by Kailey Hagen | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on May 19, 2020
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Emergencies don't just happen to humans.
You hopefully already know about the importance of keeping a personal emergency fund that contains at least three months' worth of living expenses. This money is there in case you need to cover things like medical bills, a job loss, or an unexpected insurance claim. But you and your loved ones aren't the only ones that could face emergencies.
My husband and I recently found that out the hard way when one of our dogs suddenly began losing his balance, repeatedly falling over, and vomiting. Fortunately, his condition was not life threatening, but it still required a trip to the vet and one of us needed to stay home at all times to keep an eye on him for a few days. Since I work from home, it was more manageable for us. But if I hadn't been able to do that, it could have meant lost income on top of a vet bill. If you have pets in your home, you must remember to include them in your financial emergency planning as well so that a pet injury or illness doesn't completely derail your budget.
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You might be wondering if you need a separate emergency fund for your pet if you already have an emergency fund for yourself. That's technically not necessary, but consider this: Let's say you're driving your pet to their vet appointment and on the way, you get into a car accident that injures both you and your pet. If your emergency fund only contains enough to cover your health insurance deductible, you'll either have to take on debt to cover your pet's expenses. In the worst-case scenario, you might even have to put them down if you cannot afford their care.
It is possible to have a single emergency fund, but if you do this, you should make sure that it contains enough to cover you, your family and your pet. Or you could maintain separate emergency funds in separate bank accounts -- one for your and your family and another for your pets. There isn't a right or wrong option. The most important thing is making sure you have enough money to cover everyone in your household in the event of an emergency.
It's a little more difficult to determine how much money to set aside for a pet emergency fund than it is for your own. You know roughly how much you spend every month and what your health insurance deductible is, but the cost of a pet emergency can vary considerably. Simple injuries, like a stick stuck between a dog's molars, could cost upwards of $1,600 if your dog requires surgery, according to Trupanion, while chronic conditions, like diabetes, could cost upwards of $10,000 over your pet's lifetime.
You might not have to pay all of these costs out of pocket if you have a pet insurance policy, but these plans still have premiums, deductibles, and copays that you must budget for. If you purchase one of these policies, you should make sure your pet emergency fund contains at least enough money to cover the deductible and the copay for a potential $5,000 or $10,000 vet bill. You should also read through the policy terms carefully before you sign up to understand what is and isn't covered. If you have multiple pets, make sure you're saving enough for each pet.
If you decide to forego a pet insurance plan, you can put the money you would have spent on pet insurance premiums toward a pet emergency fund. Again, you can't be sure on exactly how much a pet injury or illness will cost, but if you want to be prepared for the worst, budget $5,000 to $10,000 per pet. You can also check with your vet about potential pet injury and illness costs in your area to get an approximation of how much you should set aside for a pet emergency fund.
Emergency funds aren't just for medical emergencies. If you lose your job and have difficulty finding a new one, you might have to survive for several months on your existing savings. You'll need this money to feed your family and your pet. You may also still need to cover routine vet visits, shots, and grooming costs, if necessary, plus any other specialized equipment your pet requires. You can save for these expenses in your own emergency fund or in your pet's emergency fund, but you cannot overlook these costs.
We all hope our pets stay healthy, but just like with humans, you never can be sure. If you consider your pet to be a member of your family, set aside money to give them the care they need every month, no matter what. Decide how much you think you need to save and then budget a certain amount every month until you reach your goal. Always replenish your fund after you use it so you're prepared for the next emergency.
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