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We love our furry friends, and when it comes to helping them, most of us will do just about anything we can. However, that can be a challenge if you adopt a pet for free and now face thousands of dollars in vet bills or pet care costs. 

Even if you went into it expecting to pay a lot, you might still be surprised by the price of pet ownership nowadays. About two-thirds of pet owners said that inflation has made it harder to afford their pets, and almost half of pet owners would have to go into debt to pay for a $999 vet bill, according to a recent Forbes Advisor survey

You’re among a growing crowd if you’re looking to finance your pet care and vet bills. Rather than jumping to the first loan available, it’s a good idea to scope out your options and devise a plan. That’ll help ensure that you can afford to take on new debt and keep your furball friend too. 

How Much Do Pets Cost?

dog receiving medicine

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According to the American Kennel Club, you can expect the average small-breed dog to live for 10 to 15 years, and the average large-breed dog to live between 8 to 12 years. Rover, a popular pet care provider, estimates that the average dog owner spends between $480 and $3,470 per year on their pup. Taken together, that means the average cost for a dog ranges between $4,800 to $41,640 over its lifespan. 

Cats can be a bit cheaper. Most indoor cats live for 13 to 17 years, with outdoor cats living for 10 to 14 years on average. Given that Rover estimates kitties costing between $305 and $1,450 per year, that works out to total lifetime cat ownership costs of $3,050 to $24,650, on average. 

Ways You Can Spend a Pet Loan

Being a pet owner involves many upfront and ongoing costs. A personal loan can help you cover these costs in the event you cannot afford to do so.

  • Bringing your pet home: Ranging between $0 and several thousand dollars, this is the cost of adopting your pet or buying them from the pet store or breeder. You’ll also need to have all care items ready ahead of time, such as collars, leashes, kennels, beds, food dishes, etc.
  • Ongoing expenses: These are the items you’ll need to buy regularly to keep your pet alive and happy, such as food, toys, and treats. It also includes regular pet services, such as routine veterinary care and check-ups, training, boarding, and grooming. 
  • Emergency care: This is when things go wrong. Your pet gets into an accident, eats something they’re not supposed to or is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. These are the most difficult expenses to plan for because the amount you can pay is essentially unlimited. 
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Best Pet Loans

If you decide a pet loan is right for you, here are some to consider:

Loan results will vary based on creditworthiness, loan purpose, loan amount, and other factors.

Best for Bad Credit: Avant

Even though most of Avant’s borrowers have a credit score between 600 and 700, it offers relatively affordable rates compared to other bad-credit lending options. 

Avant

Avant logo
Check Your Rate

Via AmOne

  • Loan Amounts$2,000 – $35,000
  • Loan Terms12 – 60 months
  • APR Range9.95% – 35.95%
  • Minimum
    Credit Score
    580 or higher

Avant offers small personal loans that are accessible to borrowers with fair credit, with funding available as soon as the next day.

Overview

Avant is known for its personal loans, which offer terms as long as 60 months. Customers can borrow up to $35,000 that can be used for a wide range of purposes, and funding can be completed as soon as the next business day once approved. The minimum APRs tend to be higher than competitors, but the maximum APR is comparable to other online lenders.

A unique feature offered by Avant is their flexible payment due date, which allows a 10-day grace period without incurring a late fee.

While some lenders have credit score requirements in the mid-600s, Avant indicates it may approve borrowers with a 580 credit score.

Pros

  • Loan terms up to 60 months
  • Low minimum credit score requirement
  • Flexible payment due date
  • Next day funding available

Cons

  • No physical locations
  • Origination fee of up to 4.75%
  • Relatively low maximum loan amount ($35,000)
  • High minimum APR
  • No joint applicant or co-signer

Best for Good Credit: SoFi

If you have good to excellent credit, you’ll likely be able to qualify for a low rate from SoFi. Loans from SoFi also come with no origination fees, prepayment penalties, or late fees.

SoFi Personal Loans

Check Your Rate

via AmOne

  • Loan Amounts$5,000 – $100,000
  • Loan Terms24 – 84 months
  • APR Range7.99% – 23.43%
  • Minimum
    Credit Score
    680 or higher

SoFi’s personal loan offering comes with no fees and a high loan maximum that may be a good fit for those seeking large loans.

Overview

SoFi offers a competitive personal loan product that boasts no origination fees, no late fees and a high maximum loan amount of $100,000. SoFi is one of only a handful of lenders offering loans as large as $100,000. If you need a substantial loan to cover a considerable expense, like a home renovation, SoFi’s high maximum can be a strong option. Its repayment terms range from 24 to 84 months, and same-day funding is also be available for qualified borrowers.

One standout feature of SoFi is that it offers unemployment protection, which might allow you to pause payments if you lose your job. This is a unique offering that sets it apart from competitors.

SoFi also lets you view your rate without impacting your credit score. While doing a soft credit pull is relatively common, it’s still worth mentioning because some lenders require a hard inquiry before they provide a rate. Those who decide to formally apply will likely need a strong credit score to get approved for a SoFi personal loan.

