It’s a sad reality that many people avoid medical care and treatments because they can’t afford insurance — or a trip to the doctor. The devastating truth is that the same can be said for our pets. We love our pets, they are our family. But unexpected expenses do happen, and we can’t plan for them if we don’t have any idea what we are getting into. It can be hard trying to figure out how much owning a dog actually costs.
Vet-related expenses truly do range on a lot of factors (we’ll get into that a bit later) but there’s a guideline of what you can expect depending on your pet’s needs. For example, according to Rover, 81% of pet parents spend up to $500 on vet visits in the first year of having a puppy. It’s important to keep that in mind when bringing a new pet into your home. It’s more than just weewee pads and a cute food bowl! The report broke down the average wellness visit costs.
These estimates, compiled by Rover, offer a general average for common healthy vet visits for dogs. Cat/small dog costs tend to be similar, so cat owners can look at the lower end of the bracket.
Puppy vaccinations: $75-100
Flea & tick prevention: $40-200
Heartworm prevention: $24-120
Spay or neuter surgery: $200-800
Annual exam: $240-600
Teeth cleaning: $200-500
Access $3,000 for a pet emergency.
These estimates, compiled by Emergency Vets USA, offer a general average for common emergency care needs for cats and dogs:
General consultation/exam: $100-$150
General bloodwork: $80-200
1-2 day hospitalization: $600-$1,700
3-5 day hospitalization: $1,500-$3,500
Wound treatment & repair: $800-$1,500
Emergency surgery: $800-$2,500
Oxygen therapy: $500
Healthy Paws Pet Insurance’s most recent Cost of Pet Health Care Report, also outlines the true cost of caring for a pet – including case studies of pet injuries and illnesses and their associated veterinary cost. According to the report, an emergency vet visit can range anywhere from $250 to $8,000. That’s a pretty big range! And, 40% of Americans don’t have $400 in emergency funds, meaning that emergency can end up being particularly devastating.
Many factors play a role in determining the cost of a veterinary visit—most obviously, exactly what’s being done. “A major surgery performed under emergency conditions will cost more than a routine visit for preventative care, but there’s a lot more to it than that,” says Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, who serves on the advisory board for Pet Life Today.
Let’s take the cost of puppy vaccines, for example. “There are core (mandatory) vaccines, like Rabies and DA2PP (distemper combination), and non-core vaccines like Bordetella (kennel cough), Leptospira and Lyme which only some owners will pursue for their dogs,” says Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, Veterinary Medical Advisor for Rover.
Although core vaccines are required for all puppies, many optional vaccines will be recommended by vets based on a pup’s lifestyle and exposure risk. “The added cost of maintaining this extra immunity is minuscule if you consider the cost of treating the illnesses these vaccines are meant to protect against,” says Dr. Greenstein. If you’re planning on having your mini golden doodle groomed, is an example Dr. Greenstein suggested, you would most certainly want to keep him or her protected against kennel cough. So yes, there’s an added expense, but it’s small in the grand scheme of things.
Don't guess. Get a vet's opinion.
Different breeds and sizes and ages of dogs will have different health concerns and needs, just as with people.
“The amount a dog owner may spend will also depend on the breed and size of their pup, any underlying medical concerns they have, and how often an owner will seek out preventative routine care or if an owner prefers to wait to take their pet to the vet only when they’re not feeling well,” says Dr. Greenstein, who shared that professionals call that ‘fire engine medicine.” A reactive approach to pet health, says Dr. Greenstein "can get quite expensive… It’s always better to prevent problems than treat them after the fact.”
The costs of running a veterinary practice in, say, San Francisco or New York City are going to be much higher than those in more rural areas. “Rent, salaries, property taxes, property insurance, and other expenses will all be higher in certain locations and those costs have to be passed on to clients if the veterinary practice is to remain in business,” says Dr. Coates.
Specialty practices tend to be more expensive than do general practices. “More advanced (and often more expensive) procedures are available, but specialty practices also can’t use the profits earned from routine care to partially offset the costs of expensive equipment, medications, etc.,” says Dr. Coates.
Talk to a vet 24/7. Get $3,000 in an emergency.
Any veterinary practice should be able to provide you with an estimate for a basic office visit that includes a physical examination. “After talking to you and performing a physical, the veterinarian will have a better idea of what else might need to be done and can provide you with options,” says Dr. Coates. Often, there will be several ways to approach a pet’s care at different price points, and the doctor can explain the pros and cons of each approach to you.
Much like choosing a pediatrician, choosing a vet is as deeply personal as it is important. They are caring for your family! “To ensure that you can provide your pets with the veterinary care they need, routinely set money aside in a dedicated savings account or purchase a pet insurance policy from a reputable company,” says Dr. Coates.
Chatting with an online vet may help you avoid unnecessary vet visits (and their accompanying expenses). Some issues may be resolved at home. If you're ever unsure if you pet is having an emergency, speak with a vet to get immediate advice on what the best next steps should be.