How much does a vet visit cost?

April 12, 2024 - 8 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.

While the basic veterinary cost of pet ownership is at least several hundred dollars per year, any health problem can bust a family budget. Illnesses like cancer, serious injuries, and all the other conditions that can befall our pets can get very expensive very quickly.

pet insurance policy protects you against unplanned expenses* when the inevitable happens, but we'll get to that later.

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How much does the average vet visit cost?

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The costs of veterinary care vary across the country, just as other components of cost-of-living differ across regions. But overall, veterinary care is becoming more expensive as more—and more sophisticated—medicines and treatments become available.

Average cost for a dog's vet visit

Largely, the care available to dogs and cats is similar and carries similar costs. Costs for treatments and hospitalization may vary depending on several factors, which we'll explore in the charts below.

Average cost for a cat's vet visit

Again, cat and dog vet visits generally don't vary in cost, aside from vaccinations, which tend to be more expensive for cats (more on costs later). The exception to this is due to the growing prevalence of cat-only practices. Veterinarians in these clinics focus their training on cats but may not have formal specialty training.

What factors can affect the cost of a vet visit the most?

Pets are part of the family, and more pet owners are recognizing the importance of regular check-ups by a veterinarian as well as the importance of following through on their recommendations. And increasingly, veterinarians are recommending that pets see specialists to access the best care for many health issues.

Veterinary care has improved by leaps and bounds in tandem with the growth of specialist veterinary practices such as dermatology, cardiology, surgery, and oncology. Specialty veterinarians continue their education after veterinary school for 3-5 more years of training in their chosen discipline.

The result is that there are more and better treatments for many of the health issues dogs and cats face, but they're also behind a paywall of higher fees for care. While an exam at your primary veterinarian might cost $50–100, a consultation with a specialist could cost $150–$250 or more.

How much does the average emergency vet visit cost?

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Injuries are one of the top reasons pets need to visit the veterinary emergency clinic. Whether it's a fight with another animal, being hit by a car, or an unfortunate accident at home, most types of physical trauma require immediate attention from a veterinarian. And the costs for an emergency vet visit are often higher than what some pet parents are prepared for.

Examinations at the emergency clinic or after-hours at your primary veterinarian are $100–200. Vet bills at the emergency clinic are almost always higher than they would be at your primary veterinarian. But the emergency vet is there when you need them most.

Emergency treatment Potential cost
Exam fee (emergency clinic) $100-200
Stabilization (IV, pain control, etc.) $1,000+
Wound repair $500-$1,500
Fracture repair (surgical) $3,000-$7,000
Fracture repair (medical/non-surgical) $500-$1,500
Abdominal surgery $5,000-$7,000
Hospitalization (per day) $800-$1,500+
X-rays $250-$600
CT scan $900-$2,000
Ultrasound $50-$500

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.

Diagnosis and stabilization costs

The first step is diagnostic testing to determine the extent of the problem. This may involve X-rays (radiographs) or CT scans, ultrasound imaging, and other tests. The cost of X-rays depends on the number of locations that need to be examined, while ultrasound imaging can be survey (brief) or complete, depending on the needs of the pet at that time. If a pet comes into the clinic in unstable condition, the first step is stabilization before any injuries are addressed. Initial stabilization can cost $1,000 or more, including intravenous fluids, pain control, and other medications.

Cuts/scrapes/laceration costs

Cuts, scrapes, lacerations, and other damage to the skin may be superficial and need only a good scrub or may require repair under anesthesia for $800–$1,500. Some wounds require multiple surgeries at an additional $500–$800 each. Degloving injuries are among the worst types of skin injuries and can cost tens of thousands of dollars with extended hospital stays. Similarly, severe burns require multiple procedures and extended hospital stays.

Broken bones and internal bleeding costs

Surgery to repair broken bones (fractures) starts at $3,000, but that's actually cheap compared with emergency surgery to stop internal bleeding, which is more likely to run to $6,000. Sometimes bone fractures don’t require surgery, but cast bandages, recheck exams, and repeat X-rays add up as well.

Emergency hospitalization and monitoring costs

On top of all that, each day of treatment in a hospital at an emergency clinic costs $800–1,500 or more if intensive care is needed. For example, hospitalization and monitoring for head trauma are more involved than hospitalization to provide pain control for a broken bone.

Accidents and injuries are the catastrophes most likely to become a question of finances. Treatment is often all-or-nothing, because halfway doesn’t work and payment is taken up front.

