatment that your bearded dragon needs. If you have any other options – or have done anything yourself to help pay your vet bills then please leave us a comment below and let us know what you did and how it went.