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Should you use a pet credit card to pay the vet bill?

When a pet is sick you'd do anything to make them feel better. But what if cash is short? Pet care credit cards may give you the help you need in an emergency.

When a beloved pet is sick, most people do whatever they can to make that pet well again. In fact, last year, U.S. residents spent more than $55 billion on pet care and pet products. That number will likely increase again this year and probably every year after that, according to the American Pet Products Association.

But what do you do when you can’t afford your vet bill? When your pet is sick and you need to find a way to help them get well?

“When you have somebody that loves their animal so much, and their only limit is finances, it’s a horrible experience for somebody to have to go through,” says Julie Jones, a veterinarian at the West Village Veterinary Hospital in New York City.

If you've got pet insurance, you may be ahead of the game. But most people don't have pet insurance.

You can always use a regular credit card to pay for vet bills, but there is another option.

Two credit cards dedicated to human healthcare expenses are also accepted by many vets. The Citi Health Card and the Care Credit Card can ONLY be used for veterinary or health care costs -- meaning you won't be tempted to use them for impulse buys at the mall.

Often you can get approved for the cards right at the vet's office before you need to pay for the procedure. Both cards offer interest-free periods. The length of the interest-free period depends on the vet. They both offer extended repayment options, with interest rates of 15 percent or 16 percent.

But watch out after that. The standard APR for the Care Credit Card is nearly 27 percent -- and for the Citi Health Card it's nearly 29 percent. That rate is backdated to the date of the transaction.

Still, if you use the cards carefully, they can be a big help, especially in an emergency. Jones had a client who needed financing to help her cat, who was suffering from bladder stones. "The cat was in and out of the litter box. It was urinating blood, it was very uncomfortable," says Jones.

"She said, 'I love my cat and I want to do everything that I can, so I'm going to find a way to pay for this," explains Jones. "So she actually applied right there in my office for Care Credit and was given a $2,000 limit."

Of course, another option is to start a savings account for Fido and contribute to it every month. How much should you put aside?

"In addition to your wellness visits, your vaccine visits, you probably want to budget about a grand a year to $1,500," says Jones.

Knowing you have the means to pay for emergency care can help lower your stress if your furry friend ends up in a crisis.


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