Costs to treat illnesses and poisonings

When pets get sick, diagnosis and treatment often cost more than most pet parents are prepared for. Pets can’t describe how they feel, so diagnostic tests such as x-rays and blood tests are often required to make a diagnosis and select the right course of treatment.

Both chronic and acute illnesses can require emergency treatment and hospitalization. Though the veterinarian is giving the pet everything to feel better as fast as possible, it often takes several days for a pet to recover enough to go home and continue to improve.

Similar to injuries, the first step is to diagnose the problem in a way that provides the veterinarian with information about the best treatment plan. As with injuries, this may involve X-rays and ultrasound. But it also likely includes bloodwork and additional secondary tests to confirm specific illnesses.

Examples of emergency pet illnesses and associated costs

illustrated white cat next to poisonous foods including wine, onions, and grapes. The background is a light beige.

Some illnesses are commonly treated at emergency clinics.

  • Dogs and cats with diabetes can develop metabolic imbalances that are life-threatening if not aggressively managed in the hospital (diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA). Monitoring these imbalances while trying to correct them drives up the cost of treatment so that an estimated daily cost could be $1,800 per day for at least 2–3 days.

  • Pancreatitis and acute hemorrhagic diarrhea (AHDS) are two common illnesses necessitating hospitalization in dogs.

  • In cats, the ebbs and flows of chronic kidney disease or inflammatory bowel disease may require hospitalization to resolve. These are all slightly less expensive, in the range of $1,200 per day, including basic medications.

  • Treatment of pets requiring oxygen therapy, such as asthmatic cats or dogs in heart failure, will easily cost $2,000 or more per day.

  • Some of the more common pet poisonings are rat bait (rodenticide), human prescription drugs, illicit drugs, and food (chocolate, raisins or grapes, onions or garlic). For the most part, treatment of these falls falls into the basic hospitalization category, except when continuous sedation is required, such as for some illicit drug consumption, which adds $300 to $500 per day.

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Though it's expensive, rest assured that your veterinarian is doing everything possible to get your pet home to you as quickly as possible.

Emergency veterinarians and their staff only want the truly sick animals in their hospital so that they have more time and attention to devote to those pets. Unfortunately, medicine can’t be rushed, and it takes time, which costs money.

Cost to treat cancer in pets

Treatment Potential cost
Staging (complete diagnosis) $800-$1,200
Chemotherapy (per session) $300-$1,000
Radiation (per session) $2,000-$6,000
Surgery (primary vet) $2,000-$4,000
Surgery (specialist) $6,000-$8,000

Cancer is a common problem seen in pets, especially as they age. However, cancer can strike in puppies and kittens too. No matter the age, pet parents are never ready to hear their veterinarian deliver devastating news.

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 in humans. Sometimes only one modality is required, while other times two or more are necessary to achieve remission of a pet’s cancer.

Veterinary oncologists specialize in the treatment of cancer in pets. It is important to remember that the goal is always a good quality of life for the animal, and so treatments are not as aggressive as for people. Pets do not lose their hair, and veterinary oncologists place a premium on minimizing side effects. However, that level of care comes at a high cost—easily many thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, that barrier means that without pet insurance, many pet parents have to make an economic decision instead of offering treatment to their pet.

...without pet insurance, many pet parents have to make an economic decision instead of offering treatment to their pet.

Costs of cancer diagnosis and staging in pets

The first step is always a complete diagnosis and staging (determining the extent of cancer). This includes X-rays, ultrasound, blood testing, and microscopic examination of the cancer. All of this information informs the oncologist's treatment recommendations and costs $800–1,200.

Chemotherapy costs for cats and dogs

Chemotherapy is a medical treatment for cancer and can come in the form of pills taken at home or injections given in the clinic. A full course of chemotherapy, the amount of medicine needed to achieve remission or cure, usually requires multiple rounds of treatment over weeks to months. Different medications are used for different types of cancer, and the options are continually expanding. Expect chemotherapy to cost $300–$1,000 per session (or a month of at-home medicine), with 6–12 sessions considered the full round.

Cancer surgery costs for cats and dogs

Surgery is also used to treat cancer. Sometimes surgery is curative, meaning that removing the cancer mass is all that is required. Other times, follow-up with chemotherapy and/or radiation is recommended. Estimates for surgery start at $2,000 if your primary veterinarian is able to perform the procedure, to more than $6,000–8,000 for complex or difficult cases when a specialist surgeon is required.

Radiation costs for cats and dogs

Radiation therapy is the third branch of oncology available to veterinary patients. The cost is per session and depends on the location, size, and type of cancer being treated. Costs range from $2,000 to $6,000.

