It costs a lot more to see a vet out of hours than it does during the day.
You need to know where to go for help – and how to pay for treatment – before a crisis hits.
We’ve surveyed out-of-hours vets around the country to find out what sort of services are available and how much you’re likely to pay for an emergency vet visit where you live.
You get unlimited free video calls to a qualified vet with your ManyPets pet insurance. It could save you a lot of money and stress by helping you decide whether you need to see a vet right away or if you can wait until your regular practice is open.
How to find an emergency vet
In case of a pet emergency, first call your regular vet.
The Royal College for Veterinary Surgeons says that all surgeries must take steps to provide 24 hour emergency care to their customers. In practice, this doesn’t mean every surgery stays open 24/7 – in fact few do.
What it usually means is that most vets keep some appointment time free each day during their opening hours so they can prioritise any emergencies that come in. Then when they’re closed overnight or at weekends they'll either:
Run a skeletal staff on a rota overnight at the practice
Have a vet working on-call
Direct you to a separate 24-hour or out-of hours vet practice
If you phone your vet out of hours, there should be an answerphone message telling you how see an emergency vet near you immediately.
Emergency vet costs around the UK
In June 2022 we surveyed 155 emergency vets around the UK to find out the cost of an out-of-hours consultation.
Our research found that the average cost of an emergency vet appointment in the UK is now £200.
This is for the basic consultation cost to see a vet during the night. You’ll need to pay for any treatment needed on top of the out-of-hours consultation cost.
Some out-of-hours vet services had different rates based on bank holidays or weekends, so for consistency we used the night time cost.
Where the consultation fee varied at different times of night – for example one rate from 6pm-midnight and another from midnight-9am – we worked out the median cost.
The cost varies depending on where you live and surprisingly the cheapest place in the UK to get an emergency appointment for your pet was London.
|Area||Average out of hours vet cost|
|East of England||£193.96|
The reason for these unexpected regional prices is because out of hours vet care in the UK is dominated by a single specialist chain called Vets Now. They provide out of hours cover for over 1,400 daytime vets around the country.
Some regions have much heavier coverage of Vets Now practices than others and that skews the average price by area considerably.
Vets Now out of hours prices
We found out prices for a basic consultation at 58 of Vets Now’s 61 clinics, all across the country. These prices varied between £189 and £289.50, with no major regional differences.
The average consultation cost at Vets Now was £261.69. It’s 60% higher than the £163.74 average emergency consultation fee at all other vet practices.
Some Vets Now clinics have their own premises while others operate from a local vet practice while they’re closed. They also have three 24-hour emergency hospitals. All have a dedicated emergency staff that specialise in out of hours emergency care.
Running dedicated emergency teams at antisocial hours comes at a cost. Almost all the out of hours services we investigated cost significantly more than standard veterinary appointments, but Vets Now was usually one of the most expensive providers in each region.
Here’s a comparison of Vets Now emergency consultation costs versus the cost of other out of hour vet providers where you live:
|Area||Non-Vets Now average emergency consultation cost||Vets Now average consultation cost|
|East of England||£160.44||£266.58|
By taking Vets Now out of the equation, areas with cheaper cost of living like Northern Ireland and the North East are the cheapest for emergency vet care. Wales and Scotland, which have fewer emergency vets spread out over wider geographical areas, are the most expensive.
Why is Vets Now more expensive?
Vets Now explains its fees are high because their staff only work nights, weekends and bank holidays, making it impossible for them to subsidise their costs from the volume of pets a vet surgery would normally see during the day.
They stay open whether they see two or 10 pets during a shift.
While most out-of-hours vet centres offer a good basic level of emergency services, Vets Now says they provide the full range of care that could be found in a vet clinic during normal hours, but round-the-clock. It also says they have "the latest, state-of-the-art equipment" in their hospitals."
Who else provides emergency vet care?
Vets Now isn't the only emergency vet. Out of hours treatment in your area might be covered by one these smaller chains of emergency vet providers.
MiNightVet offer out of hours care for groups of vets in a ‘catchment area’ and usually operate out of one of these partnered practices.
They have 29 clinics around the country and we surveyed 12 of them in our research. The average cost of an emergency consultation with MiNightVet is £143.66.
Fee structures usually vary at different times of day or night.
MediVet is a huge vet group with around 350 practices that mostly operate in normal working hours, but it also has 24 24-hour sites that deal with emergencies.
Eight of them were in our cost survey and the average cost of an out of hours consultation with MediVet was £159.48.
Vets4Pets is another huge veterinary group. Most of its practices are based in Pets At Home Stores and operate during shop opening times but it also has a few 24-hour hospitals around the country.
Seven of them were included in our survey and the average cost for a Vets4Pets out of hours consultation was £127.21.
In fact, three of their practices, Leeds (£60), Romford (£66) and West Bromwich (£70) were the cheapest in our nationwide survey.
Animal Trust has 11 practices across North Wales and North West England providing ‘at cost’ vet care. You don’t need to be on benefits or low income to use them.
Only three Animal Trust practices have 24-hour service, based in Bolton, Ellesmere Port and Shrewsbury. The consultation fee is a competitive £59 before 11pm and £129 after that time, but there’s an extra cost for non-registered clients.
Why are emergency vets more expensive?
We didn’t find any out of hours vets that didn’t charge extra for an emergency consultation during anti-social hours.
