Pet Financing: Can I Get a Loan to Pay for Pet Expenses?

By Jamie Cattanach · March 19, 2024 · 8 minute read

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Pet Financing: Can I Get a Loan to Pay for Pet Expenses?

The joy our furry and feathered friends add to our lives is priceless. But pet ownership does come at a dollars-and-cents cost. From basics like adoption fees and food to expensive emergency veterinary care, being a pet parent can be, well, ruff on your bank account.

Pet loans are one way to pay for the expenses of having a pet, but it’s usually a good idea to consider alternatives before going into debt.

Read on to learn about how pet loans may be able to help you meet the financial demands of pet ownership and what other options are available.

What Is Pet Financing?

Pet financing refers, essentially, to taking out a personal loan to pay for the cost of owning a pet. While some banks may market the loans specifically as pet loans, they work the same way.

A personal loan is unsecured debt, which means the bank doesn’t have any collateral to turn to in the event the loan is not repaid. This means that personal loans, including pet loans, may have stricter eligibility requirements and higher interest rates.

💡 Quick Tip: Before choosing a personal loan, ask about the lender’s fees: origination, prepayment, late fees, etc. SoFi personal loans come with no-fee options, and no surprises.

Cost of Owning a Pet

While the specifics will depend on what kind of pet you own — a fish costs a lot less to feed and care for than a Great Dane — all types of pet ownership come with some costs involved. Here are some of the common expenses you may encounter:

•   Purchase or adoption fees, which can vary significantly. Buying a purebred puppy could cost thousands of dollars, while an adoption fee might be a nominal $25 for a cat at the shelter.

•   Regular veterinary check-ups and vaccines, which pets need in order to be safe (and, in the case of the rabies vaccines in some U.S. states, legal to keep)

•   Food, which can run the gamut from cheap kibble to expensive raw or fresh foods

•   Supplies you need to keep your pet safe and happy, like food and water dishes, beds, crates, litter boxes and litter, collars and leashes, or treats.

•   Veterinary care or medical procedures that may cost far more than regular upkeep, like dental work or surgery to repair a broken bone

What Can I Use a Pet Loan For?

Because a pet loan is basically just a personal loan, you can use the money for pretty much anything you want. (If the bank you’re borrowing from is offering a pet loan specifically, you can check and ensure that there are no rules or restrictions around what the money can be used for.)

Here are some of the most common ways you might use the funds from a pet loan.

Pet Purchase Financing

If you’re purchasing a pricy purebred, or if the setup phase of pet ownership comes at a steep cost (i.e., if you’re getting into saltwater fish tanks), you might want to use the money from your pet loan to fund the purchase or adoption of your pet.

Pet ownership tends to be more expensive in the first year or so than in subsequent years, since new pets may often need to be spayed or neutered or have their first rounds of puppy or kitten shots. Using a pet loan to get into pet ownership may make sense if you know you’ll have the money to pay back the loan and afford continued care throughout the pet’s life.

Pet Health Care Financing

Just as with humans, health-care related costs for pets can be high. The average cost of routine vet care can be as much as $350 on average during the first year of pet ownership, and $250 per year after that.

That may not sound like much. But alongside other major expenses, like food — which can run as high as $500 or more per year on its own — vet bills can really add up, and may be a reason some owners choose to take out a pet loan.

Pet Surgery Financing

We all hope our four-legged friends never need major medical care, but when they do, it can be just as worrisome for our wallets as our hearts. For instance, even a routine surgery like a spay can cost up to $600 at a private veterinary practice. And if your dog needs a dental cleaning — which is done under anesthesia— the cost may jump tp $1,500 or higher

So using a pet loan to pay for a pet’s surgery can make a lot of sense, though there are still other alternatives to consider (which we’ll get into below).

Pet Care Financing

As anyone who has a dog or cat who can’t or won’t travel knows, pet care can be expensive, particularly if you’re paying for overnight pet-sitting for several days in a row.