Pros

  • No origination fees, no prepayment penalties and no late fees
  • Loans up to $100,000
  • Unemployment protection available
  • Autopay rate discounts
  • Co-borrower allowed
  • Same-day funding available

Cons

  • No physical branches
  • High minimum loan amount

Best for Low Rates: LightStream

LightStream offers loans with low interest rates for qualified borrowers, which means your monthly payments will be less and the loan will be easier to repay too.

LightStream

Check Your Rate

via AmOne

  • Loan Amounts$5,000 – $100,000
  • Loan Terms24 – 144 months
  • APR Range5.99% – 23.99% (with autopay)
  • Minimum
    Credit Score
    660 or higher

LightStream is a solid online lender offering no fees, high loan maximums and low-rate personal loans for several purposes.

Overview

Lightstream offers personal loans for several purposes, including debt consolidation, medical expenses, home improvement, weddings, car purchases and more, making this worth considering for those seeking flexibility. Eligible borrowers can get approved for personal loans from $5,000 to $100,000, and loan terms range from 24 to 144 months. The rate and term you get will depend on the specific loan purpose.

The lender offers relatively low rates compared to competitors, including autopay discounts. Its personal loans also have no origination fees or late fees, which can help keep borrowing costs low. However, borrowers will likely need to have good-to-excellent credit in order to be approved for a Lightstream personal loan.

Overall, it’s a good lender to add to your shortlist if you’re looking for flexible funding, no fees and a low APR. Lightstream may also disburse loans as soon as the same day you’re approved, making this lender a decent choice if you need fast funding.

Pros

  • Low minimum APR
  • No origination fees, no late fees
  • High loan maximum of $100,000
  • Autopay discount
  • Joint applications allowed

Cons

  • Rates and terms vary by loan purpose
  • No soft pull prequalification
  • Must have good-to-excellent credit
  • No physical branches

Best for Fast Funding: Prosper

If you need your funding fast, Prosper can offer next-business-day funds once you’re approved. You can also apply with a co-borrower if your credit isn’t quite up to par.

Prosper

Prosper logo
Check Your Rate

via AmOne

  • Loan Amounts$2,000 – $50,000
  • Loan Terms24 – 60 months
  • APR Range6.99% – 35.99%
  • Minimum
    Credit Score
    600 or higher

Prosper is an online lending platform offering fast funding for personal loans and the option to apply with a co-borrower if your credit isn’t stellar.

Overview

Founded in 2005, Prosper is an online peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platform offering personal loans and HELOCs. Because it’s P2P, Prosper works slightly differently than other non-P2P lenders. Borrowers sign up and are assigned a Prosper Rating based on their creditworthiness, and investors can choose whether or not to fund them after viewing their loan listing.

Eligible borrowers seeking personal loans can get up to $50,000 through Prosper with 2- to 5-year repayment terms. Borrowers can expect to pay an origination fee depending on their Prosper Rating. Funding can be available as soon as the next business day after approval of the loan, making it a solid option in emergencies.

Fortunately, if your credit isn’t stellar, Prosper offers the option to apply with a co-borrower, which could improve your chances of getting a better rate.

Pros

  • Can change your loan payment date
  • Option to apply with co-borrower
  • Next-day funding available after approval

Cons

  • No physical branches
  • Has origination fees

Best for Credit Union Aficionados: PenFed Credit Union

Members of PenFed Credit Union have access to personal loans with competitive rates. Those looking for small loans will also appreciate the low loan minimum of $600. 

PenFed Credit Union

PenFed Credit Union
Check Your Rate

via AmOne

  • Loan Amounts$600 – $50,000
  • Loan Terms12 – 60 months
  • APR Range7.74% – 17.99%
  • Minimum
    Credit Score
    700 or higher

PenFed offers no fees and small personal loans as low as $600.

Overview

PenFed is an established credit union founded in 1935 and headquartered in McLean, Virginia. While you will need to become a PenFed member if you decide to get a personal loan there, anyone can apply for membership and the process is quick and simple.

Many lenders have relatively high minimum loan amounts of $1,000 or $2,000, which isn’t ideal if you’d like to borrow a small amount to cover an unexpected cost. Unlike some competitors, PenFed offers loans as small as $600 (and as high as $50,000), with no origination fees and competitive APRs. Borrowers can get repayment terms as long as 60 months.

If you’d like to view personal loan rates with PenFed, you can do so without impacting your credit score. While this lender doesn’t disclose a minimum credit score requirement, you’ll likely need a credit score in the mid-600s to get approved for a personal loan.

