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Struggling to pay your vet bills? The RSPCA is warning people to avoid home remedies and to go elsewhere for your pet's prescription

The RSPCA has published new guidance for worried pet owners to help them through the ongoing cost of living crisis, with the animal charity becoming increasingly concerned about reports of people trying to treat their pets at home. Below is its advice on what to do if you're struggling with vet bills.

The charity said it  received 3,644 calls from pet owners asking for guidance or help with their vet bills last year – an increase of 12% on the year before. Here is  the RSPCA's full guidance.

Caroline Allen, chief vet at the charity, said: “It may be tempting to bury your head in the sand if your pet seems unwell and you are worried about costs, but this can lead to increased problems later down the line.”

Here's their advice: Avoid home remedies and go elsewhere other than your veterinary clinic for your pet’s prescription

The RSPCA says you should talk to your vet about your situation

While it may be awkward at first, the charity says your vet should be able to provide advice on how best to help your pet should it be ill or injured as there may be alternative options. But, if not, it says your vet should be able to offer other, cheaper options depending on your circumstance and location. Sometimes vets will offer services at a reduced cost or you may be able to get it for free via some pet insurance providers.

Avoid home remedies, it can make things worse

Try to avoid treating your pets at home, unless advised to, the charity says. The RSPCA has seen increasing numbers of pet owners treating their pets at home. Even Google searches such as “can I give my dog paracetamol” have increased from 5,600 a month in January 2020 to 11,4000 by April 2020. In January 2022, that jumped to14,600.

The charity adds that avoiding professional advice could result in you having to pay even more had you not gone to the vet right away. 

Ms Allen said: “Whilst we understand people believe they are trying to help their animals by seeking to treat them at home, what can work for a human is often unsuitable for pets and may even be toxic. Your pet may then end up needing more costly treatment."

Ask your vet if they’ll write a prescription for you to purchase elsewhere

It is worth asking your vet if they’ll write a prescription that you can then use to buy the medication online or somewhere else. This can often be cheaper, according to the RSPCA, as pharmacies that buy large amounts of medications at a time can often lower prices when compared to a local vet.

However, the charity adds that your vet may charge you for writing the prescription, so make sure you’ve worked out which option is cheaper.

Consider a credit-based payment plan

Some vets offer payment plans through a credit company, so if you need help spreading the cost then it's worth seeing what your vet can offer.

But do make sure a payment plan is right for you - you’re still paying the money so make sure you’ll be able to pay it back each month. Always take debt advice before doing anything. They're there to help, not judge. Try Citizens AdviceNational Debtline and StepChange.  Alternatively, you can contact a StepChange adviser directly through our Forum.

And for more help if you are struggling with debt, or are looking for tips on getting back on track with your finances, see our debt problems guide


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