It’s just more expensive to run a night vets because of higher staffing costs, plus the fact that every case that comes in is likely to be urgent. And, as Vets Now points out, consultation costs aren't balanced out by quick, routine complaints as they would be during daylight hours.
Can I go to any out of hours vet?
You don’t want to be be running around trying to find an out of hours vet in an emergency.
That’s why all daytime vets have an emergency provision in place for their clients – once you’re registered with them for daytime appointments you‘ll also be expected to use their night time service, whether that’s their own out-of-hours clinic, or a nearby provider like Vets Now, MiNightVet or another local vet.
That means the emergency vet you go to is usually decided by your choice of regular vet.
There are exceptions to this. Vets Now will generally see any patient, which is one thing that pushes costs up with them. MiNightVet generally don’t – you need to be signed up to one of their affiliated daytime practices.
Some vets that run 24 hour practices will see patients that aren’t on their books but will charge an extra fee for this to cover the extra costs this incurs.
Sometimes you’ll be rerouted to a different out-of-hours vet because the one your vet’s signed up to is just too far away under the circumstances.
That happened to Daniel, a mechanic in South Wales.
“At about 10pm, I noticed my 13 year old cat, Major Tom, was panting. I immediately called my usual out of hours vet. They’re about 25 miles away in Cardiff but we get sent there as that’s just who our regular vet is signed up with.
“When I described the symptoms they told me not to bring him there but to immediately call a different vet on the edge of my nearest town and head there instead.
“As they weren’t my regular vet they charged an extra fee that their daytime clients don’t pay, in addition to the out of hours consultation fee. But they saw Major Tom immediately and fought to save him. Sadly he was having a heart attack and despite all their efforts he didn’t make it.
“At the time, we were devastated and never even thought about the costs, especially as our pet insurance covered it, although the extra fee did push the price up.
“You need to consider emergencies when you choose your vet. Be careful of going with a vet where the out of hours is miles and miles away or where the charges you need to pay up-front are unaffordable for you.”
How to pay for an emergency vet trip
Cost shouldn’t be something you have to worry about when you’re faced with an emergency with your cat of dog, but for many of us, it does matter.
If you’re sent to an emergency vet that isn’t your usual practice, many will ask that you make a payment up-front.
That means you’ll need to have access to probably a few hundred pounds to pay the consultation fee and possibly some initial treatment, even if it can later be reimbursed by your pet insurance.
It’s a good idea to make sure you have instant access to a cash fund or a credit card that you could use to pay the initial costs of emergency vet treatment if you need it.
Does pet insurance cover out of hours treatment?
Pet insurance usually covers emergency vet visits. But some providers will place a limit on the amount they’ll pay for emergency appointments and some will have clauses around only paying in a life-threatening situation.
ManyPets pet insurance covers any necessary out of hours treatment but won’t cover out-of-hours fees if your vet advises that your pet can wait until business hours without undue risk.
if you’re unsure whether your pet need emergency treatment or will be comfortable waiting until morning, you can make a free video call to a qualified vet for more help on what to do next.
Top tips to cut the cost of emergency vet care
Don’t wait for a crisis to find out where your pet will be treated in an emergency and how much it’ll cost.
Follow these steps to make sure you've got an emergency care plan in place for them in advance.
This should be your biggest consideration, not cost. When you choose your daytime vet, always ask about their emergency provision. Is it in the same practice or somewhere else? If so, how far away is it?
This is especially important if you don’t drive. You could be really stuck if your regular practice sends out of hours patients to the next town. A midnight taxi ride with a supplement for your dog will really push up the cost – and pet insurance won't cover that.
Check for alternatives
If your vet’s out-of-hours care is with an external provider miles away, but you’re still keen to register with them for other reasons, it might not be a deal breaker.
Is there an independent out-of-hours vet you can use that’s closer? If so, ask if they take unregistered clients and what the extra costs of that are.
Choose opening hours that suit you
Each daytime vet sets their own opening hours.
If you work full time and you’re mostly free evenings and weekends for vet visits, you could potentially avoid some out-of-hours fees by finding a vet whose regular opening hours are up to 7pm or include the weekend.
Be prepared to pay...
Even if you have pet insurance, you often need to pay the initial cost of emergency treatment, then get it reimbursed.
Make sure you’ve got access to funds. If you’ve got a decent credit rating a credit card can be useful as there will be around a month’s grace period where you don’t pay interest. Hopefully long enough to be reimbursed by your insurer.
...Or find a vet that's open for emergencies 24 hours
If you think you'd struggle to pay up-front for emergency treatment, consider choosing a vet that deals with emergencies in-house, 24 hours a day.
If you're on their books and a regular client, they're more likely to be able to deal directly with your pet insurance provider without you having to pay as much for treatment up-front.
Read your pet insurance policy
Check for any terms and limits your insurer has around out of hours consultation fees.
Most providers shouldn’t expect you to be able to decide whether something is life-threatening or not, but there are often clauses to discourage you from seeking high cost treatment if your pet could comfortably wait until your regular vet opens.
Ask about ambulance fees
There’s often an extra cost to transport your pet between your regular vet and an out of hours hospital. That can sometimes come as a shock, especially if they need a few nights’ inpatient care.
You can always ask if you can take and collect your pet yourself if they don’t need special care during transportation. You might also feel better with them going in the car with you if they’re not a happy traveller.