Black and white cat being checked by the vet

It is illegal not to take your pet to the vet.

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Is it bad to not take your dog to the vet?

By Dr Hester Mulhall MA, VetMB, MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

In certain cases you will be breaking the law if you don't take your dog to the vet when they are suffering. If this is due to financial problems, read on for how to get help.

If your pet is unwell, it is best to get veterinary advice as early as possible – you may even be breaking the law by not taking a suffering animal to a vet.

Plus, early detection and treatment of your pet might well help prevent the illness becoming more serious.

Is it illegal to not take your pet to the vet?

It can be illegal in certain situations. Under the UK Animal Welfare Act (2006) you have a legal obligation to ensure adequate welfare for your pet. It would be illegal not to act to protect an animal from pain, disease, injury or suffering. Realistically, this means seeking veterinary advice in any of these cases.

If your pet is fit and healthy, you are under no legal obligation to take them to the vet once they have been microchipped and registered (which is a legal requirement for dogs and puppies).

Do I have to take my dog to the vet?

You do not have to take your dog to the vet if they are fit and well. Some practices also offer home visits, which act as an alternative to taking your pet to the practice. You should make sure that you are not in breach of the Animal Welfare Act (2006) by following the advice above.

What happens if you don't pay the vet?

If you do not pay the vet you will probably receive notices via telephone or the post, and may then be referred to debt collectors. This depends on your practice's policy. If you cannot pay your vet bill for any reason, you should contact them to discuss the best way forward.

What to do if you can't afford to take your dog to the vet 

You should contact the vet practice to ask for advice. They may be able to refer you to a charity veterinary clinic or funding. Some practices also offer payment plans. If you think that you would find it difficult to cover payment for emergency treatment or specialist surgeries, it is best to take out a pet insurance policy. Policies vary in what they will cover, so make sure to check any specific questions with your insurance provider.

What is the average vet bill?

The cost of a vet bill depends on whether it is for a routine appointment, or if medical treatments, diagnostic tests or surgery are being included. You can ask the vet practice for an estimate of costs beforehand. Vet bills need to cover paying for the vet’s time and expertise, care from vet nurses, assistance of vet receptionists and other support staff, drugs and treatments, specialist equipment such as x-ray machines, ultra-sound, laboratory equipment and surgical tools, keeping the practice running, rent for the building and more.

How much does it cost to take my dog to the vet?

Contact the practice for information on fees. The cost of your visit will depend on the reason for the appointment for your pet, but you can always ask a vet for an estimate.

Can you pay monthly for vet bills?

This depends on the practice. Some clinics will offer payment plans, but they are not obligated to do so. You might also be able to make a regular payment for a pet health plan, which usually covers the cost of routine appointments but differs between practices.

Can you get free vet care if you're on benefits?

You might be eligible for reduced vet fees from charity-funded clinics if you are receiving benefits. You can contact your local practice to see if there are any clinics like this in your local area.

Do any vets do payment plans?

Some vets do provide payment plans, you should speak to your practice for more information. It's best to do this in advance and they may be able to help you pay for your pet's treatment.

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