What Are Your Options if You Can’t Afford a Vet for Your Rabbit?

Since rabbits need to see special veterinarians with knowledge about small animals, there is usually very little wiggle room when it comes to finding low-cost health care. It’s not uncommon for there to be only one or two rabbit vets within a two-hour drive.

In most cases, the only realistic option in a true emergency is going to be negotiating a payment plan or using a credit-based solution such as CareCredit. There are some organizations that can provide funding or financial help with vet bills, but these often have long waiting lists and approval processes.

If you live in a city or highly populated area, you’re more likely to have some other options available to you. When I lived in Washington DC, there was at least one animal shelter that also had a community program that provided low-cost veterinary care. You may also be able to find programs at local veterinary colleges.

How expensive are veterinary emergencies for rabbits?

Unfortunately, veterinary clinics are notorious for not being very clear in their pricing. You often won’t know how much something costs until after you’ve at least brought your pet in for triage. This makes it extremely difficult to budget accordingly or compare the costs of multiple clinics in the area. Many people are hesitant to bring their pets in when they should because they have no idea how much it will cost.

Since the price of emergencies can vary so dramatically between clinics and depending on the type of emergency (whether surgery or overnight care are required), I can only give you basic estimates to expect based on my own experience:

  1. $300-$400 For a GI Stasis emergency (when your rabbit received fluid, medication, and does not need to stay overnight)
  2. $1,000-$2,000 for surgery and one overnight stay
  3. $2,000-$3,000 for multiple days staying overnight at the clinic

WabbitWiki has a database where they collect information about how much veterinary care for rabbits costs. The idea is to help people make more informed decisions and plan accordingly for expected and unexpected pet medical bills. You can also input the amount from your own vet bills to help make the database more accurate and complete. Note: this is not a bill-paying service, it’s just to help the rabbit community as a whole be more informed about vet expenses.

1. Talk to your vet about payment plans

The most straightforward way to go about paying for an unexpected vet bill is to talk to your veterinarian about a payment plan. Many vet offices will have plans in place because they know unexpected vet bills are difficult for people to afford. Even if you don’t have a typical payment plan, you may be able to strike a deal if you are open about your finances and communicate your willingness to pay.

When talking to your vet or the receptionist, try to be as respectful as possible. I know the bills can feel extremely high sometimes, but remember, it takes the expertise of the veterinarian and the staffing of the hospital overnight to monitor your rabbit’s condition. The more respectful and understanding you are, the more the veterinary clinic will be willing to work with you and create a workable payment plan.

In some cases, you may be able to reduce the cost of care by monitoring your rabbit from home. If your rabbit is starting to recover from whatever caused the emergency, your veterinarian may still want to monitor them overnight to be sure they are doing okay. You might be able to talk to your vet and see if the rabbit can be discharged so you can monitor their condition at home.

Since overnight stays can significantly increase the vet bill, it’s worth having this conversation to decide together whether at-home monitoring is a feasible option. In the end, I still recommend following your vet’s advice on this matter.

2. CareCredit

Another option if you are in a tight spot is CareCredit. This works like a credit card, but there is 0% interest for the term of the contract (6 to 24 months) if it’s used on healthcare costs over $200 (veterinary costs are included as healthcare).

However, you need to make sure you pay off the medical bill by the end of the term. If you don’t you will be charged interest retroactively from the date of the original bill. So, while this is a great option for medical emergencies, you still need to be careful not to dig yourself into deep debt.

You also want to make sure you ask if the veterinary office you’re going to accept CareCredit. While most do, you still want to be sure before applying for a CareCredit card. The veterinary office may also be used to dealing with CareCredit and give you advice for applying.

3. Look for programs at local animal shelters and rescue centers

If you have time, you can do a quick search for animal shelters in the area that have low-cost veterinary clinics. Usually, these are limited to families with low to middle income (the one I knew was up to about 60k annual income), and they don’t always handle emergencies (usually, they specialize in low-cost spay and neuter surgeries).

Local shelter programs are not likely to be an option for a true emergency where your rabbit needs immediate care, but they are still worth looking into.

4. Are there any local veterinary colleges?

The other place you can look for low-cost veterinary care is at a local veterinary college. The care is supervised by licensed veterinarians but gives students learning opportunities. Again, these programs don’t always accommodate emergency situations, but it’s worth checking if there’s a program in your area.

These are some colleges that offer low-cost programs, but you can always check the universities in your area to see what’s available:

  1. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (Ithaca, New York)
  2. University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine (Gainesville, Florida)
  3. Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (Fort Collins, Colorado)
  4. North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine (Raleigh, North Carolina)
  5. University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (Davis, California)

5. Can you get pet insurance for rabbits?

Pet insurance will not help you if you already have emergency medical bills that need to be paid. However, it may be able to help you with future costs. The only two insurance companies that I know of (in the US) that offer rabbit health insurance are Nationwide, and Pet Assure

Personally, I keep a pet savings account to pay for unexpected emergencies, so I cannot attest to the quality of these insurance companies, but they are worth looking into if you know you wouldn’t be able to afford an emergency vet visit.

Keep a pet savings account

In my personal experience, it actually makes more financial sense to keep a pet emergency fund than it does to buy pet insurance for rabbits. Unless your rabbit has regular emergencies, the math is probably going to work out against you, and you’ll end up spending more on insurance than you would ever need to spend on your rabbit’s vet bills. 

Instead of paying the insurance premiums, you can set up an automatic monthly transaction to transfer $25 or $50 (whatever you can afford in your budget) to a separate savings account that you use for your pet emergencies.

However, you know your own spending habits. If you’re the kind of person to spend money if it’s there even though you’re trying to save it, then pet insurance may be the better option for you.

6. Organizations that help with veterinary bills for rabbits

There are some organizations that help pet owners pay off medical bills. You can usually apply for a grant on their website, but in most cases, there is a long wait list before your application can be approved. Many organizations also only accept cat or dog veterinary bills or require approval beforehand (for non-urgent surgeries).

I’ve curated this list of organizations to the best of my ability to include the ones that accept rabbit veterinary bills:

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Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

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