In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the average cost of veterinary bills, so there are no surprises.
As a pet owner, it’s no secret that you’re constantly thinking about future veterinary costs. Therefore, it’s essential to factor in vet bills when working out your budget to provide the best care to your pet over the years. Although dog and cat ownership entails grooming toys, food, and other supplies, a vet visit is required at least once per year.
Furthermore, emergency visits to the veterinary clinic may crop up if your pet unexpectedly gets ill or injured, putting a strain on your budget. If you’re wondering how much a vet visit costs, the short answer is that it depends.
Although regular veterinary care typically costs up to $100, there’s no denying that some treatments and procedures can require you to shell out $1,000 and above. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about vet costs, so there are no surprises.
Types of standard visits to the vet
Once your cat or dog enters adulthood, these are the basic services that every pet owner can expect at a veterinary hospital.
Physical or wellness exams
These are your routine visits with a veterinary specialist and are usually preventive in nature. Although the cost ranges from $45 to $55, office calls vary widely based on your geographical location, the veterinary clinic, and veterinarian.
These are shots (such as a rabies vaccination) that a veterinarian administers after the initial dose to ensure the vaccine's efficacy. A companion animal such as a dog typically requires up to four annual boosters and the average cost of each at a veterinary practice is $18 to $25.
Heartworm preventative veterinary care
Heartworm tests check for heartworm disease, an adverse and potentially fatal condition triggered by parasitic worms. The blood testing for this ailment will set you back $45 to $50.
Performed to identify gastrointestinal parasites, the necessity of this test has skyrocketed in recent years. Fecal exams are done during your pet’s wellness exam and can cost anywhere between $25 and $45. A quick budget note: depending on your pet's medical condition and age, you may need to pay for additional veterinary care (like this test and others) at the annual vet visit.
If you’re a pet parent to an older companion of at least seven years, you’ll require paying for geriatric screening. A more detailed exam includes x-rays, complete blood work, and urinalysis and will set you back $85 to $110.
A pet’s teeth are cleaned when your vet notices gingivitis and bleeding during brushing. Dental cleaning is usually included as routine veterinary care once a year, costing anywhere between $70 and $400.
Like humans, dogs and cats are susceptible to allergies and will exhibit symptoms such as sneezing, licking, and itching. As a pet parent, if you suspect allergies in your furry companion, your veterinarian will recommend an allergy test. It can be conducted with blood testing or an intradermal skin test, after which veterinary medicine can be administered. Allergy testing usually costs $195 to $250, and blood tests range from $200 to $350.
Surgeries and other health issues
If your pet has to undergo emergency surgery or other health issues that call for emergency care, the cost can run into the thousands depending on the complication or emergency care.
Many of these pet health care services are covered by pet insurance. With pet health insurance:
You can afford costly treatments.
Medical interventions such as surgery, drug therapy, and chemotherapy range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars without insurance coverage. The absence of this type of financial assistance would make it an uphill battle to give pets the best health care and prolong their life.
You can customize your insurance coverage.
In contrast to the early days of pet insurance, you can now take your pick from a vast assortment of coinsurance and deductible amounts. Additionally, you can select from a comprehensive or accident-only pet insurance policy that includes dental care, treatment for injuries, and everything in between.
The average cost of preventative vet visits
During a recommended bi-annual or annual preventative care vet visit, depending on your pet’s age, your pet will undergo a thorough physical exam in which your veterinarian will assess their gums, coat, teeth, vision, skin, hearing, muscle, respiration, coat, and heart function.
The average cost of a wellness exam is $45 to $60 and includes routine vaccinations and vaccine boosters. Dog ownership includes taking your pet to get the recommended vaccines such as rabies, parvovirus, hepatitis, and distemper. If you’re a pet parent to a cat, then the recommended vaccinations range from panleukopenia, feline leukemia, herpesvirus, and rabies to calicivirus.
The average cost of emergency surgeries
Unplanned events such as unexpected ailments, accidents, and injuries can spike the average cost. For instance, upon learning that your cat has diabetes, a proper diagnosis by a reputable veterinary hospital might cost you up to $300.
The total healthcare cost for a pet with diabetes varies based on the age of the cat and their lifespan. Although insulin management and the monitoring of your pet’s glucose levels can be done at home, a pet owner will have to pay more visits to the vet for other ailments, emergency care, or the interpretation of at-home glucose tests as necessary. Similarly, if your dog has heartworms after a test is conducted, then treatment at the emergency department can cost anywhere between $400 and $1,000.
Treatment at the emergency room can vary greatly, depending on the circumstances. It depends on the emergency surgery that the vet has to perform for treatment. If the ailment is unknown, the vet will have to do blood work and diagnostics, possibly screening, to determine the root cause of the issue, after which they can conduct the necessary treatment. If surgery and hospitalization are required, that will skyrocket the total treatment costs. For this reason, we recommend an insurance plan in preparation for emergencies.
When your pet is suffering, it’s time for an emergency visit. Given that pets cannot speak, it may take longer to diagnose them, which is why a pet owner should consult a vet immediately.
Best ways to handle the cost of taking your pet to the vet
You love your pet, and while you want to save money, you don’t want them to get poor treatment. So let’s explore some tips to cut down on a vet bill without compromising on the quality of veterinary care your pet receives.
1. Pet insurance
Pet insurance is pretty similar to people insurance. You pay a premium each month (or once a year) to stay insured. However, when you bring your pet(s) to the vet and begin to use your coverage, it works a little differently.
Though you don’t have to worry about typical people insurance woes like networks and copays, you do have to pay the vet up front for any care you receive. You will be reimbursed after you pay and submit a claim, based on the terms of your policy.
To maximize your savings (and make sure your bank account remains untouched), we recommend paying for your care using a credit card with great rewards. Don’t worry, though — the waiting period for these claims is much shorter than you’d expect, around 5 to 7 days. So if you’re someone that likes to keep their credit balance as close to $0 as possible (something we recommend!), know that your pet insurance provider will offer a quick reimbursement turnaround.
But because of the reimbursement model, this means that any time you go to the vet and receive care with a pet insurance policy, you should always hold on to your receipts or paperwork you’re provided with. You never know when you’ll need to provide documentation!
Pet insurance plans vary, so it’s best to shop around and compare to find a plan that fits you (or, really, your pet).
2. Use a vet college
If there’s a veterinary college close by, you can find out their charges. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that vet colleges offer sizeable discounts compared to a veterinary hospital or clinic due to students looking to gain hands-on experience.
A student will attend to your pet under the strict supervision of an experienced and licensed veterinarian. To find an accredited veterinary college, you can check out the list published by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
3. Make use of specials
If you’re on the hunt for a new vet, inquire if they offer multi-pet or new patient discounts. If you’ve found a vet you’re happy with, find out if they run specials on preventative care services such as dental cleaning.
4. Look out for pop-up clinics
A wealth of organizations such as ASPCA and Humane Society offer neuter or spay and vaccination events throughout the year. However, if they don’t have anything lined up at the time, they may refer you to organizations that do.
5. Shop around for services
Costs can vary significantly from one vet to another. If you’re seeking a new vet, reach out to various offices to inquire about their fees for basic pet care or specific services that you use frequently.
No matter the age, breed, size, or level of fluff your pet is, you want what’s best — making it all the more important to budget in the cost of their care. Health costs (for people and pets!) are rising, so keep these average figures in mind to avoid any big surprises. And in the meantime, check out pet insurance quotes to see how much you could save on all your vet bills — and leave more cash for treats, toys, and quality time with your furry family member.