Living on a fixed income … with senior pets

It isn’t news that money is tight for much of the population. Senior citizens — and those on a fixed or low income — struggle to keep up with routine living expenses. Providing basic necessities, even food, can stretch the budget. When pet owners struggle to pay their own medical costs, pets often don’t receive routine veterinary care. It’s easy to understand why emergency vet care is considered out of reach, unaffordable. Viewed as the only alternative to watching a beloved pet suffer, relinquishing ownership to a shelter, as hard as it is, sometimes seems the best, most loving thing to do. One can hope the pet can be treated, saved and ultimately adopted by someone with the resources to provide proper care for the animal’s remaining days.  

It doesn’t have to be this way. Help is available for qualifying people not only for emergency care, but for many pet needs. With a bit of research, you can find food, spay/neuter programs, medication, even grooming. Veterinary professionals and others who care and want to help keep people and pets together work to make that happen. 

The best place to start is with the veterinarian who’s seen your pet.  Who else knows your pet better? Have a frank talk with him/her about paying for possible future emergency care. Many clinics offer senior discounts. Some have funds, often donated, to help pet owners in need, notably, the Velvet Assistance Fund at DoveLewis Animal Hospital in Portland, and many other similar programs. 

An online search for “veterinary care assistance” turned up many rays of financial hope. Narrow your search by including your city. You’ll see a large number of organizations with financial assistance programs, from national organizations like the Humane Society of the United States to local clinics.  

Of course not everyone has a computer. If you know someone on a limited budget with a pet but no access to the Internet, offer to help. 

Don’t wait until your pet needs emergency care. Virtually all assistance programs require an application, including proof of income. Some require that your pet’s veterinarian send an application. Find programs for which you qualify, just in case. Be an advocate for your pet by being ready for whatever may come.           

Good to Know

Animal Emergency Care Fund:

Banfield Pet Hospital: 

Cat Adoption Team:

DoveLewis Animal Hospital:

Friends Involved in Dog Outreach (F.I.D.O.):

The Humane Society of the United States:

The Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank:

Portland Animal Welfare:



Blaine Holland lives with her husband, Jack Shupe, in Troutdale with 1 dog and four cats. She says at MCAS she found what she was meant to do: join the dedicated people working to save animals, and write about it.