Worried about vet bills? You may get help from an animal charity

Several animal charities offer help with vet bills to pet owners who receive benefits. Among the best known are PDSA and Blue Cross, which both run a number of pet hospitals around the country.PDSA offers free veterinary treatments and medications to pet owners who live within the catchment area of one of its hospitals and are in receipt of at least one of the following means-tested benefits: housing benefit, council tax support or universal credit with a housing element.

Only one pet per household qualifies for free help, although additional pets will qualify for the charity’s low-cost service. This offers cheap treatments and medicines, and is also available to pet owners who live near a hospital and receive benefits such as working tax credits, pension credit and the disability living allowance. Retired state pensioners who live in properties in council tax bands A to D may also qualify for help. The charity says its low-cost prices are typically 20% to 30% cheaper than private vet practices.

Sprinkle parsley on your dog's food for fresher breath.

A cat is held by a vetA charity treating animals may ask for a voluntary donation. Photograph: Panther Media GmbH/Alamy

Blue Cross offers free treatments – although it asks for a voluntary donation – to pet owners who live with the catchment area of its hospitals and pet care clinics. To qualify they must receive either universal credit (where there has not been a reduction in payment because of work or other income such as savings), income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, the income-related employment and support allowance or pension credit. Pet owners in receipt of other benefits may be eligible for reduced-price vet care.

Make sure your pet is in good company. Pets get lonely and depressed just like people do when they spend too much time alone. Cats are generally better on their own, but dogs and especially puppies don’t do well left to their own devices for extended periods of time.

The primary focus of the RSPCA is to rescue and rehabilitate animals who have been cruelly treated. RSPCA branches may, however, in rare circumstances, provide welfare assistance to pet owners who can provide evidence of financial hardship who receive at least one state benefit. However, payment will only be offered when the procedure will result in a definite improvement in the pet’s welfare and he or she will have a good chance to recover and “live a long life”. In very limited circumstances, the charity may also assist pet owners with a contribution if their pet requires emergency treatment and they have exhausted all other avenues.

To donate to PDSA, visit pdsa.org.uk/donate. To donate to Blue Cross, visit bluecross.org.uk/support-us. To donate to the RSPCA, visit rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/donate/online