Emergency Dog Fund: How Much Money Should You Save?

Do you ever get anxiety with the “what if” thoughts? Heck I know I do. The best solution for anxiety is to solve for the “what ifs” as much as possible. What do I mean? Well, what would you do if your dog had a medical emergency and you were out of work? Did your blood pressure just go up? That is a scary thought. But there are ways to make it much more manageable. Today, let’s dig into the world of the emergency dog fund and learn how much you should save. 

an adorable husky puppy is happy is pet parents have a dog emergency fund set up for him
Budget tip:

The budget tip for an emergency dog fund is to be prepared before you need to jump into action. Thus it lets you remove some of the stress and focus on your dog’s care. While it’s easy to start your emergency dog fund, it’s even easier to automatically add to the fund each month. If some months are a bit tight, then adjust it. 

But the important part is to start and consistently add to it so that you can reach the goal you have set. Then if the time comes when you need to use this emergency fund, it will be available. You won’t have to incur debt or as much debt as you would without an emergency pet fund. Basically, it’s a financial first aid kit for your dog’s medical needs. And that’s a terrific budget tip for you and your dog!

What is a pet emergency fund?

This is a great question. It actually could be interrupted a couple of ways. But both are a form of sort of financial assistance.

1. Family emergency fund

This is a fund set aside in case you are out of work or lose your source of income for any period of time. This will cover all your expenses such as housing, food, and utilities. Moreover, your pet expenses should be part of your family emergency fund. Not sure how much to set aside in your family emergency fund? Most financial experts will recommend 3-6 months of your current expenses.

One good tip is to know your current expenses, this should also include your dog’s expenses as well. But keep in mind that for some items you pay for during flush financial times, you may not need or be able to spend money on when you’re financially strapped like dog treats or new dog toys. However, you can make both of these items at home for much less and your dog will love them too! 

2. Dog medical emergency fund 

This is an account set up to cover any unforeseen pet emergency medical expense. While you might think that you’ll be covered by your pet insurance, you should know that not all dog emergency expenses are covered by pet insurance. There are exclusions as well as caps on veterinary care with pet insurance. For example, if your dog needs $10,000 in emergency vet care, yet your pet insurance has a lifetime limit of $8,000, then you will need to cover the gap of $2,000. In other words, a dog medical emergency fund is a safety net for any pet parent.

Why is it important to have an emergency dog fund?

The idea behind an emergency fund is that you’re prepared. There are no guarantees in life, but you can do your best to be prepared for any curve balls you might be thrown like an extended period without income or a medical emergency for your dog. 

Is a pet emergency fund the same as a dog savings account?

That will depend on how you set up your dog saving account. Some people like their savings account to cover any sort of dog expense. That means you can use it for ordinary dog expenses such as dog food or dog toys if you so desire. Meanwhile, an emergency dog fund is only to be used in case of a true medical emergency. It almost comes with an invisible label that reads “in case of emergency use these funds”.  

How much should I have in my dog care fund?

For ease of this question, let’s look at it from a medical and family emergency fund. 

Family emergency fund

When it comes to setting up your family emergency fund make sure you know exactly what you are spending on your dog each month. That will give you a great estimate of what you need to include for your dog in your family emergency fund. Although, as I mentioned earlier, some items you may want to trim if your financial status takes a dip for any great period of time. For instance, making dog treats at home is easy and saves a lot of money. Additionally, it’s often a lot healthier for your dog. 

Pet medical emergency fund

As for your dog’s medical emergency fund, it’s a great idea to take into account any ailments or breed issues your dog may already have along with what your pet insurance may cover. For instance, Henry is a rescue cockapoo (or so we think). He already is predisposed to a heart murmur and kidney issues from his breed. I also know that he has an eye issue and allergies.

Of course, this doesn’t take into account any accidents that could possibly occur. Additionally, I don’t have the security net of pet insurance, since I was unable to secure it for him. With all these factors and my current location, I know that in order to be safe I should have at least $5,000 set aside in an emergency fund for Henry. 

While Henry is a smaller dog, a larger dog in a more metropolitan area also without pet insurance might need a larger fund depending on the health issues (some areas are more costly for emergency veterinary care).

However, if you have amazing pet insurance that has a small $250 deductible and covers 80%, then you may only need a $2,000 emergency pet fund.

NOTE: Also, keep in mind that the cost of veterinary medicine and treatment cost is increasing all the time. So, what you have set as your pet emergency fund this year may need to be raised a bit in the near future. 

How do I set up an emergency fund for my dog?

This is the easy part. You can have a savings account set up with a certain amount taken out from your paycheck or checking account each month. I use my checking account because I found that easier. It really shouldn’t cost you anything to set up the account. You can often establish a new savings account with as little as $100. 

However, I highly recommend that you go with an FDIC insured bank. I like using larger banks as well. This way I don’t need to worry about them folding up overnight. Plus, it’s easier to transfer accounts if I move locations. 

What if I don’t have enough money set aside for my pet emergency fund?

The best approach is to start. I admit, I don’t even have enough money set aside for Henry’s medical emergency fund. But I have a significant amount, which is a good start and I contribute to it monthly. 

How do I deal with an emergency when my dog’s emergency fund is low?

This can happen. According to a Forbes Advisor survey a vet bill of less than $999 would cause 42% of pet parents to go into debt. That’s scary! 

With this in mind, let’s break it down a bit. First off, get your dog the care he or she needs. Get quotes for the care if possible. But know that often this isn’t possible. And to be honest, if it’s a true emergency, like when Henry was attacked and nearly lost his eye and life, you’re out of your mind with worry. I know I just wanted Henry to be ok as I rushed him to the nearest urgent care hospital. Later I worried about the emergency vet bill and subsequent treatment costs. Thus act quickly and get your dog the appropriate and immediate medical attention from a licensed veterinarian. 

