4 Things to Do When You Can't Go to the Vet

There are several reasons why you may not be able to get your furchild to the vet for either routine or emergency medical care. Lack of transportation, financial issues, and Pet Parent illness or disability are just a few of them. 

However there is help available if you know where to look. Read on to find out what you can do if you can’t get your fur baby in to see their veterinarian.


#1. If you can’t pay for veterinary costs

For many, an inability to pay for veterinary services is a barrier to taking their dog for health checkups. Pet health insurance can help with paying for services, but won’t cover pre-existing conditions so it’s important to purchase some insurance before Fido or Fluffy get sick.

Some veterinarians are willing to set up a payment plan with Pet Parents if they’re established with the practice. Don’t expect this at an emergency clinic, however. They’re not likely to extend credit to anyone. If you're eligible for CareCredit, you may be able to get pet bills paid with reasonable credit terms.

There are local, state, and national organizations whose purpose is to assist with the expenses associated with veterinary care, especially care to treat cancer. One such organization is the Joshua Louis Animal Cancer Foundation. The American Veterinary Medical Foundation also offers funding for veterinary care in cases of financial hardship. If you live near a veterinary college, be sure to check whether they provide low-cost veterinary clinics. Find a list of organizations that provide financial assistance at the Humane Society website.

The best solution is to be prepared ahead of time with a pet insurance plan tailored for you and your doggo or feline. Find pet insurance guides and company information in Wag!’s Wellness section. Compare prices and benefits among the top companies.


#2. If you can’t drive to the veterinary hospital with your pet

Some Pet Parents simply can’t get out to take their dog or cat to the vet. They may not have a car, or they may be ill or disabled themselves. The perfect solution is a veterinarian who makes house calls. Not only can you stay at home and still get high-quality pet care, but your dog or cat will thank you for not forcing them into an anxiety-producing trip to the hospital. 

Another resource to consider when you can’t get out is Wag!’s health care service that allows you to ask questions and receive thoughtful, professional answers from a live veterinarian. Some minor conditions may be treated in this way, including behavior problems and mild illness or injury. The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine also responds to telephone calls and emails, providing advice on many ailments.

There are also pet taxi and ambulance services that will transport your pet to a veterinarian for treatment, then bring them home. Consultation with the vet via telephone, text or email will reassure the Pet Parent and provide an opportunity for them to participate in care planning. Rates vary with the location, but they average around $50 to $60 per round trip. 


#3. Emergency care at home

If it’s likely that you won’t be able to take your pup or kitty to the vet right away, there are some emergency steps you can follow at home in dire circumstances. 

Develop an emergency plan, especially if you are home-bound, in case your pet is injured or exhibits any of the following signs:

  • Pale gums

  • Rapid breathing

  • Weak or rapid pulse

  • Change in body temperature

  • Difficulty standing

  • Apparent paralysis

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Seizures

  • Excessive bleeding

If necessary, contact a pet ambulance service that will transport them to the emergency clinic or veterinarian. If possible, ride along with Fido in the ambulance. You’ll need to arrange for your return trip. 

Put together a pet first aid kit that includes the names, addresses, and phone numbers of your veterinarian, the nearest emergency clinic, and taxi and pet ambulance service. Other items to include are dressings, antiseptic solution like hydrogen peroxide and rolled gauze. Your vet will be able to advise you on other items you might include.

If your pet is bleeding, try to elevate that part of their body and apply pressure to the bleeding site. 

For choking, first try to insert your fingers into their mouth to remove whatever is causing the blockage. If that doesn’t work, perform the Heimlich Maneuver by putting force on the dog/s chest area, with them standing up on all fours. This should dislodge the object.

If there are no heart and breathing sounds, administer CPR:

  • Close your mouth over your pet’s nose and force air into their nostrils

  • Perform 2-3 quick chest compressions over the heart for every respiration.

If the pup or kitty has eaten something that could be poisonous, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at 888-426-4435. 


#4. Telehealth

Some veterinary hospitals provide audio and visual telehealth visits via your computer or cell phone, so you can describe symptoms that your pet is exhibiting and decide with the vet whether they need to be transported to the hospital. You may even be able to hold your pup or cat in front of the camera so the doctor can see lesions, wounds or other symptoms and advise you on next steps. 

Check in with the veterinary hospital to see if they offer telehealth and any requirements you will need to meet.


While most Pet Parents’ preference would be to take their pets to the veterinary clinic or hospital themselves, it may not be possible without a helping hand or two. That’s the time to call on friends, relatives, financial assistance companies, technology and creative care methods like a doctor who makes house calls. Be sure to check out Wag!’s Ask a Vet Service for more wellness topics for your dog and cat!


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