Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My beloved cat has really bad dental disease, and the vet has quoted me $1,000 for a teeth cleaning and extractions. There’s no way I can afford this. What can I do? Is there anything I can do for home treatment? I don’t want my cat to suffer!
Thomas: Sam, we totally understand your concern. Dental disease is not just painful, it can make your cat sick in lots of other ways. It can affect the heart and the kidneys, for one thing. And if your cat is diabetic, it can actually make the disease worse.
Bella: It’s unfortunate that there’s no way you can treat dental disease at home. After all, you can’t treat your cavities at home or give yourself a root canal, either!
Tara: But the good news is that there are resources that can help you get treatment for your cat’s dental disease. There are lots of nonprofits that provide funds for pet health care.
Thomas: And we’re going to give you a list of places to start!
Bella: Keep in mind that these organizations do have income guidelines that applicants need to meet. If you’re on a fixed income, a senior citizen, disabled, or “working poor,” so to speak, the odds are that they will be able to offer financial support.
Tara: At least to an extent. Even if they can’t cover the whole cost, they may at least be able to help.
Thomas: We know a lot of people get “sticker shock” when they go to the vet and get an estimate for the cost of dental care. Depending on where you live, the cost can be very high indeed. And even a couple hundred dollars can be a lot when you’re barely making ends meet.
Bella: Although there are a few nonprofit vet hospitals out there, most of them are not. That’s not to say they’re making a profit, mind you, but they do have to keep the doors open and the lights on.
Tara: A couple of nonprofit animal hospitals we know of are DoveLewis, an emergency clinic in Portland, Oregon, and Planned Pethood Plus in Denver, Colorado. If you know of others, please mention them in the comments!
Thomas: So, without further ado, here’s a list of U.S.-based resources that may be able to offer you support for getting your cat the dental disease treatment he needs:
- Harley’s Hope Foundation offers assistance to low-income pet owners to help them afford needed vet care.
- The Animal Friends Rescue Project has a list of links to organizations that can help.
- Best Friends also has a great list of resources including state-by-state links.
- RedRover has a list of organizations that may be able to help. It also has its own relief program. Don’t be fooled by the name; there are organizations that help cats as well as dogs.
- The Shakespeare Animal Fund may be able to help.
- The Pet Fund has an application for funding. They help low-income pet guardians afford veterinary care.
- NeedHelpPayingBills.org has a list of funds and discount programs at certain teaching hospitals. We don’t know how current this list is, but it’s worth checking.
Bella: Some of the organizations we used to recommend are unfortunately closed or have no more funding available except for dire situations like cancer. We checked these links on October 30, 2016, and they were all offering aid at the time.
Tara: Another idea is to set up a GoFundMe to get assistance for your cat’s vet care costs. These work best if you can promote them on social media like Facebook or Twitter.
Thomas: There are other similar donation sites, but we’ve seen good results with GoFundMe.
Bella: Another option, if you have decent credit, is to apply for a CareCredit card. This card offers zero interest for vet care expenses for the first six months. After that, the interest rate jumps to at least 25 percent, so you’ll want to pay it off as quickly as you can!
Tara: Pet health insurance can be a huge help if you want to be protected against future illnesses or injuries.
Thomas: But keep in mind that pet insurance cannot help if your cat is already sick. No pet insurance company covers pre-existing conditions.
Bella: Pet health insurance can be very confusing sometimes. There are lots of companies, and some are much better than others. We recommend visiting Pet Insurance University to find out about each policy, in plain English. The vet who runs the site also explains the benefits and “gotchas” of every policy out there.
Tara: We hope you find these resources helpful. And of course, if you have any other suggestions, please mention them in the comments. If you have resources from countries outside the U.S., we’d be especially grateful!
Thank you for doing this! You have a lot of helpful information and I am also grateful for the website to explain pet insurance. It’s never made any sense to me how it works, so now I’ve read some of it ( i know your Mama uses it for you so it’s good but it’s always confused me entirely) that has really helped me a lot. Thank you!
*purrrr* We sure are glad to help! We also felt kind of sorry about the tone we took in our older post, which was from a REALLY long time ago when we were barely kittens ourselves.
I’ll say! That was a horrible response you gave that poor pet owner. You’ve no idea if the owner had health problems of their own, how dire their financial situation was — and that big screen tv thing was just beyond reprehensible. I guarantee if that had been their attitude, they wouldn’t have been on your site looking for help. I’m in a similar bind, although with a cat going on 16 who has had end-stage renal failure for the past year now. Aside from the expense, I risk his life by doing the surgery. You can say he’s still suffering — but if they’ll still play, they still come near you and don’t hide all the time or have their head pressed to a wall — they’re doing okay enough. I’m looking for natural things to help topically with any pain he may feel, and have found some ideas online with herbal applications. I’m also going to start him on Plaque Off as it’s had great reviews from pet parents. Please – use caution in the future with making a pet parent feel bad. I hope you didn’t wind up talking him/her into putting the cat down. I’ve had to do that in the past, but in hindsight there were other options where he wouldn’t have suffered. That was one of the hardest, and most wrong, things I’ve ever done in my life.
I’m in the UK so these don’t apply here, but I think this is a great post with lots of useful information. Loads of people will find this so helpful x
It’s too bad many vets charge so much. I am fortunate to live in a city where a vet charges a flat rate $160 to do a dental (which includes cleaning teeth and pulling any that need pulled even if it’s all of them). Comparison shop. Some animal rescues may be able to help you as well or no someone who is less expensive. For a time after the teeth are pulled it can be quite challenging, especially if a cat is a “hard food only eater” which two of mine were. Good luck and I hope you find someone to help.
This is a tough topic. It seems like the consequences of not taking care of the issue wouldn’t be as serious as other health problems, but I assure you that’s not the case. When I was in high school, the vet told my parents Kitty needed cleanings and they disregarded the advice … until the time she was very sick and was diagnosed with hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver … one of her fangs was severely inflamed … she stopped eating … no one person was monitoring her intake so we missed it). The treatment for that caused other problems. It breaks my heart to think of what she went through – it was completely preventable – even though that was over 20 years ago. Bear, my cat now, has had problems too. I brush his teeth every day – and for whatever reason – he still loses teeth (the vet said some cats have proclivities to problems … he had his first tooth removed when he was 2). So many things can go wrong (even MORE expensive health problems in the future) … in my experience, vets aren’t padding their pockets by recommending this … and it pays to take their recommendations to heart. That doesn’t help with the funding question … but I always hope that by sharing my experience and regrets, it might help someone else.
If all else fails, perhaps your vet will permit you to pay it off in instalments – you could negotiate what you can afford and pay the vet this amount every payday. My vet permits me to do this as I am a long-time customer. Another course of action you might consider for after you have paid off your cat’s treatment is to talk to your vet about establishing a line of credit. I do this – every fortnight I pay my vet $20.00. This is credited to me and therefore I have money in place at the vet which I can put towards any major costs I might incur with my cats.
Harley’s Hope Foundation has decided Dental procedures DO NOT QUALIFY because it is a preventive procedure. What an unfortunate philosophy since say someone “RESCUES” a stray that is in dire need of such services but the rescuer is a Disabled Veteran whom is unable to afford such a procedure.