Then there’s vet care. You’ll have taken into account getting them set up with a microchip and getting them neutered. Then all their routine preventative care like the cost of vaccinations, worming and de-fleaing.
But it’s a lot harder to budget for the unforeseen – those unexpected vet trips that can send the cost of owning a cat or dog skyward.
Pet insurance can really help here. It’s designed to help you pay for those big unexpected vet bills – but more on that later.
What is the cost of a vet check-up?
Veterinary care is becoming more expensive. There are more sophisticated medicines and treatments becoming available all the time, but with advanced care comes higher prices.
But let’s start with the basic cost of a consultation with your usual vet. Most vets will charge the same to see a cat or a dog and appointments last around 15 minutes.
In November 2023 we surveyed 73 vets all around the country. The average cost in the UK of a vet consultation stands at £53.82.
There’s massive variation nationwide. The cheapest price we found for a vet consultation was £26.28 at a practice in North Wales and the most expensive was £69 in North London.
Some vets charge a little less for the second consultation for the same condition, but the difference was modest. Of the vets that gave a reduced price for subsequent conditions, the average price was £48.46, so that’s an average of just over £5 discount for subsequent appointments on average.
The cost of a vet consultation varies around the country. They’re cheapest in the North, with an average cost of £49.50.
The most expensive part of the country to get a vet consultation is London, with an average cost of £57.58.
|Cost of first consultation
How much does a vet visit cost for a dog?
The basic consultation cost is almost always the same for dogs and cats, but treatment tends to be more expensive for a dog.
It’s because they’re usually larger than cats. The larger your dog is, the more their treatment is likely to cost. It’s surprising how expensive things like pain medication can be for the quantities needed by a 40kg+ dog.
When you consider that even for something mundane like a small wound or ear infection your pet might need an initial appointment then two check ups, that puts the basic price at around £150, before you’ve even taken medication into account.
Then there’s dental care – dental illnesses aren’t covered by most pet insurance policies, although our Complete policy covers dental accidents and illnesses.
Routine maintenance of your pet’s teeth won’t be covered by pet insurance though and a scale and polish is likely to be around £500 for a dog.
How much does a vet visit cost for a cat?
Again, you need to start with the basic consultation cost. Treatment and medication will be added on top.
A common problem like a urinary infection in cats might be run of the mill, but again, it’ll most likely need several vet consultations to treat the problem and check it’s cleared up. So that could be around £200 for three vet trips and medication, up to many thousands of pounds if your cat is injured by a car and needs multiple surgeries for example.
If you take out pet insurance before any cat-astrophes, you’ll have help paying for consultations, medication and surgeries.
But preventative care like dental cleaning won’t be covered by pet insurance and that’s around £300 for cats.
The cost of treating accidents and injuries
Just like us, most pets don’t get through life without a trip or two to A&E. But there’s no NHS for pets and the cost of emergency treatment for pets is usually higher.
During standard practice hours, some vets will charge extra for an urgent appointment, usually around £100-£200.
If your pet’s unlucky enough to be injured at night or during the weekend, out of hours vets are even more expensive. You should expect to pay at least £200-£300 for the consultation before any medication or care is added on top. Here are the latest out of hours vet costs in the UK.
It's difficult to put a cost estimate next to any specific cause of an injury since each situation is different. Some dogs who are hit by cars walk away with just a scrape and a scare while others suffer life-threatening trauma. Instead, it's more informative to describe a type of injury and its associated costs.
The extent of treatment can affect costs significantly. If your pet needs x-rays or other scans, that can be from around £300 upwards. If you have a larger pet or more x-rays are needed, the cost could be double or triple that. On the other hand, cleaning and dressing a minor wound is likely to just be the cost of your consultation, plus a bandage and pain medication.
One of the more costly situations is a pet in critical condition. If your cat or dog needs to be stabilised, sedated and resuscitated by a team of veterinary professionals, these lifesaving efforts can exceed £1,000, especially if they need a stay in a veterinary hospital.
To give you an idea of some treatment costs, these are the average pet insurance claims costs we saw in the 12 months up to November 2023 for a few of the most common types of accidents and injuries:
Road accident: £1,195.69
Fracture (broken bone): £921.62
Foreign body: £803.27
Intoxication (poisoning): £359.95
Claw injury: £203.65
The cost of treating poisoning
Poisoning is one of the most common reasons we get for pet insurance claims, especially in puppies.
Most pets will escape with having vomiting induced, charcoal treatment and perhaps monitoring overnight at the vets. Unfortunately even that can cost several hundred pounds, with over £100 added for each additional night in the veterinary hospital.
These are the average claim costs for some common types of poisoning for dogs:
For cats, lilies are the most common source of poisoning, with an average claim costing £909.13.
The cost to treat illnesses
With illnesses, it’s not always obvious what the cause is, which is why the improvements in veterinary diagnosis are such great news.
The cost of blood tests for cats and dogs will usually start at around £100 for in-house testing, but will be a lot higher if the samples need to be sent off to a lab. Advanced diagnostic tools like MRI imaging can be closer to £1,500-£2500.
Whether the illness is acute, needing only immediate treatment, or chronic, where it might need checks and medications for the rest of the animal’s life makes a huge difference to the overall treatment cost.
These are the average claims we saw for some of the most common cat and dog illnesses in the year up to November 2023:
Urinary disorder (e.g. UTI): £353.67
Glandular disorder: £198.91
Pancreatic disorders (e.g. pancreatitis): £487.07
Common reasons for dog vet visits
We’ve looked at our pet insurance claims data to find out the most common reasons that dogs visit the vets.
According to our claims history, these are the top three reasons for dogs to visit the vet:
It does vary with age though. For example, puppies are much more accident prone than older dogs.
Find out more about the costs of the most common vet visits for dogs.
Common reasons for cat vet visits
According to our data, these are the three most common reasons for cats to visit the vet:
Urinary system disorders (e.g. UTIs)
The cost of treating cancer in dogs
Cancer is a common problem seen in dogs as they age, but even puppies can be affected.
Fortunately, cancer treatment in pets has become increasingly sophisticated. Many diagnoses that were previously terminal can now be treated with combinations of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation just as they are in humans.
Veterinary oncologists specialise in the treatment of cancer in pets. The goal is always good quality of life, so treatments are not as aggressive as for humans.
Nevertheless, cancer care for dogs can come at a pretty high cost and without pet insurance pet parents might be forced to make the sad decision to euthanise their pet.
The average pet insurance claim for cancer in dogs is £584.10, but the cost of treating any individual dog could vary a lot from this.
They may need prolonged treatment with many appointments to get them back to full health, with the cost running to thousands of pounds. Advanced imaging and chemotherapy or radiation with an oncologist could easily reach £5,000-£10,000.
On the other hand, some dogs will sadly not be treatable and their treatment costs may just be pain relief and euthanasia.
How pet insurance can help cover vet bills
Most costs of veterinary care are unpredictable, which makes them difficult to budget for.
That’s where pet insurance comes in – you’ll pay your premium and once your cover starts you’ll have a set amount to help pay for vet fees, without having to save up first.
As we’ve seen, vet treatments can cost more than you might expect, so consider a policy with a high vet fee limit and comprehensive cover like our Complete policy. It has a vet fee limit of up to £15,000 that refreshes every year, as well as cover for complementary therapies, behavioural problems and dental insurance.