As you may know, I firmly advocate a financial strategy of hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. In the case of pets, the worst often means expensive surgery, or the costs of keeping a pet comfortable as they age. Pet care can be very costly, especially if you choose more aggressive treatments for some problems. It is hard enough to make the right decision for your pet and your family. The last thing you need is to be worrying about the cost and how you will pay for it.
In my hyper-organized, strict budget days, we had a separate account for pet costs. Because our pets have always been very healthy, it wasn't much - maybe $20 a month to pay for yearly exams and immunizations at the base vet. As our disposable income has increased, I haven't kept a separate fund because we are able to pay nearly any vet bill out of our income.
This evening, we took our 16 year old cat to the vet because he clearly was not feeling well. We knew that his body has been aging rapidly and we were a bit anxious about what the vet might say. She did have some concerns and suggested a few tests. She asked if we wanted to know about the costs before we made a decision. I was so glad that cost did not have to be part of our decision-making process. It is hard enough balancing between good care, aggressive treatments, and comforting measures. Throwing financial concerns into the mix is a recipe for even more distress.
How much money you might need for pet care depends on a wide variety of factors, including the kind of pets, the age and health of your pets, your access to free or discounted veterinary services via the military or other sources, and your thoughts on more expensive treatments for certain illnesses. However, knowing that you can fund whatever your brain and heart suggest will make a difficult time a little easier. Try to figure out a way to put a little money aside for this purpose so that you'll have less stress when the need arises.