At a Glance

Owning a pet can be expensive, and if an unexpected or emergency illness or injury happens, you could end up owing thousands of dollars to the vet. While tapping into savings or your emergency fund may be able to cover those expenses, there are other pet financing options available that may be better options. For example, credit cards and pet loans can give you the funds you need to take care of your pet.

Read on to learn more about:

What is pet financing?

Pet financing is using financing options like personal loans and credit cards to pay for vet bills and other pet-related expenses. While there are some pet financing companies designed specifically to help pet owners pay for these expenses through special veterinary financing options, other options include personal loans and credit cards.

Pet expenses can add up quickly, especially urgent or emergent medical treatment. Pet loans can help ease that financial burden.

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How do pet loans work?

A pet loan is a specific type of pet financing that can be used to cover these pet expenses, offered by banks, credit unions, and online lenders. These loans have fixed interest rates and a fixed term, so after you apply, are approved, and receive the loan funds, you’ll repay them over a certain period with fixed monthly payments. You can use the loan funds for anything you need, including vet bills or other pet-related expenses.

Credit score required for a pet loan

As with most loans, having a higher credit score improves your chances for qualifying for the loan, and it can also get you a lower interest rate and better loan terms. Most lenders prefer a borrower to have a credit score of at least 680 or above.

However, there are some lenders, especially credit unions and online lenders, who will approve a pet loan application for borrowers with lower scores (560+). The downside is these loans will likely have higher credit scores and less than ideal loan terms. If you have a low credit score, it’s better to take time to improve your score before applying for the loan (if possible).

Pros and cons of pet financing loans

Pros Cons
  • Provides funds needed for urgent or emergency vet expenses.
  • May have to pay interest.
  • Break up large, expensive vet bills/expenses into more manageable monthly payments.
  • It’s a type of debt, which can affect your credit score.
  • May qualify for special financing.
  • Interest rates can be high depending on your qualifications.
  • Fast funding depends on the lender.

Average cost of owning a pet

Owning a pet isn’t cheap, but the average cost can depend on things like the type of animal you have, how many you have, their size, and the environment in which you raise the pet.

Also remember that pets have a variety of initial or one-time costs such as spaying or neutering, initial medical costs, microchipping, training classes, and other items. And, if your pet requires special grooming or vet care, the costs can continue to increase.


For example, taking care of a dog will cost about $1,400 annually, including paying for food, routine medical costs, preventive medication (like heartworm and flea/tick medicine), license, toys and treats, and grooming supplies. Routine medical costs alone average around $225, though this can depend on your specific vet and what your pet needs.


Cats are less expensive than dogs, costing about $1,150 per year for expenses that include food, annual vet care, and preventive medications. Start-up costs for adopting a cat are about $450, including spaying or neutering, an initial medical visit, and a microchip. Other costs include food, a litter box and litter, and toys.


Owning a fish can be really cheap, or it can be more expensive depending on the type and number of fish you have. For example, a common goldfish and a simple tank can be less than $10. Tropical fish are slightly more at $3 to $12 per fish, and saltwater fish may be up to $30 or more per fish. Some adult fish can sell for up to $100 or more.

The average annual cost to care for fish is about $500, but it depends on the type of tank you have, the filtration system, gravel, decor, and plants.


The initial cost of buying a bird can vary significantly, ranging from less than $50 to $5,000 or more. That said, the average cost is around $300. Then, the average cost of caring for a bird is about $200 per year, including food, toys and treats, and vet bills.

Also be sure to account for initial costs like a bird cage, travel carrier, bedding, and cage additions, which can be $100 or more on average.


Depending on your type of pet, costs can vary significantly when it comes to reptiles. Lizards and iguanas may be from about $200 to $250 or more, while snakes can be nearly $500 per year. Vet care, food, cages or tanks, and heat lamps are all other costs to consider.

Reasons to take out a pet loan

Pet financing or a pet loan can help if your pet needs urgent or emergent medical treatment that you can’t pay for with savings or by other means. Remember, a pet loan is a type of debt, so it should be carefully considered before applying. The good news is a pet loan lets you repay the loan over time in smaller monthly payments, so it gives the option to get your pet the care it needs.

Some reasons you may need to take out a pet loan include:

1. Adoption: Adopting a pet typically comes with some fees, ranging from $20 to $500 or more (depending on the organization). Plus, when you first adopt a pet, you’ll have a number of initial expenses like vet bills, food, toys, and other accessories. These costs can add up quickly.

