It's no secret that a trip to the vet can be expensive. It can be difficult to predict how much a vet visit will cost—and sometimes—it’s shocking when you see the bill. The sad reality is that many pet parents avoid vet visits for their pets because of the high cost of medical treatment.
People love their pets; they’re often regarded as family members and are treated as such. But unexpected vet expenses and fees happen, and it's impossible to begin to plan for them if you don’t have any idea what you're getting into.
It's important to first understand how much owning a dog or cat actually costs. In addition to expenses related to food and training, both regular and unexpected vet bills should be factored into the total cost of being a pet parent.
It can be difficult, though, because vet-related expenses range widely and are dependent on a variety of factors—demand, where you live, and even what type of pet you have—to name a new.
Nevertheless, having a ballpark estimate of how much the vet will cost you can be valuable when you're trying to budget for your pet's health.
The basics of vet prices
According to Rover, 81% of pet parents spend up to $500 on vet visits in the first year of having a puppy. Whether you have a puppy, adult dog, kitten, or cat, it's your responsibility to ensure that your pet has access to the care they need.
It’s easy to get intimidated when it comes to calculating how much the vet and their services will cost. Read on to learn more about the average cost of a wellness exam, sick pet visit, and emergency visit, and the different factors that can contribute to costs.
The average cost of vet visits
These estimates offer a general average for common vet visits for dogs. Cat and kitten costs tend to be similar, so pet parents with feline friends can look at the lower end of the bracket.
Initial vet exam and vaccinations: $320-480
Flea and tick prevention: $50-200
Heartworm prevention: $24-120
Spay or neuter surgery: $320-800
Annual exam: $70-100
Dental cleaning: $400-550
To get a more accurate price for vet services, you can reach out to your vet before you come in for a visit. These regular veterinarian visits are essential to keeping your pet happy and healthy and help provide your vet with a baseline for your pet. In the event that your dog or cat has a more complex medical issue, they’ll be able to start monitoring it as soon as it begins.
The reality is, pets can be good at hiding the fact that they're sick. Having regular veterinarian appointments will help ensure that nothing goes unnoticed.
The average cost of emergency vet visits
These estimates offer a general average for common emergency care needs for cats and dogs.
These are the average costs of emergency vet visits in the U.S:
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 and repair: $800-$1,500
Emergency surgery: $800-$2,500
Oxygen therapy: $500
According to a report by Money.com, the average cost of an emergency vet visit is between $800-$1,500, but costs can exceed $5,000 for more complex procedures. That’s a pretty big range!
Given that 40% of Americans don’t have $400 in emergency funds, these unexpected costs can be devastating. This is why some pet parents choose not to bring their animal to the emergency vet. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be fatal for a pet that needed urgent medical attention and wasn’t able to get it.
As much as we wish they could, pets are not able to tell us how they feel—they can only vocalize through barking and crying. That's why it can be tricky to figure out when you should bring your dog or cat to an emergency vet, especially knowing the bill can be massive.
At Pawp, you can reach out to online veterinarians 24/7. The cost is a flat monthly rate, and you will never need to wait in line or make an appointment. Pawp's VetPros will be able to advise if an emergency vet visit is necessary or if your pet can be monitored at home.
Factors that determine how much the vet costs
Many factors play a role in determining the cost of a veterinary visit. To start, the treatment your pet needs will largely influence the cost. A major surgery performed under emergency conditions will cost more than a routine visit for preventative care. But, there's still a lot more to it.
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), leptospirosis, and Lyme, which only some pet parents will pursue for their dogs.
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.
If you’re planning to board your dog, for example, you would most certainly want to keep him or her protected against kennel cough. So yes, there’s an added expense for that shot, but it’s small in the grand scheme of things. Preventative measures can be extremely helpful in ensuring that you do not rack up a gigantic vet bill later.
Your pet's age, size, and breed affect vet costs
Different breeds, sizes, and ages of dogs will have different health concerns and needs.
Costs will also depend on any underlying medical conditions the pet has and how often the pet parent seeks preventative routine care. Some only take their pet to the vet when they’re not feeling well—this is what professionals call "fire engine medicine". This reactive approach to pet health can get quite expensive. It’s always better to prevent problems than treat them after the fact.
Where you live also affects how much the vet costs
The costs of running a veterinary practice in 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.
The type of vet you visit will affect vet costs
Specialty practices tend to be more expensive than 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.
How to get the best vet prices and save money
Any veterinary practice should be able to provide you with an estimate for a basic office visit that includes a physical examination. Feel free to call around and compare a few different options. Much like choosing a pediatrician or family doctor, choosing a vet is as deeply personal as it is important. They are caring for your family!
Once you find a vet you like, after performing a physical exam, a veterinarian will have a better idea of what else might need to be done and can provide you with options. 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 treatment to you.
Build a budget
To ensure that you can provide your pets with the veterinary care they need, we recommend routinely setting money aside in a dedicated savings account. Pawp also offers a $3,000 safety net for an approved emergency vet bill.
Talk to a vet online
Over 60% of your pet’s issues can be solved from home, and Pawp provides pet telehealth visits whenever you need them. Our VetPros are available around the clock, so whenever you need guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out.
This can help pet parents avoid unnecessary vet visits and their accompanying expenses. If you're ever unsure if your pet is having an emergency, speak with a vet to get immediate advice on what the best next step should be.