Whether you’re boarding your kitty or pup or enlisting the help of a professional pet watcher, you might spend around $50 per night or more. This adds up quickly when you factor in other costs of travel. That’s why pet care might be another reason to take out a pet loan.

Pet Store Financing

For pet owners, a trip to the pet store can feel like being a kid in the candy shop. But most of the items you can purchase cost far more than a nickel or a quarter.

You could use a pet loan to purchase supplies from the pet store, such as feeding dishes, bedding, treats, and toys. (If you’re hoping to finance your own pet store, on the other hand, you’d probably want to look into a business loan.)

Can I Get Pet Financing With Bad Credit?

Like any type of financing, the better your credit, the easier it is to get a pet loan — especially since, again, it’s an unsecured form of debt and therefore riskier for the bank.

While many factors about your financial situation will be assessed, like your income, other current debts, and job stability, you’ll likely need a credit score of at least 610 or higher to qualify. And some banks may have a higher minimum credit score than that.

💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the larger the personal loan, the bigger the risk for the lender — and the higher the interest rate. So one way to lower your interest rate is to try downsizing your loan amount.

Reasons to Take Out a Pet Loan

From a financial stability perspective, it may be a good idea to avoid going into debt to take care of your pet, though in some cases, a pet loan may be the best option.

For example, if you need to take out a loan to afford a pet at all, it might be worth waiting until you’re in a stronger financial state before getting into pet ownership.

But if you already have a pet and are facing unexpected medical costs, taking out a pet loan may make more financial sense than, say, going into credit card debt for treatment. Still, a personal loan can impact your overall financial situation in a multitude of ways, so it’s worth considering all your options before making a plan.

Alternatives to Pet Loans

If you’re considering taking out a pet loan, here are some alternatives to put on the table before you sign the paperwork.

•   Pet insurance can help lower the overall cost of veterinary care from the start. However, like human insurance, you may need to be careful to work with a vet who’s in-network in order to glean any savings.

•   A veterinary payment plan may be available at your local clinic and may even offer 0% interest options based on your financial need. If you work with a private veterinary clinic, it’s worth asking if they have payment plans available, even if they don’t advertise them.

•   Veterinary schools and low-cost clinics may offer the same care at a lower cost, whether to help new veterinarians with their training or simply to provide options for lower-income pet owners in the community.

•   Savings can be a good option if you have an ample emergency cushion saved up, and may allow you to avoid going into debt. However, if your pet loan is at a low enough interest rate and you’re still working on building up an emergency savings fund, you might not want to break into it for Fido.

•   Credit cards are another option that allow you to pay off large bills over time, and some credit cards offer a promotional 0% interest period. That said, if you are unable to pay off the debt in full before the promotional period ends, you may be stuck with an APR of 20% or higher, and that kind of interest rate can make it even more challenging to get out of debt.

The Takeaway

A pet loan can help you finance some of the costs of pet ownership. But keep in mind it’s still a form of debt, so it’s worth carefully considering alternative options before you sign up.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.


Can I take out a loan for a dog?

If your credit history is strong enough, you may be able to take out a pet loan — a type of personal loan — to pay for the cost of adopting or purchasing a dog, or any of the costs associated with their care thereafter. However, if you can’t afford to own a dog out of pocket, you’ll want to think carefully about whether or not it’s a smart financial move.

What credit score do you need for pet financing?

While each bank has its own specific requirements around minimum credit scores, for most personal loans, including pet loans you won’t be able to qualify with a score lower than 610. (Of course, your credit score isn’t the only thing that matters. The bank will also look at your income, existing debts, job stability, and more.)

What do you do if you can’t afford to keep your pet?

There are many options available to those who’ve found they can’t afford to keep their pets. While turning your pet over to a humane shelter or otherwise rehoming them with a trustworthy family is one way to go, you may also be able to lower the cost of pet care by visiting low-cost veterinary clinics or taking out a pet loan.

Photo credit: iStock/AleksandarNakic

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