Pros

  • Pre-qualification is available
  • No origination fee, hidden fees or prepayment penalties
  • Borrow as little as $600
  • Allows co-borrower
  • Funding as early as 1-2 business days after approval

Cons

  • Must be a member to receive the loan
  • No option for direct payment to creditors for debt consolidation

Pros and Cons of Pet Loans

We probably wouldn’t need pet loans if we all had a million dollars to spend on our pets. Sadly, we don’t live in that world, but pet loans can make it possible for you to afford a good life for your fur friends. Before you sign on the dotted line, though, it’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Can use them for anything
  • Funding is quick
  • Can help you afford pets

Cons

  • Paying off a loan can be stressful
  • Loans can get expensive
  • Can hurt credit if you miss payments

Pros of Pet Loans

  • Can use them for anything: Personal loans and credit cards can be used to pay for just about anything pet-related. You can even take out a bigger loan if needed and use some of the lump-sum funds for pet expenses, and some of the funds for other household needs such as debt consolidation
  • Funding is quick: Most personal loans can offer quick funding, as soon as the next business day once your application is approved. This can be a plus if you need money fast, such as to pay for emergency care.
  • Can help you afford pets: Most experts advise against pet loans because they aren’t “necessary” — but for many people, they are, especially if your pet is an emotional support animal or a key component of your mental well-being.

Cons of Pet Loans

  • Stressful: Keeping up with your monthly payments on a long-term pet loan can be stressful. Plus, it’s scary knowing that you might not be able to afford more veterinary financing the next time something happens. 
  • Expensive: Interest rates on most financing options tend to be high, especially for credit cards. Origination fees on loans can also be expensive. In the worst-case scenario, you won’t be able to afford to keep your debt and your pet anymore, meaning you might have to rehome your pet while you’re still paying off the debt from when they were a part of your family.
  • Potential harm to your credit: While we all set out to make every payment on time, there may be times we simply forget or find ourselves unable to pay off the rest of the loan. If you miss payments, expect your credit score to get dinged.

Alternatives to Pet Care Loans

cat in lap

Sometimes it seems like taking out a pet loan is your only option to afford your friends, but that’s usually not the case. You might be surprised by the range of programs available to help people afford the companionship of pets, especially for low-income folks. Just because you don’t earn a ton of money doesn’t mean you don’t deserve the love of a good pet, after all. 

Rather than taking out debt to pay for emergency vet bills, most experts suggest saving up in advance since it’s highly likely your pet will have a surprise vet bill sooner or later. Before you take out a loan, here are some good options to explore first. In many cases, you’ll find that you don’t even need a loan, and that’ll be much less stressful for you going forward. 

  • Fostering: Most animal shelters have fostering programs where you can take care of pets available for adoption in your home, without having to pay for anything. Some programs, such as Senior To Senior, work to permanently place older foster animals with senior citizens while continuing to pay for their pet care expenses.
  • Community support: Many animal shelters offer pet food banks or veterinary assistance funds. You can find programs in your area by visiting or calling 211.org or visiting the Humane Society’s resource page. Low-cost spay and neuter clinics are very common and can help prevent many spendy veterinary and behavioral problems in the long run.
  • Pet emergency fund: It’s always a good idea to keep an emergency fund for yourself. Some people include emergency expenses for their pets in this fund, while others prefer to keep separate savings accounts earmarked for this purpose. 
  • Payment plans: Many veterinarians and specialty dog trainers accept in-house payment plans or other payment options for high-cost procedures and services. Often these don’t charge any interest, making it a fee-free loan. 
  • Pet insurance: If you wouldn’t be able to afford a high-cost vet bill such as cancer (which can cost $10,000 or more), consider paying for pet insurance. Make sure to spend a lot of time researching it first, since these commonly have a lot of exclusions.
  • 0% intro APR credit card: If you have a decent credit score, a low debt-to-income ratio and can pay off your entire pet care bill before the end of the introductory interest-free period, a 0% APR credit card can also be an easy way to get the equivalent of an interest-free loan. 

FAQs

  • Yes, there are many lenders with lower minimum credit score requirements. You may need to shop around a bit more to find affordable loan terms and interest rates, but it is possible.

  • The most that you personally will be able to borrow depends on your credit, debt-to-income ratio and other factors. Personal loans are often available in loan amounts up to $100,000 for qualified applicants, and you can use these for pet expenses.

  • If you use your already-existing credit card with a high interest rate, it’ll generally be much more expensive than taking out a pet loan. But if you can get a 0% intro APR credit card and pay off those expenses before the end of the promotional period, it’ll almost always be your cheapest financing option.

  • Yes, you can take out a loan to adopt a dog. However, the up-front expenses to adopt a dog aren’t usually very much compared with ongoing pet expenses and veterinary emergencies. So if you’re unable to afford these initial costs, it’s usually a good idea to budget and save up until you can afford to pay for your pet friend in cash.

LV

Lindsay VanSomeren

Lindsay VanSomeren lives in the Pacific Northwest where she enjoys budgeting for her favorite activities like gardening, learning languages, and fishing. She's passionate about helping other people understand how to manage their money to live their best lives. Her work has appeared in Credit Karma, Forbes Advisor, FICO, and more.