Just as in humans, cancers can return following the first course of treatment, and then a new protocol may be selected with similar costs to the first therapy.

Costs for pet preventive care

Treatment Potential cost
Physical exam (primary vet) $50-$100
Vaccines and boosters (each - adult) $25-$75
Fecal exam $25-$75
Annual bloodwork $25-$250
Heartworm prevention (annual cost) $100-$250
Flea and tick control (annual cost) $200-$300

Pets should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year when they're healthy; this is one of the few predictable costs of pet parenthood. An annual visit allows your veterinarian to perform a complete physical examination and find changes before they become problems. It is also an opportunity to develop a relationship with your veterinarian so that you can reach out for support when needed.

Most costs of preventive care are similar between cats and dogs; however, cat vaccines tend to be more expensive than dog vaccines.

  • A physical exam at your primary veterinarian’s office will cost $50–$100. 

  • Vaccines and vaccine boosters, including the required Rabies vaccine, are given every 1 or 3 years (depending on the type of shot) and cost $25–$75 each. As pets can pass fecal parasites to family members, fecal exams are recommended at least annually and cost $25–$75.

  • Annual bloodwork, including a heartworm test, is highly recommended to assess body function since changes detected early are easier and less expensive to resolve. The cost of bloodwork depends on the comprehensiveness of the information, and it can range from $25 for just a heartworm test to $250 for a more complete assessment.

  • Heartworm prevention is offered in several forms (oral chew, topical, and injection) and should be given year-round across the continental United States due to the increase in heartworm incidence. Annually, heartworm prevention costs vary by pet size, $100–250 per year.

  • Flea and tick control is especially important because these parasites carry diseases that are dangerous to you and your pet. Prescription flea and tick prevention is about $200–$300 per year. Some heartworm prevention and flea and tick control are available as one combined monthly medication. Recommendations for parasite control may differ by region of the country due to weather and local wildlife.

The frequency of these vet visits (and thus the annual cost) is largely determined by your pet's age and health status.

For instance, puppies and kittens require multiple visits to the veterinarian and several rounds of vaccines. As pets become more advanced in age, they should be examined more often. Geriatric screenings should take place as often as once every three to six months. Pets with health issues often require frequent veterinary exams to monitor their health and progress or decline.

Dental care

Treatment Potential cost
Dental cleaning (at vet's office) $300-$600
Tooth extractions (each) $25-$150

Dental care (regular cleanings and X-rays) is also considered routine care. If ignored, dental disease can become an emergency, often due to infection of tooth roots or discomfort when eating.

Dental care is performed under general anesthesia for the safety of the pet and the veterinarian.

  • A basic cleaning with dental X-rays costs $300–$600.

  • Any tooth extractions are additional and can cost as little as $25 each or more than $150 each, depending on the tooth.

The frequency of cleaning depends on your individual pet’s oral health and can range from every 6 months to every few years. Routine dental care can be performed by your primary veterinarian, though veterinary dentistry specialists are available for more complex needs.

Some insurance companies offer wellness plans to reimburse the costs of preventative care.


ManyPets Wellness Plan for Cats and Dogs

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The non-insurance ManyPets Wellness Plan can help reimburse you for the cost of routine and preventative care, including routine vet visits and certain over-the-counter products.


How to cover vet costs

Most of the costs of veterinary care are unpredictable. That makes them difficult to save money for.

It is the unexpected that makes pet insurance coverage a must for pet parents. When your pets get sick or injured, having insurance can be the only thing that enables pet parents to afford treatment.

It is the unexpected that makes pet insurance coverage a must for pet parents. When your pets get sick or injured, having insurance can be the only thing that enables pet parents to afford treatment.

In a particularly dire scenario, having insurance can mean the difference between saving your pet or being forced to euthanize them. Insurance can also help protect your pet’s health when the cost of early intervention is covered by taking away the hesitation that leads to delayed care.

FYI, pet insurance doesn't work exactly the same as human health insurance. Instead of paying your veterinarian or practice, pet insurance companies typically directly reimburse you, the policyholder, for the costs of treatment. Rather than restricting you to specific networks or providers, this model allows you to visit any vet you choose.

It's all worth it to know that the health of your pets is protected. To get an insurance quote for your four-legged friend, fill out this form:

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*pre-existing conditions excluded. See your policy for details.

Hanie Elfenbein, DVM
Emergency Clinician

Dr. Elfenbein received her DVM from the University of California, Davis where she also earned a PhD in Animal Behavior as part of the Veterinary Scientist Training Program.