Henry in his cone after his attack. This is what got me thinking about a dog emergency fund.
Henry a few months after his attack.

However, there are options to pay for a pet emergency even when you’re not prepared. These  “financial assistance” solutions include:

Care Credit.

This is financing for your pet.

Create an online shop.

A great example of this is Lucifer The Rescue Pup.

Sell DIY products.

A perfect example of this is the Naked Dog Boutique

Get rid of unused items.

This means selling what you don’t need. Perhaps you can sell some old furniture collecting dust or maybe even some antiques could easily pay your vet bills. You can try Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or Craigslist.

Side hustle.

Some pet-focused side hustles that might be able to help pay your dog’s vet bills include dog walking, pet sitting, and even pet running errands.

GoFundMe.

This is a way of asking folks to help you with your bill. But you’ll need to account for this on your taxes. Also, be very transparent with what you need and why. Provide photos and copies of bills so that people feel comfortable helping you.

Go the charity or grants route.

I have a list of charities and grants that might be able to help you in this article.  

Ask to make payments.

Sometimes you can arrange for financial assistance directly with your veterinary clinic. You’ll need to check with your vet clinic.

Should I use my pet care emergency fund to pay off my dog debt?

If the emergency fund is paying off a medical emergency debt, then I would definitely encourage that use. However, if you’re using that money to pay off your groomer or dog food bill, then I’d encourage you to look for other ways. Perhaps you can sell items online, barter, or sell unwanted items to pay your these bills.

Specifically, the problem with using your emergency fund for basic dog debt is that it can be harder to replace when you really need it for a true emergency. Although, if it means keeping your dog or surrendering him or her, then I’d say by all means use these funds and then be vigilant about replacing them. Sometimes you need to loan to yourself a bit of financial assistance.

Related articles:

Summary of an emergency dog fund: how much money should you save?

While an emergency is generally stressful, you can reduce the amount of stress by being prepared with an emergency dog fund. It allows you to provide urgent care for your dog and not worry about how to pay for it. Additionally, if you’re funding your overall emergency family fund then knowing how much you spend on your dog each month allows you to more accurately provide for your dog’s expenses.

Both types of emergency funds are critical. They let you focus on what you need to focus on in these moments. If you do experience a dog medical emergency and find your dog’s emergency fund is low, you can still overcome it. There are tools such as setting up an online store, selling unused items, or using CareCredit. The key is to always act and get your dog the vet care and treatment that’s needed. It’s part of the dog parent pact we sign onto when we welcome pets into our families. 

Overall, being prepared before you need to be is a great good idea for you and your dog. That includes having a dog emergency fund. 

an adorable dog is happy his pet parents have set up an emergency dog fund for him

Do you have a pet emergency fund set up? Will you set up one now?   

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About Terri Rodefer

Terri Rodefer is the founder of Tail Wag Wisdom, a blog focused on affordable pet care. She likes to say helping pet parents afford and love their animals even more, makes her tail wag. As a lifelong lover of all animals with a background in economics, biology, and marketing, allows Terri to bring a unique spin to pet care. 

22 thoughts on “Emergency Dog Fund: How Much Money Should You Save?”

  1. People forget that a dog’s vet bills can be very high, especially for something energency treatments or sudden illness. You suggest so many great ways and (bottom line) we need to knuckle down and get saving for our pets.

    Reply
    • Yes, it’s easy to forget about things we don’t want to think about when things are going smoothly. But that’s the time we need to be preparing for what might come around the corner. Thank you so much for your kind words and continued support!

      Reply
  2. What a great idea for all pet parents! I never thought of this I’m ashamed to say, but it makes perfect logical sense. We try to prepare for the unexpected with a family emergency fund, so having one for your furry family member should be part of the plan as well. And yes, I can attest that if you don’t have cash stashed away CareCredit is an awesome resource to use in a pinch. Most times when I’ve had to use it, they offer low or no interest rates as long as the balance is paid off in under 6 months. (circumstances vary)

    Reply
    • That is great to know that CareCredit was helpful for you. I love hearing first-hand experiences like yours, Kamira! I’m really glad that this resource is available to pet parents, especially as costs continue to go up each year. Thank you for your kind words and input. I greatly appreciate it!

      Reply
  3. Great pot and reminder to all new pet parents as it is so important, I am blessed with vet bill coverage for Layla including medications so do not have to worry as such, she is a client of a non profit organization that help all those with pets and it has made my life a lot less stressful.

    Reply
    • That’s so wonderful to know Layla is part of a non-profit organization that helps with her medical care. One of these days, I need to ask you more about this organization. It would make a great article! Thank you for your continued support!

      Reply
  4. You have some great points here. I love that you included the idea that someone should have an emergency fund even if they have pet insurance. I feel like that’s a point that is SO often overlooked – but the cost of deductibles and co-pay can add up and FAST!

    Reply
    • Thank you! Unfortunately, a lot of pet parents think pet insurance is their safety net. Sadly it most likely will not be the safety net they are anticipating. Thus, looking for other resources to fill those gaps is essential. I love that a pet emergency fund is easy to set up and can be automatically funded each month. That’s really helpful. However, it can be adjusted as well, which is great. It’s certainly an option for a safety net.

      Reply
  5. This is such a great idea & so important. Many dogs & cats are actually surrendered to shelters simply because their owners can’t afford Vet treatment. That is so heartbreaking 💔

    Reply
    • That’s very true, Cathy. My goal is always to provide ways that pet parents can afford their furry family members, even when times are tough. Thank you for your kind words! I great appreciate it!

      Reply
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