If you cannot afford to get vet care for your newly adopted pet, then do not get the pet.
ALL rescue dogs need to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Don’t be surprised if the vet bills go off the chart while you get your rescue dog stabilized. If you get to the vet and learn that you have a supercharged healthy pet then go celebrate!!! Until you hear otherwise, just assume that there will be costs. Sometimes a lot!
Lack of finances is not a viable excuse for not taking a rescue dog to a vet. Instead, the ability to pay for vet care should be part of the decision making process when you consider adopting a rescue dog.
Do not rely on pet insurance to augment the cost of a rescue dog’s vet care. Most have a waiting period and all have a “preexisting condition” clause. If you sign up for insurance the minute you get your dog (like I did) and take him or her to a vet a couple of days later (like I did), odds are the insurance company’s waiting period is two weeks and they won’t cover the visit. If the vet exam reveals illnesses or conditions, the insurance won’t pay for it because they will not cover anything that is diagnosed or shows symptoms during the waiting period.
Let’s say you want to be slick and ride out the waiting period and then go to the vet. Good Luck! If the exam is one day after the waiting period ends and the vet diagnoses something like a bladder infection, the insurance won’t pay for it. Why? Well, bacterial infections take time to manifest and if the vet found it the day after the waiting period was over, then the insurance would presume that the dog got the infection prior to, or during, the waiting period. They would deem it to be a preexisting condition and you would be out of luck.
At the onset, you have to look at pet insurance as being in the same category as car insurance. It will come in handy if your pet is injured (as long as it is not during the waiting period). Do not view it being comparable to health insurance until after your pet is given a clean bill of health and / or has been completely cured and free from the same illness for one year. Only then will they cover the condition.
You Cannot Say You Were Not Warned.
When you adopt a pet, be prepared to sign a release form. If a pet adoption center is set up outside of a pet store, you can almost guarantee that the pet store will have you sign a form in addition to the one the rescue agency gives you. It may only be one page, but it lays it all on the line and makes it clear that once you adopt a pet, you are responsible for all of its care – ALL of it.
If anyone signs adoption papers and a release form, then I feel confident in saying that they were properly informed about the critical need for a vet exam Here a few snippets from the two pages I signed:
“… It is imperative that you make an appointment for your new pet with a veterinarian as soon as possible… With any new pet, it’s possible they may have been exposed to diseases that may not show symptoms for several weeks…”
“We cannot, and do not, guarantee the health of any of the pets available for adoption…”
“Veterinary fees incurred (such as diagnostics, vaccines, and/or medications) are the responsibility of the pet owner”
“Important: Common…Canine Diseases: Rabies, Upper respiratory infections (Kennel Cough), heart worm disease, ringworm, intestinal parasites, and mange (two forms)…” – Guess which ones applied to Phoebe!
“[There are] no guarantees about this animal’s health and although it may appear healthy at this time; it may have medical problems that we are not aware…”
….and the most important one:
“I understand that I, as the adopter of this animal, am responsible for any and all veterinary expenses incurred after the adoption…is complete.”
I got the hint. Phoebe’s vet appointment was set up for three days after her arrival.