If your furry friend has ever needed to visit the veterinarian, you probably know firsthand just how expensive a trip to the vet can be. Emergency vet visits can cost even more, especially if your pet experiences a traumatic accident and needs surgery. Knowing what you can expect to pay for veterinary care and emergency care can help you create a comprehensive emergency fund or choose another option for covering vet bills — like pet insurance coverage.
Average Vet Visit Costs
The veterinary industry is a multibillion dollar a year industry — but unfortunately, the cost of vet care is often one of the last household protections pet owners add to their list of priorities. Taking action and planning ahead now can potentially save you from having to go thousands of dollars into debt if your pet is involved in an accident.
The price of scheduled vet visits varies around the country. As a general rule, you can expect to pay between $45 to $60 depending on where you live. However, this fee only includes the cost of your appointment — depending on the type of treatment your pet needs, you could end up paying significantly more. Let’s take a look at the price ranges for some of the most common injuries, illnesses and preventive care seen in cats and dogs.
- Puppy vaccinations: $75-$100
- Flea and tick prevention: $40-$200
- Heartworm prevention: $24-$120
- Spay or neuter surgery: $200-$800
- Teeth cleaning: $200-$500
- Microchipping: $40
- Geriatric screenings: $85-$110
- Fecal exams: $25-$45
- Cancer diagnosis: $1,500
- Cancer treatment: $200-$6,000
The price you’ll pay for your trip to the vet will vary depending on a range of factors, including the following.
- Location: Veterinary care in major cities tends to be more expensive, as is the case with most health-related services. If you live in New York City or Los Angeles, you’ll pay more for veterinary care than if you live in a more rural area.
- Your pet’s temperament: If your pet is calm and relaxed during a vet visit, the veterinarian doesn’t need to waste time performing routine exams and screenings. This results in the lowest cost per visit. On the other hand, if your pet is agitated or if the vet needs to muzzle your animal, the visit can take longer and cost more.
- Whether you need routine or emergency care: If your pet needs emergency care, you’ll likely end up paying more for services you receive. Emergency care needs tend to be more intensive than scheduled surgeries, which increases the cost you’ll pay. Emergency care facilities are open around-the-clock, which means that they need to employ a larger staff to handle all care needs 24/7. This also increases the price the facility needs to charge per patient.
- Any additional tests and screenings the vet thinks your pet needs: If your pet requires an X-ray or other diagnostic test before the vet begins treatment, you’ll pay more for your visit.
Average Emergency Vet Costs
Emergency vet care costs will be higher than scheduled visits. This is because these types of clinics must be open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, which increases the number of staff members the clinic needs to employ. Some clinics only provide emergency services and are set up specifically to help pet owners who need care during nonstandard hours.
You can expect to pay up to $150 for an emergency vet visit — and this fee only includes the initial visit. You’ll pay more depending on the specific services you need. Let’s take a look at a few examples of what you might pay for some of the most common emergency care needs.
- General bloodwork: $80-$200
- X-rays: $150-$250
- Ultrasound: $300-$600
- 1- to 2-day hospitalization: $600-$1,700
- Wound treatment and repair: $800-$1,500
- Emergency surgery: $800-$2,500
- Oxygen therapy: $500
As you can see, even minor emergency veterinary care can quickly put a strain on your budget. This is one of the many reasons why you should start planning ahead to limit your vet expenses now — before you need to seek treatment.
How to Defray Vet Costs
If you don’t have thousands of dollars in savings to cover a vet care emergency, there are a few steps that you can take to limit the total price you’ll pay for any vet care you seek. The best option to lower your vet care costs is to sign up for a pet insurance policy. Pet insurance works in largely the same way as other types of insurance like car insurance or homeowners insurance. When your pet needs care, you’ll go to the veterinarian and receive care. You’ll then pay for the care that you receive at the time of service and keep your receipt.
You’ll submit proof of payment to your insurance company, which will reimburse you according to the terms of your policy. Average reimbursement rates for pet insurance policies range from 50% to 100% of the price you pay. For example, if you have a plan with a 70% reimbursement rate and you spend $1,000 at the vet, your pet insurance company will reimburse you $700 of the $1,000 you spent.
Most pet insurance plans also come with a deductible, which is a set dollar amount you must pay for your pet’s care needs before your insurance kicks in and starts paying for care. When you sign up for a pet insurance policy, you might have the option to pay less per month in premiums in exchange for taking a plan with a higher deductible. If you are presented with this choice, be sure to pick a plan with a deductible that you can comfortably afford.
You can also save money on vet bills by signing up with a service like Pawp. Pawp is a unique membership plan that provides you with access to a single-use $1,000 emergency fund you can use each year if your pet needs emergency care and is in critical condition. Pawp also allows you to connect with licensed, experienced veterinarians online at any time of day or night to ask for advice via video chat. This can potentially save you the cost of a vet visit.
You also may want to consider receiving care from a veterinarian who provides telehealth services. Telehealth options for vet care are becoming more popular and can be more affordable than in-person visits. These veterinarians can also advise you when your pet needs to be diagnosed or treated in person, and they can help you connect with an emergency clinic in these cases.
Keeping Vet Costs Under Control
If you’re thinking about investing in a pet insurance plan to help keep your vet care costs under control, be sure to read the fine print on your policy before you sign on the dotted line. Every pet insurance policy comes with exclusions, and no pet insurance option will provide coverage for every type of care that your pet could receive. Most pet insurance plans also include lifetime or annual maximum benefits, which limits the total amount of money that the insurance will pay out for your pet’s veterinary needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the emergency vet more expensive?
In most cases, yes. Emergency vet clinics must be open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. These clinics are also open on holidays, which increases the staffing expenses of the clinic. This forces the clinic to increase prices on most treatments and services.
How much does a vet visit typically cost?
The price you’ll pay for a standard vet visit may vary depending on where you live. As a general estimate, you can expect to pay between $45 and $60 per vet visit.
About Sarah Horvath
Sarah is an expert in the insurance, investing for retirement and cryptocurrency space.