2. Veterinary appointments and treatments: Even an annual appointment for shots and a checkup can be hundreds of dollars. If your pet requires any other treatments, you may have a large bill to pay.

3. Medications: Unlike humans who may have health insurance to help pay for prescriptions, most people must pay for pet medications out-of-pocket. Sometimes, they aren’t cheap, so a pet loan can help cover these costs.

4. Surgery: If your pet requires emergency care or major surgery, it can cost thousands of dollars. When you’re not planning on this expense, it can put a strain on your finances. While it’s typically a good idea to set money aside in an emergency fund for any unexpected pet needs, you may find pet financing is necessary.

5. Training: Whether you want your pet to be the best they can be, or you’re addressing behavioral concerns, training is an important part of owning a pet. However, depending on the type of training, this could cost thousands of dollars. A pet loan can help cover those costs.

6. Service or emotional support training: While regulations differ, a trained service dog can cost up to $30,000 or more upfront. Or, you can save on upfront costs by training your own dog, but that can also cost hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the type of training.

Other pet financing options

When exploring financing options, a pet loan isn’t your only choice. Other alternatives include:

1. Credit cards

Depending on how much the bill is and your credit limit, you may be able to use a credit card to pay for vet bills or pet services. While the benefit to using a credit card is you have immediate access to the funds, the downside is most credit cards carry a high interest rate so if you aren’t able to pay the bill off in full, you may be accumulating interest.

If you have some time before the bill is due, you may want to apply for a 9% introductory rate credit card. These cards have 0% interest for a certain period (ranging from three to 12 months) so you can carry a balance on the card and pay it off over a longer amount of time without adding interest. However, it’s important to pay off the full balance before the introductory period is over.

2. Payment plan

Some vets offer payment plans, which breaks the total cost into smaller payments you can make over time. Not all vets offer this option, but it’s worth asking about.

3. Pet insurance

Just like health, car, or home insurance, you can buy insurance for your pets. These plans cover some or all of vet expenses, like procedures, treatments, and surgeries from accidents, illness, and more. The total monthly cost of the insurance policy varies by company, as do any deductibles, copays, or other costs. You’ll want to research pet insurance companies carefully to find one that would cover what you need at an affordable cost.

4. Low-cost vet options

Some vet schools have clinics where the students can practice, and pet parents can bring their animals for more affordable treatment. Your area may have other low-cost vet options, so do some research to see what’s available near you.


To qualify for a pet loan, you should have a credit score of at least 680 or above, though some lenders may accept borrowers with lower scores. You should also have a steady income and a debt-to-income ratio of less than 36%. Your credit report should also show a history of making payments on time.

Yes, you can use personal loan funds for just about anything, including vet bills. Shop and apply for a personal loan in the same way you would a pet loan.

The interest rate on a pet loan will depend on factors like the lender, your credit score and history, your income, your debt-to-income ratio, and other factors. Fees will also depend on the lender. Some fees you may come across include origination fees, application fees, late payment fees, and prepayment penalties. Loan interest rates can range from 4.99% to 36%.

Whether to use a loan or credit card depends on your personal situation. Loans are lump-sum payments that you’ll repay each month over a set period, and with fixed interest and payments, you’ll be able to budget and calculate how much you’ll owe easier. However, you likely need a higher credit score to qualify. With a credit card, you only pay interest on what you borrow if you carry a balance. Otherwise, you don’t have any interest. Keep in mind these interest rates are typically higher than loans.

To determine if pet financing is right for you, ask yourself a few questions:

1. Do you qualify for pet financing? Do you have a high enough credit score to qualify for low interest rates? Do you have a verifiable income and low enough debt-to-income ratio to show the lender that you’re able to repay the loan?

2. Can you afford the monthly payments? Otherwise, you can quickly get behind on payments, which will increase fees and penalties and can damage your credit score.

3. Have you explored alternatives? There are several ways you can finance pet expenses, so consider each one to make sure you choose the right option for your situation.

Yes, it’s possible to get a pet loan with bad credit, especially through an online lender or credit union. Some lenders may approve applicants with scores of 560 or lower; however, note that the lower your score, the higher the interest rate you’ll be offered. This means the loan will cost you more over time, so if you can, take time to improve your score before applying for the loan.

Yes, you can use a pet loan for the adoption of a pet and initial expenses like pet care, food, and other supplies.